“The Killing” didn’t necessarily deserve an ending after its third-season cliffhanger, but the one-time AMC series — which went from sensation to scorned in near-record time — needed one. Recognizing a property with binge potential and name recognition, Netflix has obliged, punching up a six-episode final season that reunites the central characters and picks up pretty much where they left off — with baggage that spills over into, and largely eclipses, a new, fairly uninspired case. Despite flashes of what initially made the Danish adaptation so intriguing, this stretch drive can’t escape the feeling of a show ready to be put out of its misery.
The dense mood and mystery won the skein a rabid following, only to squander much of that goodwill when the first season didn’t wrap up the opening investigation. The second arc dragged, and a third — under a shared arrangement with Netflix — embarked on a new story that was engaging only about half the time.
That’s the foundation for season four, which finds detectives Linden (Mireille Enos) and Holder (Joel Kinnaman) dealing with the aftermath of dispatching a murderer, facing the uncertainty of whether they’ll be caught and endangering their careers. There’s an interesting cat-and-mouse game in that, raising the question of whether detectives can escape detection, especially with a skeptical colleague (Gregg Henry) in their midst.
Meanwhile, the duo is assigned a grisly new multiple homicide that has left a family dead, and its military cadet son (Tyler Ross) looking like a potential suspect — although, as always, all is not as it might seem.
Joan Allen plays the administrator of the military academy seeking to shield the boy from the investigation, and while it adds another high-octane actor to the show’s guest cast (Peter Sarsgaard lent heat to season three), she’s underemployed, at least initially, in a rather one-note role.
These two threads alternate as the program progresses — exploring the toll deception can exact, while adding drama to the interplay between Kinnaman and Enos. For starters, Enos looks even more pained than usual, while Kinnaman’s character also suffers, but invariably gets all the best lines. Told some evidence is inconclusive, for example, he mutters dryly, “Religion’s inconclusive. That don’t stop 5 billion people from believin’ what they believe.”
The exclusive shift to Netflix does offer premium-channel latitude that the show fully exploits, from saltier language to longer episodes, running close to a full hour. For the most part, though, showrunner Veena Sud’s U.S. version remains the grim, deliberate creature it always has been, playing out threads that, at this point, feel as if they’ve been teased too long.
Practically speaking, the streaming services have apparently seen the value in properties with established brand equity and recognition, which also includes Yahoo rescuing “Community.”
These episodes remain watchable enough (four were made available), and the subset who eagerly sat through or binged prior seasons will no doubt be curious as to how it all ends, even if the show perhaps warrants a “Fool me twice” disclaimer. In the final analysis, though, “The Killing” had its moment, and instead of turning into the killer franchise it had the potential to become, it wound up shooting itself in the foot.