Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Pilot Review: The Killing

The Killing (AMC)
Premiered April 3 at 9pm

Since not all that much actually happens in this two-hour premiere, it’s worth taking a moment to frame expectations when it comes to this network and its previous pilots. I was incredibly intrigued and engaged by both “The Walking Dead” and “Rubicon,” even if subsequent episodes couldn’t quite match their intensity and originality. “Mad Men” was somewhat slow but clearly rich in story and subtext, and “Breaking Bad” still hadn’t established its proper tone. The latest of the once film-focused network’s series premieres doesn’t quite have the draw of any of those, partially in terms of its subject matter and also because it just doesn’t pick up the pace enough to draw in an audience. Its final moments were the best in the entire show, and they’re far more invigorating, mysterious, and enthralling than the entirety of the two-hour production that came before it. This pilot is heavy on exposition, to the point that nothing actually gets accomplished in two hours other than establishing where the show might be headed in the future, most relevant to Sarah’s belief that she won’t actually be stuck in Seattle investigating this murder for the foreseeable future. The lead-up to the discovery of Rosie’s body also takes far too long, and isn’t nearly as impactful or horrifically moving as it should be. This seems to be an inferior take on the “Twin Peaks” story with far less Lynchian bizarreness and considerably less appeal when it comes to characters. It’s a fairly standard, dark murder story, and that seems to be about it. I’m not particularly impressed by Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman as our lead detectives, and no one else in the ensemble seems to be much on their game besides Billy Campbell, who, to be fair, has the meatiest part. I’m still searching for the real hook in this show, and for the moment, it doesn’t seem too much like something I need to be watching.

How will it work as a series? It’s set up as a season-long mystery rather than one that might evolve and change each episode, and while that’s worked before, on shows like “Twin Peaks” and “Murder One,” it’s not terribly common. There also aren’t all that many characters for the show to utilize, so I imagine it may find itself filling in holes and stretching out to even out having more time slots to fill than material.
How long will it last? This show certainly was well-advertised and promoted, but necessitating weekly viewing like this in order to keep up with the one main plotline may not work well for AMC, which cancelled the ratings-challenged “Rubicon” recently. Especially since it’s designed as a season-long mystery, I think that’s all we’ll see of this show.

Pilot grade: C+


Greg Boyd said...

Wow. I thought this pilot (well, it's actually two separate episodes aired back-to-back) was nothing short of astonishing. I loved the atmosphere, found the mystery compelling, and thought the characters and acting were first rate. So... big disagreement here.

I'm not sure what to make of the show's long-term future, either. The pilot ratings were strong, but so were "Rubicon's" if memory serves. I think we'll have a much better idea of the big picture after the ratings for the third episode come in.

Movies with Abe said...

I'm going to keep watching, by the way. I just remember giving up on "Rubicon" because Sunday nights got too crowded. Although they're not going to be too busy in the next few weeks, so we'll see!