There are certain areas where being a film critic is easier than being a TV critic. For one thing, if you've been watching a bad movie, it's usually only a two-hour affair that you later write about and it's over. You move on. But in reviewing television programs, it's not over after the opening episode. You have to return to it week after week. That can be thrilling when the show is really good, but when it's really bad, a critic can feel like they're in constant purgatory. In the case of the popular AMC series, The Killing, which begins its second season tonight, David Churchill became deeply acquainted with purgatory, perhaps even wondering if he'd somehow slipped into Hell....
I have wasted 13 hours of the only life I'm ever going to have on a self-important piece of crap called The Killing. Brought onto AMC as their next 'great show' to go with Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and TheWalking Dead, The Killing started strongly, as I outlined here. The premise was simple. Set in a rain-soaked Seattle, The Killing was about an attractive young girl, Rosie Larsen (Katie Findlay), who was kidnapped and killed by an unknown assailant. The story was broken into three strands: Mitch and Stan Larsen (Michelle Forbes and Brent Sexton) and their boys dealing with the tragedy of Rosie's death; the cops, Sarah Linden and Stephen Holder (Mireilles Enos and Joel Kinnaman), investigating her murder; and the election campaign between the young uniter, Darren Richmond (Billy Campbell), and the moustache-twirling corrupt current mayor, Lesley Adams (Tom Butler). Rosie's body was found in the trunk of a car owned by the Richmond campaign. Each episode represented one day of the investigation.
If you want to really see how grief tears a family apart, hunt down a little-known Canadian TV movie starring Saul Rubinek and directed by Robin Spry called Obsessed (1988), about a mother (Kerrie Keane) trying to bring to justice a man (Rubinek) who killed her son in a hit and run accident. It's almost unwatchable (especially during the first ten minutes) because it's so intense, but once you see this you'll never forget it. It became a conventional revenge picture by the end, but until then it was very effective.
|Joel Kinnaman & Mireille Enos|
Even the red herrings are irritating. They introduce a sub-plot where Rosie's Muslim school teacher, Bennet Ahmed (Brandon Jay McLaren), might be guilty. Word is leaked. Stan and his crony/shadow, Belko (Brendon Sexton III – another red herring, by the by) kidnap Ahmed and beat him nearly to death. Of course, Ahmed's completely innocent, but the show's creators have to rub our noses in it further by bringing Stan down, one of the few characters here who was trying to pull himself out of the sludge his family was mired in. We can't have anybody get out of this with their dignity intact. The Killing never trusts its viewers to “get” what they’re trying to do, thus the over reliance on the rain machines, dim lighting and sad, blank faces. We get it! The landscape is a reflection of the story. Wow. Deep.
The Killing, because it is so filled with grief, is considered by many people to be a wise piece of work that gets at the reality behind horrific crimes like this. Nonsense. This show is no different than an idiotic Adam Sandler picture such as Grown-Ups. It knows its audience and plays right to them. Show them misery and they are happy; point your camera at it and say “aren't we all horrible.” But when a show like this offers no insight into what grief really means, it is no better than a frat comedy. At least the frat comedy has no illusions that it’s creating high art. The people behind The Killing think they are doing exactly that. That is the real crime.
- originally published on June 23, 2011 in Critics at Large.
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