Few series have demonstrated the unforgiving nature of the media and TV’s Web-connected super-fans better than “The Killing,” which drew them in with its hypnotic pace, then disappointed many with its misleading “We’ll wrap this up in season one” finale. The show limped through a second-season conclusion with considerably less fanfare, and now returns with a new mystery, feeling very much like yesterday’s news. As usual, the two-hour premiere closes with a flourish, but it’s a long slog to that point, with one compelling cast addition and plot threads that otherwise engage in a different type of killing – specifically, time.
Although there were several good business reasons to bring “The Killing” back — under a multi-pronged deal involving AMC, Netflix and Fox’s distribution apparatus — the artistic ones are considerably less obvious. Having told, for better or worse, a self-contained story, this almost can’t help but look like a deal in search of a show.
Sure, it’s fun seeing Joel Kinnaman saunter through his offbeat role as a too-hip homicide detective, enlisting Mireille Enos — playing his former partner, the chronically pained-looking Sarah Linden — to help with a grisly new case, which might connect to one of her old ones.
The network and producers have asked critics not to divulge key plot points, and given the languid pacing, I’m not sure I could even if I wanted to. If there was something exotic at first about the idea of capturing the plodding aspects of police work, “The Killing” seems almost determined to make AMC’s Sunday-night staple “Mad Men” look like a Michael Bay movie by comparison.
Beyond the central duo’s initially sparsely connected threads and the splendid addition of Peter Sarsgaard as Ray Seward, a hollow-eyed Death Row inmate, much of the narrative meanders — so slow, bleak and dreary, it’s difficult to muster much interest as to when (inevitably) it’s all going to begin to intersect.
It’s too bad, really, since the show has certainly assembled a fine cast, and some of the elements (starting with that percussive score) remain arresting.
Still, if the first year of “The Killing” hinged on the unanswered question “Who killed Rosie Larsen?,” there’s less suspense surrounding what killed the franchise. And while the program might be viable thanks to the various parties with a stake in it, in terms of it being anything worth getting excited about in this very busy summer, mark “The Killing” down as DOA.