It wasn't a perfect season finale (it was woefully clunky and odd at times), but I also don't think that the series ender--or the first season itself--are worthy of the amount of gasoline that is being poured on it. For some, it's one match away from becoming an incendiary, because it failed to answer the series' central question: Who killed Rosie Larsen?
Which is where I feel as though I have been watching a completely different series than other viewers. I'm not going to try to convince anybody that they were wrong to hate the finale, because this level of anger doesn't vanish thanks to some talking points. Television is a hugely subjective medium and our personal experiences with shows are just that: personal. What I will say is that what I've most enjoyed about The Killing is the nuanced character study that it's provided: the way that murder rips open everyone, a black hole that threatens to suck in the victim's family, the suspects, anyone who once crossed paths with her. And, as we see here, even the detectives attempting to solve the case.
To me, the heart of the show has been watching a family struggle at the brink of madness, of dissolution, of anguish and rage and grief. The Larsens have provided an unusual throughline for the season, attempting to cope with the death of Rosie, even as their individual lives threatened to further unravel. What set all of this in motion, was of course the murder of teenager Rosie Larsen, whose frozen-in-amber smile hid all manner of secrets, much like Laura Palmer's did on Twin Peaks. (Interestingly, I keep thinking back to showrunner Veena Sud's insistence that she had never seen Twin Peaks, when I mentioned certain similarities between the two shows. I'm not sure which is worse: that she lied about it, or that she hadn't actually ever watched it.)
Yes, in order for The Killing to function as a narrative, Rosie's killer does need to be unmasked, even if justice isn't ultimately served. But that moment needn't have come at the end of the first season, which is what many viewers were expecting and anticipating. If you had stuck with The Killing for this sole reason, then the finale may have been interminable and frustrating. But, as soon as AMC renewed The Killing for a second season, I knew that there wouldn't be any easy answers, nor potentially any answers at all.
Why? Because Rosie's murder is the plot engine that keeps the show humming along, and I would have been amazed to see Sud and AMC shut it down at the end of the first season when it can still generate a whole slew of potentially interesting developments.
Now, I will say there was one thing about the finale that did irk me, as it did many, and that was the seemingly about-face with Joel Kinnaman's Stephen Holder, who was revealed to be in league with an as-yet-unseen puppet master (Leslie Adams?) and had forged the bridge surveillance footage that linked Darren Richmond to the night of Rosie's murder. Until that point, there was a lot of circumstantial evidence (there still is, in fact) that indicated that Richmond was behind the murder: the use of the Orpheus alias, his frequenting of online prostitutes, Aleena's identification of Darren as the man who lured her to the water, Gwen's assertion that Darren came back early that morning soaking wet.
None of which conclusively point to Darren Richmond having killed Rosie Larsen. He wasn't identified by the gas station attendant (he seemed to assume it was a man driving the car) and we now know that Holder faked the photo that placed him on the bridge. Linden knows this too, even as she prepares to finally leave Seattle for her new life in Sonoma, but it's likely too late for Richmond, as Belko strides up to him, gun in his hand, ready to enact some Biblical vengeance. (Didn't he see how this turned out for Stan?)
Which means that Richmond is another red herring, a liar and a cheat who has broken Gwen's heart yet again, but who may not be the killer after all. Holder's boss--whoever that may be--wants Richmond out of the race, and he may have just gotten Richmond removed from his earthly existence as well.
But I'm troubled by Holder's villainy here. Kinnaman infused Holder with street smarts, an armor of sarcasm and hoodies attempting to deflect any insight into his messed up personal life. I'm sure there's a reason WHY Holder did what he did, one that will be revealed next season naturally. Likely Sud and Co. will find a way to make what he did less troubling in the long run, despite the glee that Holder seemed to have in that scene.
After all, he betrayed Linden outright, jeopardized the case, and broke the vows he pledged to serve the city. It's a slap in the face after their goodbye scene and her begrudging admission that he is a good cop, after all. But it also makes it a little more clear why the episode "Missing" aired when it did. Just as these two finally buried the hatchet and opened up to each other, Holder turns around two days later and stabs her in the back.
Which, on an intellectual level, makes sense, but on an emotional level, the realization that Holder is just as crooked as the other baddies in The Killing doesn't quite hit home. In a series that's overflowing with venal politicians and apathetic cops, shouldn't Linden have someone else on the side of the white hats? Or has Holder (and, consequently one imagines, Kinnaman as well) just done a really good job of pulling the wool over our eyes? After all, he has been willing to share information about the investigation from the start, but is he really just nothing more than a dirty cop?
But in an episode where we finally see crusader Darren Richmond for what he is: a serial cheater and an unrepentant john who has a thing for brunettes, shouldn't there be some male character who isn't a letch, a liar, or a pathetic failure in some way? I had grown to care about Holder in a fashion over the course of these thirteen episodes, and it makes me more concerned that his villainy is the real deal and not a red herring to be eliminated at the start of Season Two.
That will have to wait, however. Despite some of the convolution of the episode and the question marks thrown up around the action (Wait, the cops never searched that part of the park for clues? What does Rosie's shoe prove? Won't Holder get caught the second Linden picks up the phone and tells Oakes about the bridge camera outage? Why doesn't Stan tell Mitch about the other house or the stack of cash in the drawer? Why is Sarah suddenly okay with Jack spending time with his dad?), there were moments of beauty and grace here, of the small kind that The Killing has traded in throughout the season's run.
Stan's scene in the break room with Amber Ahmed being one, a tiny fragment in a larger story that saw these two--united by their sense of loss and pain--have a small moment, unaware of the identity of the other. Stan's palpable grief when he's asked how many children he has sank into my very bones; it's a real quandary of a question. How do you honestly answer that, especially when the asker is a stranger? Mitch's departure from the family and the momentos of anguish that her home represents. Michelle Forbes' performance is once again breathtaking here (Forbes didn't lie when she told me she was done with The Killing), as Mitch comes to terms with the fact that she can't stay with her family. Terry's horror when she realizes that Mitch has left her and the kids to pick up the pieces of their lives. (I had actually wondered whether Mitch would take a more permanent exit from her life.)
In a way, she escapes, which is something no other character on the show manages to do in this week's season finale. Sarah and Jack might be on that plane, but it's still parked on the tarmac, and I don't see Sarah remaining in Sonoma, if she even stays on the plane. She's connected to the dead girl and this case, she's haunted by it as much as Richmond is by Lily's death. Her rage at the councilman indicates her own anguish, her own self-anger, her own insecurities. (Why Linden would confront him in that way is beyond me, however.) As for Richmond, he might be innocent of Rosie's murder but he admits to Linden that he's done some terrible, terrible things. Things we'll likely be finding more about next season, for those of us who will continue to watch.
I count myself among that number. While "Orpheus Descending" was far from perfect, it didn't awaken any such holy anger within me. I'm still wondering who killed Rosie Larsen--and, in their own way, so are those who reacted with such hostility to the lack of resolution on that front--and I still do care about these characters enough to want to see what happens next. The original Danish series split its first season into two parts of ten episodes, and that's more or less what Sud and her writing staff attempted to do here. But I didn't for a second think that there wouldn't be another twist, another red herring, another brutal revelation in the final minutes of the season, nor that Linden would catch Rosie's killer. Season Two of the original found Linden attempting to unravel a vast conspiracy, so why shouldn't that apply here as well, as she tries to uncover the real masters who are pulling Holder's and everyone else's strings? Hmmm...
But that's just me. What did you think about the season finale of The Killing? Did it make you want to hurl your television out of your window? Were you puzzled by the levels of outrage unfolding last night on Twitter? Will you watch a second season? Head to the comments section to discuss.
Season Two of The Killing will air next year on AMC.