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AMC’s The Killing Falls Short of Potential

Tonight is the season finale of The Killing on AMC.  I eagerly anticipated this series – I had seen tweets from over the pond and the flurry of The Killing hash tags on Twitter had me pretty excited.  People were raving about it.

One big problem – what then aired in the US was not the same series.  It was longer, took place in Seattle, different actors, etc.

The first few episodes kept me on board, but then it became a slog.  Rather than dismiss it with another thought, I realized that I was disappointed because it had potential, but it was just lazy.  It gave me a whole new appreciation for Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, and The Wire.

The Stratospheric Triumvirate has changed me as a viewer and ratcheted up my expectations for extended weekly viewing.

The characters in The Killing, with the exception of Holder, seem like stylized stereotypes.  Sarah Linden the mysterious and driven detective; Darren Richmond the virtuous public servant crusader widower, Mitch Larsen the ferocious bereaved mother, Stan Larsen the bewildered at turns violent father with a past in organized crime.  Yawn.  It’s all done in two dimensions.

None of these characters has the richness of a Lester Freamon, Tony Soprano, or Walter White.  None of the villains are as interesting as Stringer Bell, Gustavo Fring, or Livia Soprano.

The writing does not give any texture to the dialogue or serve to breathe life into the relationships.  It’s what you’d expect from network prime time – but not from the more ambitious cable.

For example, in The Sopranos, there is a scene where Tony, Carmela and AJ go into the city to have dinner with Meadow and her roommates.  AJ brings up Billy Budd and that he has to write an English paper.  Meadow goes into an exposition of the plot and homosexual undertones.  Camela is shocked, convinced that a classic wouldn’t have such a theme and that the school wouldn’t be teaching it if it did.  Tony makes a joke about Billy Budd being the ship’s florist.  Meadow’s friends giggle at Tony’s politically incorrect joke.  In that one scene, we learn so much about Carmela and her world view and how protected her world is.  We are charmed, once again by Tony, who seems to have a pretty good idea of what is going on with his wife, the contrast between her world view and Meadow’s.

When The Sopranos bring characters together, there’s more going on than just a furthering of the story line.  Every ensemble interaction we view – whether the boys at the Bing, or the Soprano nuclear family, the clique at Green Grove, or even the FBI agents – is interesting and multi-dimensional.

The pacing of The Killing is tedious.  Breaking Bad has proven that slow movement doesn’t have to be uninteresting – it just has to be ambitious and pay off.  There are several scenes in the third season of Breaking Bad where we see Jesse Pinkman repeatedly dialing the cell phone number of his dead girlfriend to hear her voice.  Later in the story, when he dials the number only to hear that it is no longer in service, as viewers our hearts sink at him losing this small comfort.

The Wire was masterful at sharing grief and loss with its viewers.  Like The Sopranos, the ensemble work was more than just propelling the plot.  The conversations and interactions between D’Angelo, Wallace, Bodie and Poot around the abandoned orange couch in the middle of the low risers all serve to make us care about these characters and build to the horrifically heart-breaking murder of Wallace.

The Killings does not give its viewers the same opportunity to care about the characters.  It’s been renewed for a second season, and I do hope that they give us better writing and more connection with the characters.

Have you been watching The Killing?  Agree or Disagree?

 

One Response to AMC’s The Killing Falls Short of Potential

  1. Phil Simon says:

    I liked The Killing but it’s tough to compare it to those three iconic series. Take away those three, and Perhaps The Killing is viewed more favorably. Kind of like a .300 hitter in baseball trailing the leader by 50 points.

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