My husband and I were late to catch on to "The Killing," AMC's crime drama that was "canceled" after two seasons, but brought back for a third season beginning June 2.
We finished Season 2 about a week ago, but we're still caught in the spell, watching each episode a second time. Here's why I think "The Killing" blows the doors off every other TV cop show, and why I can't wait for Season 3 to begin.
The pacing --- When the show made its debut in 2011, many reviewers commented on the slow pace. Each episode equals a day in the investigation of the murder of Rosie Larsen, a Seattle teen-ager whose body is found in a submerged car. When most TV dramas solve a case in an hour-long episode (or stretch it into a two-hour special), "The Killing" takes its time getting to know the two detectives who catch the case, the victim's family, the victim herself, and the suspects we meet along the way.
The partners --- Mismatched police partners are a cliche of crime drama, but Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos0 and Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman) rewrite the book. Holder is the new kid in homicide: a ghetto-talking, skinny white ex-junkie, ex-undercover vice cop. Linden is the veteran: a diminutive, pale redhead in bulky sweaters and jeans, she's fearless, obsessed and the mistress of the cold stare. They approach the investigation with entirely different styles, so it's not surprising that Linden and Holder don't like each other much, don't trust each other, and yet come to a grudging respect and even attachment. "You know you're my BFF," Holder tells her.
The family --- Rosie leaves her parents, Mitch and Stan (Brent Sexton), as well as two younger brothers and an aunt to grieve for her. With the luxury of time, "The Killing" exposes the raw nerves of grief as each family member mourns for Rosie. It's devastating, agonizing, and true in its emotion. When Mitch (Michelle Forbes) curls up on Rosie's bed, surrounding herself with her daughter's stuffed animals, you know you would be doing the same thing if, God forbid, you were in her place.
The subplots and characters --- The Larsen murder investigation drops right into the middle of a Seattle mayoral election. Since Rosie's body was found in a car belonging to challenger Darren Richmond (Billy Campbell), the candidate, his campaign aides, and the possibly shady incumbent Lesley Adams (Tom Butler) are drawn into the mystery. The show's pacing allows for a fuller development of these characters, exploring their backstories and fleshing out their motivations.
The setting --- Isn't Seattle supposed to be the beautiful, trendy jewel of the Pacific Northwest? You'd never know that from the Seattle you see in "The Killing," which is in a constant downpour, gloomy, dank and chilly. It lends a sense of impending doom to every scene. Even the interiors feel a bit claustrophobic.
The twists --- If you think "Law & Order: SVU" is the master of the plot twist, hang on for all of the blind alleys and rabbit holes that Linden and Holder investigate. These twists and turns feel honest rather than gratuitous, as the partners chase down every possible lead, make mistakes, deal with some tragic unintended consequences, and finally find the killer. In two seasons, 26 episodes, 26 days.
Season 3 picks up a year after Season 2 ended. Holder brings Linden out of retirement to help him track down a serial killer who is preying on homeless girls. According to producer Veena Sud, the case will be solved in this 13-episode season, so it probably won't follow the episode=day pacing. But I hope the new season keeps the other things that made Seasons 1 and 2 so great.