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Originally published Saturday, June 18, 2011 at 12:22 AM

A former fan cools on 'The Killing'

A critic's take on AMC's "The Killing," a police procedural set in Seattle. The first season of the show comes to a close on June 19.

Seattle Times movie critic

On TV

'The Killing'

Season finale 10 p.m. Sunday on AMC. Also: A marathon of past episodes of "The Killing' continues from 4-10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday on The Sundance Channel.
On TV

'The Killing'

Season finale 10 p.m. Sunday on AMC. Also: A marathon of past episodes of "The Killing' continues from 4-10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday on The Sundance Channel.

Tonight in Prime Time

quotes When I first heard about this show, I thought I would love it too but I ended up very... Read more
quotes I was excited about this show when it began. However, I ended up quitting after episode... Read more
quotes Extremely disappointing show. Others have covered how bad the plot and character devel... Read more

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Sometimes, when you fall in love, things just don't work out.

Let me clarify: I'm talking about falling in love with a TV show, a much less complicated (not to mention quieter) process than falling in love with a person. But a TV show is, unfortunately, perfectly capable of letting us down — not by forgetting to call or sending ill-advised Tweets but by simply turning out not as good as we thought it would be, even after we arranged our Sunday evenings around it and started looking forward to it week after week. And the show that let me down is "The Killing."

It's not like "The Killing" and I aren't speaking to each other. I'm still watching, and I'm still wondering who Rosie Larsen's killer really is. But as I write this, it's hard to remember those heady days back in April, when it looked as if "The Killing" just might be more than an AMC placeholder while we hold a candle (OK, a remote) for "Mad Men."

Created by Veena Sud and based on the Danish TV series "Forbrydelsen," "The Killing" sounds tantalizingly simple: a 13-week series that begins with a murder and ends, presumably, with its solution; each day corresponding to one day of the investigation. It's set in Seattle; the better to surround the players with moody gray mists and oppressive rain. The victim is a lovely teenage girl; the lead detective, Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) a taciturn loner with a history of getting a little too personally involved in her cases. Rosie's body is found in a car removed from a lake in Discovery Park (yes, I know, we'll get to that); said car turns out to belong to the mayoral campaign of one Darren Richmond (Billy Campbell), a handsome fellow with a few secrets of his own.

And the first few weeks of the show — the first few days of the investigations — were electric. We met Rosie's blue-collar parents, who were given time (rare on a TV series) to grieve. (Michelle Forbes, as Rosie's mother, Mitch, was particularly moving; one bathtub scene, in which she suddenly realized the horror of her daughter's drowning, was the most devastating moment I've seen on TV in a while.) We watched Linden forge a working relationship with her new partner, the jittery, enigmatic Holder (Joel Kinnaman) — who's really supposed to be her replacement, as Linden was quitting in order to start a new life in Sonoma with her fiance and teenage son. We got to know a few of Rosie's friends at school, and the English teacher who just might have gotten too close to her. And constantly, we were reminded of loss; of the way Rosie weighed heavily on the mind of a detective who never knew her, and how solving that crime might be a tiny gesture toward making her parents whole again.

I didn't mind that the show sometimes felt slow; police investigations are methodical affairs, filled with blind alleys. (Remember back when the janitor seemed like a suspect?) Read any good police procedural mystery — I've been hooked on Michael Connelly's lately — and you'll see plenty of false leads and tedious footwork. I didn't mind that the scenes with the Larsen family were so terribly sad; this, like the rest of the show early on, felt very real. I didn't mind that some of the Seattle details were wrong, like that Discovery Park lake: The show's mostly shot in Vancouver, and trying to place the settings was kind of fun. I didn't even mind that sometimes the entire show seemed to be taking place inside a carwash, so unending was the constant pounding of not-very-Seattle-like rain.

But something happened, somewhere in the middle of the season, and I began to feel less tolerant. Linden's silent ruminating, which at first seemed wonderfully indicative of someone on TV actually thinking, began to just seem like silence; we knew so little about this character, she became a cipher. Supposedly, she was a fine detective — or at least we're led to assume that — but she and Holder began to seem inept, doing ridiculous things like promising Rosie's mother that the killer would be apprehended "tonight" despite a lack of evidence, even as the writers turned to silly pink-T-shirt coincidences to move the plot along. The subplot with Linden's fiance grew sour quickly, and didn't seem well-thought-out to begin with; the politician subplot grew even sillier, with free throws in the apartment of an eccentric Seattle billionaire.

By episode 11, everything seemed to be running aground — so the makers of "The Killing" actually did something unexpected: They stopped the investigation for an episode, and allowed Linden and Holder to bond over the disappearance (temporary, as it turned out) of Linden's son. We learned a bit more about their backgrounds, and watched them come within a raindrop's breadth of becoming friends. You can see the potential of a nice, prickly bond between them (can it be a coincidence that these two actors so resemble Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny of "The X-Files," one of the great TV work partnerships?), but the episode, good as it was, felt like it almost came too late. The time to make us care more about this partnership was weeks ago; now, it almost seems like desperation.

Maybe "The Killing" can pull a rabbit out of its hat as its first season ends; maybe something will happen to jolt the series to life again and make us fondly remember Linden in her rain-drenched sweater, eager that she, like Don Draper, will return to our screens again. (AMC has renewed "The Killing" for a second 13-episode season.) But I'm not in love any more. It let me down.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com




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