'The Killing,' tense and gripping, back for year 2

By Frazier Moore

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, March 28 2012 11:30 a.m. MDT

This image provided by AMC shows Mireille Enos, right, and Garry Chalk in a scene from season two of "The Killing."

AMC, Carole Segal, Associated Press

NEW YORK — When "The Killing" returns for its second season on Sunday, it will arrive with just a fraction of the hoopla and hysteria that greeted another AMC show, "Mad Men," the week before.

But that's not to say "The Killing" won't be received with great interest, particularly by wild-eyed fans of its first season who still are seething over how, in their minds, it did them wrong.

Maybe you recall how, last June, this heavyhearted whodunit went to black after 13 episodes spent probing the murder of Seattle teen Rosie Larsen without revealing whodunit — while, on the contrary, casting last-minute doubt on the guilt of the accused suspect, mayoral candidate Darren Richmond, just before he apparently fell victim to a vengeance-seeking gunman.

Along with the viewers crying foul, many critics were not amused by the season's lack of closure.

New York magazine's Andy Greenwald railed that the "jaw-droppingly horrible" finale "spat in the face of convention, logic and the audience."

Time magazine's James Poniewozik exploded, "I no longer counsel patience with 'The Killing'! You may unlock the toolshed and get the pitchforks!"

Alan Sepinwall of the website HitFix seemed to invoke Richard Nixon from a half-century ago ("You don't have Nixon to kick around anymore, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference") when he wrote, "I've been lied to by this show for the last time," adding he would never again watch it or review it. (As with Nixon before him, Sepinwall apparently has softened his stance.)

Just this month, a New York Times Sunday Magazine story on Veena Sud, the series' beleaguered creator-executive producer, put heavy stakes on the season premiere, which, declared writer Adam Sternbergh, "should reveal whether 'The Killing' can stagger back to life."

Well, AMC recently sent critics a preview of the two-hour season premiere (which airs Sunday at 8 p.m. EDT) and, in my view, it seems no worse for wear and all the back-biting. Sure-footedly, this episode resumes its mystery as it tracks the spreading scope of what appears less and less to be a simple human tragedy.

"The Killing" began last April as a grisly murder case investigated by pint-sized, glowering Homicide Detective Sarah Linden (series star Mireille Enos) and her gangly, skeezy partner Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman).

But pretty quickly Rosie's death up-ended the mayoral race as Richmond, the Seattle City Council president (played by Billy Campbell), was swept up by the crime. Meanwhile, the aftershocks of the murder on Rosie's parents (Michelle Forbes and Brent Sexton) and two young brothers emerged as the third narrative strand.

Nearly every character but Linden was conceivably the killer. Even now, AMC's website displays more than two dozen potential suspects.

So who killed Rosie Larsen? I have no idea.

Don't get me wrong — the question is of more than passing concern to me as a loyal viewer of the show. But, for me, the bigger mystery of "The Killing" is why its detractors got so hot and bothered when the perp wasn't nailed.

The Larsen murder investigation is the dramatic through-line. But I think "The Killing" is more pointedly a study of grief. It charts the spiraling trauma inflicted on a family, then a community, by a single violent act; the effect of an unfathomable death on the living. From the candidate's aides to a high school teacher to Sarah's son, neglected as his mom plunges into the case, there is no one who isn't in escalating pain. And the pain seems inevitably heading, step by anxious step, to a collective breakdown.

Revealing who killed Rosie (a disclosure the producers have promised for the end of Season 2 — no, really!) will satisfy the audience's curiosity. Or maybe not.

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