'The Killing' returning on AMC with a jolt of action

Joel Kinnaman and Mireille Enos play dogged detectives in search of a slayer in season two of "The Killing." CAROLE SEGAL / AMC
Joel Kinnaman and Mireille Enos play dogged detectives in search of a slayer in season two of "The Killing." CAROLE SEGAL / AMC
Posted: April 01, 2012

The Danish are apparently a patient, good-natured people. You can take them through a lengthy, twisty mystery like Forbrydelsen (the TV series from which AMC's The Killing was adapted) and at the very end reveal nothing. In Denmark, they sit back, laugh jovially, and say, "Oh, you got me good that time, Magnus. I didn't see that one not coming."

Here in America, we're more demanding. When the catchphrase and advertising slogan of your series is "Who killed Rosie Larsen?", at the end of 12 moody, rain-drenched hours we firmly expect to know the identity of the culprit.

So when Season One of The Killing built to a suspenseful conclusion, only to reveal at the very last minute that the man in cuffs - Seattle City Councilman Darren Richmond, played by TV's best-kept secret, Billy Campbell - had been framed, there was a lot of viewer outrage out there.

Insert stock footage here of townsfolk marching on a castle, waving torches and pitchforks.

The producers of The Killing and the executives at AMC want you to know that they understand your frustration; they're very sorry for setting up a cliff-hanger only to stomp on your fingers, and they assure you as Season Two begins that they really and truly have learned their lesson.

Is all forgiven? Doubtful. I suspect that a number of Killing fans have grown permanently disenchanted. That's a tough pill to swallow when you're going head-to-head with HBO's blazing-hot Game of Thrones (as The Killing will be after this week's two-hour premiere).

Personally, I wasn't that annoyed by the bait-and-switch ending. I'm so tired of TV's conveniently tidy resolutions that I found the finale's surprise both startling and refreshing. I had other issues with the series by the time it was done. Its brooding interior quality, its slow Scandinavian pacing, its drained-out color, the constant metronomic slap of windshield wipers, the depressive affect of all the characters - it weighed on me more and more with each episode. I kept watching. But reluctantly.

If you're on the fence about whether to recommit to The Killing, as I was, let me tell that the producers are working hard here to regain your trust. More happens in the first hour - including two shootings - than in the entire first season.

If last year was a mystery, there is a significant tonal shift here to gripping conspiracy. There's a jolting air of paranoia. When the cops are looking nervously in their rearview mirrors, you know things have taken a wicked turn.

Mireille Enos is more compelling than ever as isolated homicide detective Sarah Linden. She's still doggedly working the Larsen case even though most people, especially those in her department, would rather she gave it up. Using diction, posture, facial expressions, and everything else at her disposal, Enos totally inhabits the role of a woman stoically refusing to back down as a cop or a mother despite overwhelming pressure.

The real breakout star of the show has been Joel Kinnaman as the scruffy and shady former narc, Stephen Holder. The Swedish actor has landed roles in big-budget films like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Safe House and has been cast as the lead in the remake of RoboCop.

I don't want to give away plot other than to say that this will be a very interesting and unexpected season for Kinnaman's Holder.

Whew, now that I have spent half this article pumping you up for the exciting new rehabilitated Killing, you'll no doubt see the show will settle back into a soggy, slow-moving melodrama by episode four.

And I'll be left on my couch in my reindeer sweater chortling, "Oh, you got me good this time, Magnus."

Contact David Hiltbrand at 215-854-4552 or dhiltbrand@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @daveondemand_tv. Read his blog, "Dave on Demand," at www.philly.com/dod.

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