Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"The Killing" - "Orpheus Descending" (Season Finale)

Spoilers for the final episode of "The Killing's" debut season after the jump:

I'm really trying to understand the amount of hatred that has been directed towards this episode on various sites and on Twitter. Yes, it's problematic (nothing new when it comes to this show), but reviews expressing this much anger are in my opinion very much over-the-top and completely disproportionate to the actual quality of the episode.

I think most of this anger comes from the fact that just about everyone (myself included) was led to believe by AMC that the central mystery of "Who Killed Rosie Larsen?" would be solved by the end of the season. And the fact that it wasn't (although it's still entirely possible that Richmond did it despite Holder's frame job) certainly bothered many people. It bothered me too, as did pretty much everything that occurred in the last five minutes.

But let's take a step back. If the show hadn't pulled that admittedly very stupid twist, would people be as  furious as they are right now? I think the answer is no, because the rest of "Orpheus Descending" was actually quite strong: even if it once again hit pretty standard emotion and plot-related notes.

I found Holder and Linden's rather laborious attempts to gather evidence on Darren quite compelling for a change. And Mireille Enos is still giving one heck of a performance in the lead role. I've been praising the acting on this show as one of its few consistently good qualities, and this week it was probably as strong as it's ever been.

Brent Sexton was particularly sensational in the few scenes he got, particularly when he talked about having kids with Bennet's wife. This was the kind of emotional moment involving Stan (and Mitch too) that the show's been aiming for every week, with very mixed results. Here it worked, as did the later conversation between Stan and Mitch.

The political campaign was also somewhat more interesting than it's been in preceding weeks, due mainly to the very well-played tension between Gwen and Darren as well as the question of whether or not he'd be arrested. It wasn't nearly enough to make the time spent on this storyline feel anything less than pointless, but I guess it's something.

And then we come to the two major plot points that are causing so much fury among the TV-viewing public (or at least among the critics I read): Holder's betrayal and Belko's attempt to kill Richmond. I'd like to be clear: I'm not defending either one. The latter was just idiotic, and the fact that they didn't even show the result was even more irksome.

And as for the big reveal about Holder... I'm really not sure what showrunner Veena Sud was thinking. The past few episodes have featured a growing bond between the two detectives that has become one of my favorite aspects of the show. And she's now going to throw all that away? It probably could have been fixed had it simply been Holder making up evidence to put an apparent murderer in jail, but the revelation that he's working for someone else is going to make that virtually impossible.

On top of that, there was no warning. Sure, Holder's occasional secretive phone calls hinted at something, but that appeared to have been explained by the fact that he's in NA. Indeed, I'm less bothered by the lack of resolution to the murder storyline than I am by the poor plotting of these "shocking" (as a recent promo from AMC put it) events. And unless something changes drastically, I won't be back next season.

But I also don't think that this was all that bad of an episode of television, or that this season has been terrible. It's disappointing considering AMC's track record, but it's still far better than your average network procedural thanks to both the acting and direction. If this is my goodbye to "The Killing", I won't be bitter: merely a bit sad that the show didn't live up to the promise it showed in episodes like the two-hour opener or "Missing".

And now, let the anticipation for season 4 of "Breaking Bad" commence.

Episode Grade: B-
Season Grade: B-


  1. The show's still, probably in my top 7 (above MAD MEN'S last season truth be told). It's had it's issues and missteps, but the amount of vitriol being spewed out does seem unnecessary.

  2. Agreed on that last point. And I'm not saying that attacking an episode of a show the way this one's been attacked is always wrong. I've certainly done it with a few "Office" episodes these past few years, but here's the difference: they actually didn't have any positive aspects. This episode did, which is why I'm so bothered by the one-sided criticism: particularly from critics like Sepinwall and Mo Ryan who should know better.

    Couldn't disagree more about season 4 of "Mad Men", though: I thought it was the best one so far. What didn't you like about it?

  3. It's not that I DISLIKE the season, or the show. It's good, but it always seems a bit too tame and impressed with itself more than it should. I don't know. It's not my favourite show.