Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Why The Killing Finale, Though Awful, Was Actually Insanely Smart

Shut up, I know.

Okay, that post title is slightly misleading because, much like the investigation through the season and even in the episode (on day thirteen), the finale of The Killing was stupid and I hated it (SHOCK!)

Like some, I started seeing the decline of quality in the show around episode three and then really began to lose interest a couple weeks later, but kept at it because, hey, it's AMC and because I did want to know who the eff killed Rosie Larsen (despite having no idea who she was). With the exception of the episode "Missing" two weeks ago, the season (and, for me, the series) was a jumbled mash up of grief-porn (the Larsens), rapidly vacillating political misfortunes and one-upmanship (Richmond), and a fearsome combination of terrible parenting (Linden) and terrible policework (Linden/Holder).

But all of that has already been said, and been said better (I particularly love Mo Ryan's rage-spiral diatribe).

Here's the thing that no one has said: the finale, and the choice to not solve the murder (because we collective conspiracy theorists known as mystery television viewers won't buy that Richmond dunit if there's falsified evidence and a shadowy, unseen person presumably driving the car Holder stepped into in the "shocking final five minutes"), was - in one very double-edged way - a stroke of genius from a business perspective.

For all the talk of "I'll never watch the show again" (which, again, I am part of... but, y'know, the vociferous echo chamber of TV criticism and of Twitter rarely actually translates to things like ratings), the show did its job in tantalizing viewers to come back and in demanding AMC pick it up for a second season.

If you still want to know who killed Rosie Larsen, supposedly the one thing that dragged us through the rain and muck of season one... GUESS WHAT? You have to tune in to season two.

AMC, in fact, has to pick up season two. Why? Because buying a whodunit that doesn't answer the initial whodunit question and selling it to your audience as a whodunit about that question... and then cancelling the show when the plan in place (that you knew about and, probably, should have demanded be changed, again, double-edged sword) offered no true resolution?

AMC was painted into a corner (by itself, I truly believe, because it didn't make a demand for closure per the above). It had to pick up a second season of The Killing.

So, there's controversy that's going to be a-brewing around the show. That doesn't necessarily translate into ratings... but I think that it will. Because, somewhere out there, a lot of people still want to know the answer to that damn question. Who killed Rosie Larsen?

It'd be a lot easier to stomach if the ride to the infuriating finale hadn't been an F5 tornado of awful, or if the show had given us ANY reason to want to watch it outside of answering the whodunit (i.e. Twin Peaks' insane quirkiness and Lynch-y-ness, or Veronica Mars' plucky heroine bringing us back to season two even though we found out who killed Lilly Kane).

My, probably terribly off-base, uneducated, blindly-hopeful guess for season two that, again, I'm not watching? The show actually becomes good. The infuriating finale is a ploy. The various out-of-left-field twists get paid off. The investigation truly takes off. And the people who decided to stick around find out who killed Rosie Larsen in a satisfying manner that doesn't let them off the hook for 9 months because the answer comes in the middle of the season and, hey, why not watch next week because the episode ends with the next murder mystery to cross Linden's desk, for her to over-identify with a victim we don't know and pursue in a convoluted way.

But it's just next week. You'll watch. You'll get sucked in. And you'll be annoyed all over again when the season (and, deservedly, series this go-around) ends with another "jaw dropping" cliffhanger that wasn't led up to or hinted at, at all.

Then again, maybe it was just awful and everyone involved is stupid and should be fired and, while collecting unemployment checks, create a time machine to go back and stop The Killing from ever happening.

Meanwhile, can I just say that if the stuff that had happened at the end of the season finale had happened at, say, episode 4? I might not be so pissed off, and I'd *certainly* be watching next week to see what happened.

Which, I guess, just highlights one of the key problems the show had, regardless of what you thought of the finale or the ending: terrible, terrible pacing. But, again, other people have ranted on that far better than I care to.

And, yes, I realize I'm about 36 hours late to the "rant about The Killing finale" party.


NLAN said...

Hi Travis, hope the book writing is going well.

Would it be asking too much of a huge favor to ask you for the cable ratings for last night, Monday 6/20? TV by the Numbers has incomplete info without you and people are very curious about TLC's shows (Cake Boss and Kate Plus 8).


Anonymous said...

Isn't this show based off some Danish show? If you're going to blame the writers, you should blame the show its based off of. Since the plot is similar(one murder mystery per season).

Travis Yanan said...

@ Anonymous

Except that I haven't seen the Danish show to draw my own conclusions, but everything I hear is that it's really good and they DID solve the murder over the course of the season (regardless of how many episodes it took)


I'll see what I can do, I didn't get my Monday cable numbers today (even if I were posting)...

NLAN said...

Thanks, Travis. I appreciate anything you can do. Plus, it's a good excuse to procrastinate on the writing, right? LOL. Seriously though, lots of people would appreciate it as long as it's not too much trouble. Good luck with the writing!

Travis Yanan said...

That's sweet... but the point is to *avoid* procrastination since I've got under two months until my schedule books up again, so have to get as much done as possible!

NLAN said...

Sorry about that, Travis. I realize you really cannot procrastinate. I was just kidding because I know when I'm on a deadline with work, I suddenly find it extremely important that I do things like clean out my desk, or reorganize my files, ha ha. Two hours later, I realize how I am the master of procrastination. Oh well, I'll try to work on that tomorrow........

Forget about the ratings, though I certainly appreciate your help. I see that Futon Critic posted them, crediting you. Thanks! Okay, now back to writing!

Anonymous said...

"Isn't this show based off some Danish show? If you're going to blame the writers, you should blame the show its based off of. Since the plot is similar(one murder mystery per season). "

the danish show is different: same pilot, absolutely different story, different killer. and here one murder msytery - two seasons, minimum,

Anonymous said...

The Danish version is better, especially the political part, but the ending sucks too.
They gave the identify of the killer, but they failled to explain is motivations, so the frustration is there too.

Anonymous said...

The crucifixion of The Killing has been beyond obnoxious, especially Ryan's unprofessional column. It's really made me trim down the number of self-important TV critics I read.

People weren't complaining about no first season reveals with Twin Peaks, Murder One, etc., so it looks like a bunch of egomaniacs with an ax to grind against a *gasp* less than perfect AMC show.

Anonymous said...

I really think that people were so frustrated about sticking with a truly terrible show ONLY to find out who the killer was, that the failure to deliver resolution to that question has created a serious vendetta mentality.

Can I legitimately say for certain that 9 months from now I still won't care who killed Rosie? Not sure. But because I genuinely feel I wasted my time on the show, I absolutely won't allow myself to watch another second of it...even if some iota of curiosity still exists when season two starts.

Just walking away from the show isn't enough to alleviate our sense of betrayal. We really really really want the show to die altogether.

Julia said...

Speaking of "Hey, it's AMC!" did you see the Hell on Wheels pilot? Fingers crossed this one doesn't fall apart like it is beginning to look like most AMC shows do after the first episode or so. (Though, I know, I am the exception when it comes to not liking Walking Dead.)