After ending its buzzy first season with one of the most controversial finales in television history, then subsequently suffering through a shaky sophomore go-round marred by fan backlash, AMC’s The Killing is currently enjoying quite the creative and commercial comeback. Invigorated by the presence of the always-invaluable Peter Sarsgaard,not to mention the reliably superb chemistry between leads Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman, Season 3 has not only managed to once again leave critics besotted, but more importantly, it has also won the show back many of its ardent fans.
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When The Killing first premiered to stellar ratings for AMC, not to mention major network level buzz in April of 2011, it took everyone, especially its creator, Veena Sud by surprise. Adapting the beloved, gritty Danish drama, Forbrydelson, for U.S. TV, Sud and her team had no idea that their story, transplanted to Seattle, and focusing on the disappearance of young Rosie Larsen, as well as the ensuing manhunt that would take place to find her, would captivate the nation. Adding to the shock was the fact that in leading roles, as the pair of no-frills detectives assigned to the gruesome case, producers had cast two virtual unknowns: Mireille Enos was an actress whose biggest claim to fame had been playing a polygamist bride on HBO’s Big Love, and Joel Kinnaman was a Scandinavian who, despite quite a fair share of buzz for his stellar work in films like 2010’s Easy Money, had not nearly built up a fanbase outside of his native Sweden, like that of say… Alexander Skarsgard.
Of course, by the end of The Killing’s first season, both Enos and Kinnaman were break out stars, the show itself was delivering AMC some of its highest ratings behind it’s unstoppable The Walking Dead, and social media was awash in discussions about who killed Rosie Larsen. Alas, then came that much-talked about season one finale…
After endless hype, including basing the entire promotional campaign of the show around the question of who killed this young Seattle teen, it was pretty much assumed across the board that her murder would be solved at the end of that first season. Episodes leading up to the finale appeared to corroborate this belief, not to mention the fact that fans had becomebeyond invested in the case, and were desperately anticipating the payoff of seeing Rosie’s killer unmasked and brought to justice. Much to everyone’s surprise however, they were not given this closure. Instead, Sud and her team chose to throw everyone a curveball and leave the case open until the second season, promising that answers would eventually be revealed.
Naturally a show’s creators have the right to do what they please with their baby. (Just ask the guys over at Game of Thrones who’ve practically made a habit out of shocking and outraging their dedicated fans). Most of the time, viewers will complain, but generally either respect the process and decisions of the creator, and stay on the ride, or rather quietly, get off. Unfortunately this time, that was not the case though. Aided by a particularly vociferous media campaign, fans were adamant that The Killing had squandered their good faith, and destroyed any and all public trust in an effort to goose season two ratings. Instead of simply calling for boycotts of the show, online rants called for AMC to cancel it entirely, marking a particularly nasty level of creative discourse that while common for the Internet, hadn’t really been seen in television. Things got so bad, that prior to season two, Sud, herself was forced to issue a virtual mea culpa, apologizing for misleading fans, and promising to tie up all loose ends immediately in the second season.
Despite garnering several prestigious 2011 Emmy Nominations including one for Best Drama, another for Best Actress for Enos, and a Writing Nod for Sud’s work on the pilot, when The Killing returned for what should have been its dominant second season, it was clear that Sud’s apology had not had its desired effect. Viewers stayed away, critics were not nearly as kind as they had been, and for a while, it seemed unsure whether or not the show would even make it to a season three. Lucky for Killing fans though, both Enos’s and Kinnaman’s stars continued to rise, with each signing on to high profile films (Enos in World War Z opposite Brad Pitt, and Kinnaman as the star of the new Robocop reboot), and Sud and her team, learning from their mistake, seemed to resign themselves to pay more attention to what the fans wanted.
Now, with two almost A-list movie stars in the leads, not to mention a scenery-chewing Sarsgaard on board as a complicated dead man walking, the show has hit another creative and commercial peak, routinely delivering first-rate television, and some of its network’s best (and were talking the home of Breaking Bad and Mad Men!). Though she openly admits to having made a few mistakes, Sud, along with her talented writing team seems to have emerged from their trials, creatively emboldened, commercially viable, and most importantly, fanbase incheck.
CLICK HERE for the AMC’s official page for THE KILLING