Imagine if 24 - nerve-wracking, terrorist-torturing, twist-laden show that it is - was called 48 or even 72. More hours more fun, perhaps, but it would probably start to drag a little over that second or third day. Now to make matters worse, imagine that at some point through this long weekend, everything just stopped. Let's say at mid-evening - right when things are getting really heavy - all the characters just disappear mid-crisis. A year later they reconvene, synchronise watches and pick up where they left off.
Essentially, that's the proposition behind season two of The Killing, in its US incarnation, which began on Channel 4 this week. Where its Danish predecessor solved its version of the Larsen murder in one go, the remake has decided to spin out the story for another season.
This deeply lacklustre opening to season two shows how badly wrong that call was. It is admirable that showrunner Veena Sud has attempted to invert the formula of the traditional police procedural, particularly the CSI-style one murder per episode approach. Having one murder per season would simply mean using a new formula, she has argued, not discarding formulae altogether.
In fact, that is the wrong lesson to learn from CSI and its kin. If you want to do something more than the standard procedural, then the way to do it is to focus on storytelling, character and dialogue. The Killing had all that in season one. Lead detective Sarah Linden was an intriguing character, played with a depth by Mireille Enos that was missing even from her counterpart Sarah Lund in the Danish version. The depiction of the impact on the Larsen family of their daughter's murder, in particular the strained relationship between dad Stanley and mother Mitch, was haunting.
All of this has now been jeopardised. For instance, cocky junior detective Stephen Holder was the perfect foil for Linden in the last series - episodes that explored their relationship were among the show's strongest. Then in the dying seconds of season one, Holder was sacrificed to the god of twist. He was revealed fabricating evidence, undermining all of the interesting character development we'd invested in. In the season opener his role appeared to have been transformed into little more than pantomime villain.
More twists came and went, too. Linden has identified a few more shady cops. In fact by the end it seemed she was the only law enforcement officer in Seattle and its environs who wasn't directly involved in killing Rosie Larsen and/or covering up the murder. Then Sud decided to reveal that as Linden was busy following said shady cops, she herself was being followed and photographed by someone else, except we weren't allowed to see who that person was.
The show has become notorious for this practice, revealing and withholding important bits of information seemingly at random. Even CSI has a stronger sense of perspective this - its episodes may be full of convenient evidence finds and red herrings, but you always know that you are seeing the investigation through the eyes of the detectives. In The Killing, all internal rules of this type are abandoned in the pursuit of arbitrary cliffhangers it doesn't need.
If things don't come to a head pretty soon, by the time Linden catches Rosie's killer she might be the only one left who still cares.
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