‘The Killing’ Pilot Recap: “Will You Find Who Did This?”

AMC has set itself up as the HBO or Showtime of basic cable. Over the past few years, the network has been acquiring shows like a seasoned collector. ‘Mad Men‘, ‘Breaking Bad‘, and ‘The Walking Dead‘ have all gone on to be critical successes, with popular opinion following in suit. Needless to say, I’ve come to expect nothing but the best from AMC when it comes to original dramas, which brings me to this past Sunday’s two-hour premier of ‘The Killing’.

First off, let me explain that while AMC’s programming is top-notch, its HD signal is one of the worst on cable. It’s frustratingly awful – noise, noise, noise in the picture and the sound. For some reason, the ambient noise is cranked up so loudly that the gulls cawing in the distance and the rain falling outside sometimes completely overpower the dialogue from the characters. This drove me insane. I’m sure that the eventual Blu-ray release will clear that all up, but until then, I’m going to have to suffer through it.

With that rant out of the way, let’s get to talking about the show. Josh wanted me to mention that ‘The Killing’ seems eerily similar to ‘Twin Peaks’. Believe it or not, I’ve never watched one single episode of ‘Twin Peaks’, so I couldn’t comment on any similarities, but feel free to make your feelings known in the comments.

To me, ‘The Killing’ has a very fine line to walk. Cases similar to the one portrayed in the show are solved in an hour or less on most ‘Law & Order’ episodes. How does ‘The Killing’, based on the murder of one girl, Rosie Larsen, not end up turning into an extended episode of ‘SVU’? I have faith that AMC will be able to put together a show that effectively carries this storyline throughout an entire season, but it’s a tricky proposition.

From the outset, you can tell that ‘The Killing’ is going to be a slow, methodical series that delves deeply into human emotions. How does a family deal with the murder of their daughter? How does a detective who is about to move away deal with her last big case? How does a local politician deal with the fact that this murder may be related to his campaign?

The show follows around three main groups of characters. First, there are the victim’s grieving mother Mitch Larsen (Michelle Forbes) and father Stan Larsen (Brent Sexton). Forbes and Sexton are great in these first two hours. Their plight as parents who have just lost their daughter feels very real because of their performances. Next, we have the two detectives investigating the case. Detective Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) is planning to move to California, but can’t seem to get away from this one last job which is becoming a bigger deal by the minute. The other detective, Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman), is an interesting character. He’s by far the most redneckish detective I’ve ever seen. It’s easy to see him as a police detective or a meth junkie, or both. Who knows? I think he’s hiding something. Finally, we have local Mayoral candidate Richmond (Billy Campbell). He’s running for office and can’t afford to have any scandals hit him. Rosie’s body was found in the trunk of one of his campaign vehicles. What’s he going to do now?

The first two hours of ‘The Killing’ have me intrigued. These characters aren’t the normal caricatures you see on police procedurals. They feel more real, more down to earth. I also enjoyed the plodding nature of the episodes. I didn’t feel like they’re trying to surprise me or keep my attention at every commercial break. Instead, suspense is built with the wide-sweeping camera shots and the very human performances. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season, how about you?


  1. I didn’t see the episode, but yeah, I’ll be damned if that doesn’t sound like the set-up for Twin Peaks. BTW, it’s streaming on netflix (hd no less) you should do yourself a favor and check it out. Watch the first two episodes and see if you can resist watching more.

    • Aaron Peck

      The only reason I never watched ‘Twin Peaks’ was because I heard that the ending was a complete letdown and I didn’t want to go through with spending the time to watch it just to be letdown in the end.

      • It is and it isn’t. There’s closure… sort of. The Fire Walk with Me movie (which is a prequel, but absolutely has to be watched last) brings things around full-circle, and makes for a fitting capper.

        David Lynch’s original plan for Twin Peaks was that he never wanted to find the killer. What he was interested in was the town and the characters. The murder mystery was just a backdrop to play all that off. It was the network that insisted he resolve the mystery.

        That happens in the middle of the second season, and is VERY satisfying. The problem is that the show dragged on for another half season beyond that, and really lost its direction for a while before figuring out exactly what it was going to be without the central mystery hanging over it anymore.

        Even so, it’s an incredible series. For as many imitators as it’s had over the years (including The Killing), nothing has ever come close to duplicating it.

  2. It is in a way, but the way the show is structured all around sort of calls for it. You can tell right off the bat that there is no way they’ll be able to wrap it up. Personally I think the first season is absolutely brilliant, and it could have ended right there, no resolution, leave us wanting more. the second season has moments of greatness but runs a little long and gets away from the point a bit (also the less satisfying ending.) You should give it a shot, if the first couple episodes don’t pull you in forget about it.

    • Aaron Peck

      I’ll give it a whirl when I can. I don’t have Netflix so I’ll have to find a different way to watch. My busy watching schedule hardly provides me the time to fit in an extra TV series just for fun, but I’ll try.

  3. Mike Attebery

    Even though the show is mostly shot in Vancouver, they have tons of great shots around Seattle. They’ve been wandering around every neighhorhood I frequent in the city. The Greenwood Morgue does not exist however. I live in Greenwood/Phinney Ridge, and while Greenwood started out as a cemetery, it’s actually a nice place, free of body refrigerators as far as I know. Of course, we are talking about Seattle, serial killer central.

  4. Watched it tonight. There are some surface similarities to Twin Peaks, which I think the creators kind of acknowledge in the beginning, where it looks like the main character is going to find a body washed up on the lake shore. But that’s just a fake-out, and the show goes a completely different direction. Other than that, you’re right that it’s not Lynchian at all. Very good episode, though. I’m interested enough to watch more.

    You weren’t kidding about the crap quality of AMC’s HD feed. Artifacts everywhere, and the background ambient noises totally drowned out the whole soundtrack, just like you said. Yikes!

    • Aaron Peck

      What cable service do you have? I was thinking that it may just be bad on Comcast, but I’m wondering if it’s just bad no matter what provider you have. But, yeah, that sound mix is just ear-screechingly awful. It drives me absolutely batty.

      Something I didn’t mention in my recap is that I like the choice of Mireille Enos as Det. Linden. She’s not your typical hot looking skinny woman detective that’s in just about every other police show that features a main woman character. It’s a very nice change, and adds to the realism. She looks like she hasn’t slept in weeks.

      • I also have Comcast, and I had to watch this On Demand to get it in HD at all since I erroneously recorded the SD feed. As I recall, The Walking Dead also looks pretty crappy, but I don’t remember having these sort of audio issues.

        It’s not the show’s fault or the actress’s, but every time I look at her I see the Marquant twins from Big Love.

        I liked that her idiot partner turned out to be less dumb than he looks at the end.

        • Aaron Peck

          Yeah. Totally agree about her partner. I was afraid for about two seconds that the show was going to go off the deep end during that pot smoking sequence where the detective looked like he was creepily hitting on those school girls. I was thinking, oh please, don’t do this. Not when you’ve built such a great looking and feeling show. Don’t make this guy into some creepy douche, but it worked out. Whew!