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Blu-ray Review: The Killing – The Complete First Season

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With AMC’s The Killing returning this weekend, it is the opportune time to pick up a copy of The Killing The Complete First Season, on sale now from FOX. In the first season of The Killing, Rosie Larsen’s (Katie Findlay) body is found in the truck of a car, submerged in a lake. As her family deals with the aftermath of such a loss, Detective Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) stays in town to solve the case, not trusting her replacement, Holder (Joel Kinnaman), to effectively do the job. What the reluctant partners uncover is surprising, to say the least.

The Killing is unlike any other crime show on American television. Adapted from a foreign series, this story really dwells on the fall out of a tragic murder, rather than tying up all those loose ends in forty-three minutes, as most crime series do. Instead, viewers are given the chance to really see what a loss does to the people involved, and those suspected of being involved. It’s a slow burn, but a unique, intriguing look into the anatomy of such a situation, rather than the breeze-through most shows routinely give a murder.

The acting in The Killing is fantastic. Enos earned both an Emmy nod and a Golden Globe nomination for her role, and Kinnaman matches her beat for beat. Michelle Forbes, playing Rosie’s grief-stricken mother, Mitch, also got some awards season recognition, and Brent Sexton expertly embodies the pain of a father teetering on the edge as Rosie’s dad, Stan. Billy Campbell excels as Councilman Darren Richmond, one of the prime suspects, who is framed for the crime. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg for a cast teeming with superb performances.

By now, reaction to The Killing‘s shocking season finale is well known. Critics and fans alike raved for twelve episodes over how great the crime drama is, and then rebelled when the thirteenth entry seems to leave the detectives back at square one, the killer unknown and free. This backlash is unjustified and unfair. Somehow, it became a common assumption that The Killing would reveal who killed Rosie Larsen by the end of season one, even though that was never a part of marketing, nor mentioned in interviews for the series. How can one be upset at a broken promise when the promise was never made in the first place? Not unmasking the killer is a brave, bold move that sets The Killing apart from its inferior competition.

Which begs the question, will fans return for a second season? The producers have been quick to promise that the murderer will, in fact, be known sometime in the second season, likely at the end. With the actual pledge of an end to the case this time, will that be enough to heal the wounds? Or will bitter viewers stay away, holding on to their self-invented betrayed? If they know what’s good for them, they’ll come back, and bring their friends, too. Season one is so amazing, there’s no telling what’s in store for a second round!

The Blu-ray release brings together all thirteen riveting episodes, but sadly, few special features. The season finale, “Orpheus Descending,” is extended by a few minutes, and viewers can choose which version to watch. Commentary is included for the first and last episodes. There are about thirteen minutes of deleted scenes, and a five minute gag reel.

The lone featurette is called “An Autopsy of The Killing.” Executive Producer / Writer Veena Sud and others discuss why The Killing is set where it is set, and how the characters developed. Insight is given into the casting of Enos and Kinnaman, and the purpose of Richmond, Mitch, and Stan’s characters. Sud also appeala to fans to forget their annoyance and come back for season two, though certainly doesn’t apologize, nor should she.

What is missing is some type of recap of the clues and suspects. The Killing is an intricate, elaborate murder mystery, with many twists and turns. Given this, and the fact that it’s been off the air for a year, once would expect some kind of neat, put-together package that refreshes fans’ memories of the developments so far. One such special has neither aired on TV, nor is included on this Blu-ray. The only true way to refresh one’s memory is to watch all thirteen episodes again. Which, if one has time, is not exactly a chore.

Also, at least on the copy I got, there is a cardboard picture attached to the front. Removing it leaves the cover marred, not exactly a good selling point.

The Killing The Complete First Season is definitely worth owning, but is it worth the extra money to buy the Blu-ray version? Probably not. Perfectionists (like this reviewer), who want the best possible picture, will still shell out for the HD version. However, given the rainy, dark setting of The Killing, picture quality is grainy. This is likely done on purpose to set a tone, but it does mean that there isn’t a lot of rich detail. Scenes that are heavily black do not play with rich blacks, but rather, allow the objects on screen to blend together. It’s hard to imagine that the Blu-ray shows this any better than a standard definition DVD will.

That being said, there are occasionally establishing scenery shots, and those are the scenes that best make use of the clear picture capabilities of Blu-ray. The trees and water look outstanding. There is also 5.1 DTS-HD surround sound, which is well mixed and of a high quality, so that may be enough to urge some buyers to pay extra.

The Killing: Complete First Season is available now on Blu-ray and DVD.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com