Blu-ray Review: THE KILLING - SEASON ONE and Audience Trust
"Who killed Rosie Larsen" is the question that is ostensibly at the heart of the first season of the AMC series The Killing, and at the start of the season, writer and producer Veena Sud creates an emotionally compelling, if somewhat murky central mystery involving the murder of a seemingly bright and outgoing teen in Seattle (played here by British Columbia). Buoyed by a fantastic performance by lead actress Mireille Enos (Big Love) as a troubled, weary homicide detective initially just trying to wrap up the case so that she can move to California with her fiancee, within only a few episodes, The Killing loses any sort of emotional or dramatic tension as the series opts instead to jerk viewers around with a series of increasingly implausible red herrings. By the end of the season, the question isn't so much "Who killed Rosie Larson," as "What random weirdo will the police suspect next?"
Ostensibly based on the Danish series of the same name (and I've heard good things on that front), the series tracks the investigation into Rosie's murder over 13 days, each episode devoted to one day of the case as the police hunt for the killer or killers, the family come to grips with their own grief, and, seemingly off in a corner, a mayoral candidate with a message of hope and change (Billy Campbell) wages a difficult campaign against a corrupt and venal incumbent. In The Killing's defense, each of these threads gets their own due time and never feel crammed into the show, but that's also kind of the problem: the show spends so much time juggling so many different balls in the air that you don't so much lose track as stop caring how many complications get thrown into the plot.
I said that the show is buoyed up by Enos' performance as Detective Sarah Linden, and that's no exaggeration: it's clear early on that her getting out of Seattle is almost an act of self-preservation at this point. Enos invests Detective Linden with a laser-like, often obsessive focus on the case at hand, and it's unhealthy--she's deeply mentally damaged or even broken in some way that's gradually revealed as the season progresses. She wants to find Rosie's killer so sincerely and that goes a ways towards explaining how time and again she's led down the trail of yet another suspect as the plot twists and contorts itself to provide more "who's" for the whodunit.
Does she share some kind of emotional connection with Rosie, a girl she's never met (and who we see alive only twice during the first season)? As the case moves towards its many conclusions, we and Detective Enos (along with her shady partner, vice cop-gone-homicide Holder, played by Joel Kinnaman) learn that no one really knew Rosie. "No one knows anyone" could actually be the central them of The Killing, supported by a parade of cheaters, liars, criminals (former and current), junkies, and (possible) terrorists. It's one of the most coherent ideas from the series.
The problem is, when those secrets intersect with Rosie's murder, it shifts The Killing from a well-observed mystery about the way the pain of a murdered young person afflicts the community to oddly-connected episodes of Law and Order: SVU, dragging "issues" (with the scariest of scare quotes) into the plot. And as a viewer, by the end of the first season you can't trust the show to really have any kind of plausible resolution to Rosie's murder (indeed, there isn't one--we'll find out his or her identity by the end of the current season which starts tonight on AMC, and no, I don't think I'll be tuning in).
Here's how twist-obsessed The Killing becomes: if, at the end of the current season, we find out that Rosie was stuffed herself in that trunk after some bout of multiple personality madness, it'll be no less plausible than everything else that came before in the series.
Presentation and Special Features
There's a healthy amount of special features included in the set, including a commentary for the season finale by writer Nicole Yorkin and Mireille Enos, although it would have been nice to include director Brad Anderson too. One of the features included here that I've started to really appreciate of late from Fox Blu-ray releases is the "Season" feature that will simply load the next episode from the season when you put in the next disc (it's a small thing, but it's nice to circumvent the menus sometime).
Beyond that, the picture quality is solid, if unspectacular, owing to what I guess in an intentionally grainy, "gritty" style (think Homicide: Life on the Street) that doesn't translate as well when most scenes are shot in a fairly flat, cop procedural style.