June 3, 2013




By its second season, THE KILLING was as ridiculed as any serious drama on television this side of Smash.  There were its mannerisms–just how many flights to her fiancee in California could Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) narrowly miss?–its perpetually gloomy, rainy atmospherics, its blind corner and red herring-laden plotting, and mostly that it took two full seasons, 26 TV hours, to solve the murder of Rosie Larsen.  And even when it finally did, it felt as though US series creator (the show is based on a Danish format) Veena Sud had thrown a dart at a list of characters to choose the ultimate culprit, and worked backwards from there.  Nevertheless, while the ratings fell as the show went on, they never entirely collapsed, and when Netflix stepped in to co-finance a third season (in exchange, the streaming service has faster-than-normal access to episodes here and overseas), AMC un-canceled the series and brought it back.

Some things are different in Season 3.  For one thing, Sud swears–possibly with AMC’s gun to her head–that the central storyline will be fully resolved by the end of this season.  The title, this time, is a misnomer, because the story concerns multiple killings, serial murders of homeless teen prostitutes.  The show’s structure is more conventionally procedural this time, without the cross-section of Seattle society that Seasons 1 and 2 tried to offer with its portraits of the city’s politics and the Larsen family.  A year after the Larsen murder, Linden is off the force, working as a ferryboat operator (a nod to Season 2 of The Wire, where McNulty was exiled to the Baltimore docks?).  Holder (Joel Kinnaman) is studying for the Sergeant exam, and he has a steady girlfriend (Linden begins the season with a boyfriend, too, but he seems out of the picture by the end of the two-hour premiere).

In other ways, though, this is still The Killing.  The show is, as ever, in no hurry.  The season’s first killing (and, as it turns out, the series of them) relate back to the earlier case that Linden mentioned from time to time during the first two seasons, the one that had apparently led her to a breakdown, and which, it now appears, she and her former partner Skinner (Elias Koteas) may have been wrong to pin on the victim’s husband Seward (Peter Sarsgaard), who’s now on death row for the crime.  That possibility, though, as well as Linden’s reluctant yet driven involvement in the crimesolving, is stretched out over two hours (Hour 1 written by Sud and directed by Ed Bianchi; Hour 2 written by Executive Story Editor Dan Nowak and directed by Lodge Kerrigan), with much intense staring at mud, foliage and, of course, rain along the way.

What worked in the previous seasons of The Killing still does:  the performances of Enos and Kinnaman, and (although they only have a couple of scenes together in the premiere) their comfortable, bantering partnership.  Linden’s raw nerve endings fit well with Holder’s more laid-back vibe, and it’s good that the show never made them a romantic couple, although the possibility always lurks nearby.  The crime this time seems less compelling than Rosie’s killing initially was, however, and although the world of the adrift teen runaways is a poignant one, so far the show hasn’t offered us anything new on that subject.  Peter Sarsgaard is a specialist in creepy, and he certainly commands the screen in his death row scenes, but the show will need to differentiate him from all the other TV wannabe (or actual) Hannibal Lecters around these days.

The Killing had more or less worn out its welcome by the end of last season, and it’ll be interesting to see whether viewers return for another round.  In its return, the show still seems like superior, if not remarkable, summer crime drama, but patience may be short if its storytelling stalls yet again.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."