Monday, August 14, 2017
The Killing: Seasons 3 and 4
Scott D. Parker
I recently finished watching the Seasons 3 and 4 of The Killing and I got to wondering something: Why do sequels typically go darker than the first?
What makes The Killing interesting is that it started dark and went even darker. Seasons 1 and 2 focuses on a single story (and I flat-out loved it). Seasons 3 and 4 has a common overarching story arc but two cases-of-the-season. Season 3 goes almost full dark from the get-go. It involves the street kids of Seattle and someone who is hunting and killing them. Add to that two characters in Detectives Linden and Holder who already battle their own demons and you’ve not exactly got a joy-filled show. I’ll admit that a few times during the ten episodes I was like “Really? They’re going there?” Yeah, they went there.
Holder is the one character who can turn on and off the charm on a dime. One moment he was jabbing street talk with other characters in his most charming way and the next he’s staring out a window, pondering death. Linden starts season 1 sad and barely rises to a smile. It’s oppressive, to be honest, and it acted as a damper on all of Season 3.
Which is a shame because the most compelling character was Peter Sarsgaard, who plays a man on death row…and Linden helped put him there. He is fantastic, and he frankly steals just about every scene he’s in. As depressing as Season 3 gets, I’d still recommend it…
…Except the last minute. Ugh! Something happens in that last minute of the season 3 finale that aggravated me and propelled the story into Season 4. The case-of-the-season in Season 4 was the brutal murder of a rich family and the only survivor is the teen-aged son three months away from graduating from a military school. If you thought Season 3 had some dark moments, Season 4 went even darker. There are moments that are downright disturbing, enough to make you shift in your chair. Tyler Ross plays the surviving son and he does a phenomenal job with his role. Joan Allen is, however, the star of this season, playing the principal/superintendent of the school. She commands the screen whenever she’s on it with her steely gaze and firm jaw line. The more the aftereffects of Season 3 played on our two detectives, the more I enjoyed Allen’s scenes.
The denouement is one I partly saw coming, odd considering the conclusion of seasons 1 and 2 I didn’t see coming at all. It didn’t detract that much, but it is still surprising. One of the things I commented about to my wife was that The Killing is that particular show that turns the viewers against its lead characters. Not in a big way, but there were a few times when I just wanted to slap them around and make them straighten up.
Then there is the epilogue. I’m still trying to determine if I liked it or not. One the one hand, when I watched it, I had a smile on my face. On the other, it might have seemed too trite. But I certainly understand the point that show runner and creator Veena Sug was after: you find your home wherever you find it, sometimes in the most unlikely of places.
If you read my review of Seasons 1 and 2—especially the length of it—you might question why I’m summing up sixteen episodes in 500 words. Frankly it is because Seasons 1 and 2, all one story, was so utterly compelling and consuming that the writers had a tall order to even match how great that first story is. And it ended in such a way to suggest that the story was done and finished, but the network decided it had a hit on their hands and renewed the show for another season.
It brought to mind the TV show “Castle,” still one of my all-time favorites. When the show runners didn’t know if the series would be cancelled at the end of Season 7, they provided an ending which was tear-inducing, warm, and great. When Season 8 was announced, I was overjoyed. What could be better than more Castle? Well, the answer was mediocre Castle.
Same thing here. I’m almost tempted to tell people to watch Seasons 1 and 2 of The Killing and walk away. My wife, the one responsible for me watching the show in the first place, disagrees, saying the finale and epilogue allow the characters some closure. I see her point and I certainly agree with it considering I watched all four seasons…
…But there’s still a part of me that says the first 26 episodes of The Killing are some of the best television I have ever watched. The next 16…not so much. They are good and there are some incredible moments in Seasons 3 and 4, but none approaching the heartbreaking moments of episode 1. Heck, that one episode is better than any single episode in Seasons 3 and 4.
I’m glad I watched all the episodes and, as a whole, still consider The Killing among the best crime shows I’ve ever seen. But there’s still part of me that wants to caution folks about the dichotomy of seasons 1/2 and 3/4. Heck, the more distance from the series finale of Castle, the more I tell new viewers to stop at the Season 7 finale. I’m pretty sure the more time I get from The Killing, I’ll tell people something similar about Seasons 1 and 2. Stop when you're ahead.
Have you ever had a show like this?