Saturday, March 31, 2012

OK, "The Killing" -- you get one more shot

Like many people who watched the first season of AMC's mystery drama "The Killing," which returns for its second season on Sunday, I have a complicated relationship with the series.

It started a little slow, but it was beautiful-looking, with its gloomy shots of a rain-soaked Seattle. And it boasted a lot of good performance, mainly from Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman as mismatched cops and from Brent Sexton and Michelle Forbes as grieving parents of the teenage girl whose murder gave the first season its main mystery.

 But "The Killing" quickly lost steam, as the cops chased one red herring after another and characters behaved in incredibly stupid and frustrating ways. The first season finale was the apex of this ludicrous lesson in how not to write a show. After leading us to believe that Det. Sarah Linden (Enos) had finally caught the killer of teen Rosie Larsen, we learned in the episode's last minutes that, not only was that supposed resolution yet another red herring, but Linden's partner Holder (Kinnaman) had seemingly betrayed her.

It was not the kind of cliff-hanger that makes you eager for the next season. It was the kind of cliff-hanger that made you scream "What the hell?" and swear never to watch the show again. So I surprised myself by being able to watch the two-hour second season premiere, which airs at 8 p.m. with relatively judgment-free eyes. After all, there were enough things I liked about the first season to warrant a second chance, right?

Thankfully, my open-mindedness was rewarded. These episodes are very strong, and play to the show's strengths. The show is still visually lovely, with its appropriately dark color palette, and its loving close-ups of the actors' tormented faces. The acting is also excellent, with Kinnaman and Sexton particular stand-outs.

More surprisingly, the plot seems to be moving ahead at a reasonable pace. Without spoiling anything, we find out relatively quickly what's up with Holder (well, we find out by the end of the premiere, which, in "Killing" time, is pretty speedy). And yes, the show's creative team has come out and said that we won't really know who killed Rosie until this season's end. So we're likely to be in for another season of wheel-spinning. But at least the season premiere offers a reasonable explanation for why this case is getting dragged out.

Though I was fairly certain that the most positive thing I would feel toward the new season is a lack of outrage hatred, I must say that I actively enjoyed the two-hour premiere. Now it's completely possible that subsequent episodes will quickly descend back into red-herring-filled mayhem and that I'll soon be cursing my TV again. But I'm giving "The Killing" another chance. They better not mess it up.

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