Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Killing – Not Your Standard Crime Drama

AMC has added another show to its already unique repertoire of programming, including Breaking Bad and Mad Men (on hiatus until 2012). Widely known as taking a page out of Twin Peaks, sans the quirks and cherry pie, The Killing centers around the murder of Rosie Larson, a 17 year old girl who we are introduced to in the pilot’s opening sequence being chased through the woods at night. With its eerie score and dreary Seattle backdrop, the show chronicles the discovery, aftermath and investigation into what happened to the girl, with the promos asking, “Who Killed Rosie Larson?”


There are more than a few elements which sets this show apart from other prime time crime dramas. First, the investigation is not neatly wrapped up in within the hour nor are we bombarded with fancy stylized forensic recreations and gruesome fatal wounds (a la the CSI franchise). The gritty, somber backdrop (does it really rain THAT much in Seattle?) provides an almost muted environment where the focus becomes the raw emotions felt by the family and the ripple effect the crime has on everyone involved – from the investigators to the suspects (and their families) to politics. This episodical drama is not something that can be casually tuned into – there is a commitment level needed that is not like your standard Bones, Criminal Minds, CSI, etc..


The structure also doesn’t adopt the typical investigator-centric approach that most other procedural shows do, like Law & Order. While we aren’t deeply introduced to Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos), the lead investigator or sketchy sidekick Stephen (Joel Kinnaman), there are enough hints of dysfunctional behavior and history that keep the audience guessing and wanting to know more. When will Sarah move to California to her awaiting fiancé? Who does Stephen keep giving money to? As an audience, we get a purview into how the repercussions of Rosie’s murder are felt throughout the fabric of the entire town. From the implosion felt within her family dynamic – the polarization of Mitch and Stan Larson’s relationship (Rosie’s parents), the demons of Stan’s past brewing back up to the surface and the remaining siblings who are left to fend for themselves. The political arena also plays a pivotal role in exploring how the murder of a young girl (in a Chappaquiddick-like set up) plays out during a mayoral election , using crime as a campaign strategy which is further used when a suspect is tied to programs promoted by candidate Darren Richmond (Billy Campbell).


The show provides an impression that every reference, every prop, every character has some role. Mitch’s sister, the odd, wealthy entrepreneur, Stan’s coworker… You get the impression that they all have secrets. They all play a role. And we want to know what that role is.


And while the show job the script does at giving each stakeholder a voice, the midseason is hitting a bit of a slump. The nuances that hooked me in the beginning are becoming convenient and plotlines are (seemingly) getting quite predictive and reminiscent of something you’d find in a Lifetime movie. Despite this, I’m still hanging on as a dedicated viewer and hoping that it’s all part of the strategy and that we are blown away by the culmination of this case in Dexter-like fashion. With 4 episodes left, there are a lot of questions still to be answered, lots of references to become clear. And I can’t wait.