AMC's The Killing, which concluded its first season last Sunday, simultaneously engaged and enraged viewers and critics alike with its story of the investigation into the brutal murder of a teenage girl in rain-soaked Seattle.
Some of this had to do with the subject matter -- a challenging and uncommonly dark blend of murder, madness, grief and desperation. But much of the mixed reaction to the show had more to do with its execution. Was The Killing a well-made, meticulously plotted drama that deserved the tsunami of critical praise it received at the time of its premiere or was it a poorly conceived exercise in soggy storytelling?
Regardless, it was (and still is) one of the most talked about television series of the year, and certainly one of the most ambitious, and for those reasons alone it deserves as much favorable attention as possible. The fact that a brand new scripted basic cable series with no big stars in its cast could make its debut and command so much attention at the start of broadcast television's May sweeps period and continue to stand out while when dozens of high-profile scripted and unscripted shows were building to their seismic season finales was a remarkable achievement. That's a glowing testament to the writers, directors, cast and crew of the show, not to mention AMC, which has become such a distinguished television entity that the arrival of a new series on its schedule qualifies as an event in itself.
I was enormously impressed with The Killing from the moment I saw a few clips that had been cobbled together for a presentation at the January 2011 Television Critics Association tour. Indeed, I thought from the clips alone that Mireille Enos, the quietly intriguing young actress who plays weary homicide detective Sarah Linden, the central character in the show, was destined for the same award-worthy AMC greatness as Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad and Jon Hamm of Mad Men.
Here at the end of its first season my opinions of the show in general and of Enos in particular have not changed, even if, as noted by its most vociferous critics (professional or otherwise), its story seemed to be compromised by one too many red herrings and the Linden character appeared too easily stymied by the circumstances surrounding the murder of Rosie Larsen, a young woman as mysterious and complicated as Laura Palmer, the tragic murder victim in the now-classic Twin Peaks.
I do wish that The Killing had consistently maintained the unique creepiness of its early episodes (though some of that seeped back in near the end) and that the writers hadn't waited until so late in the season to beef up Enos' character. But I still think The Killing is one of the year's finest new scripted series.
This column continues over at MediaPost.