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TV Review: The Killing – “Orpheus Descending”

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AMC’s The Killing ends their first season with “Orpheus Descending.” In the episode, Linden (Mireille Enos) and Holder (Joel Kinnaman) pinpoint Councilman Richmond (Billy Campbell) as the mysterious online personality Orpheus, and then link him as the killer in the Rosie Larsen (Katie Findlay) case. Or do they? Before the credits roll, Holder tells an unseen person that the fake photos of Richmond work, while Linden realizes that the evidence isn’t on the up and up. But she’s on a plane out of town. Will she get off? To add to the suspense, as Richmond is getting into a car, Larsen family friend Belko (Brendan Sexton III) pulls a gun on him at point blank range.

Reaction has been mixed on this episode, and most of the negative ones are from loyal viewers upset that there is no real closure to the Rosie Larsen case in this episode. The Killing has already been renewed for season two, but after patiently waiting for three months, assuming the identity of the murderer would be made apparent by this episode, some people feel cheated. All that is certain is there is a lot of grey area, not everything is as it seems, and at least one character considered fairly trustworthy may not be.

The negative feedback is wrong. It’s a brilliant story, and dropping in a few last minute twists at the end only excite the appetite for season two even more. The entire first run is so well written and acted that there is a level of trust in the writers at this point to eventually satisfy the audience beyond reasonable doubt. Or, if that doesn’t happen, it’s more realistic, as without being a witness to the event, it’s never known one hundred percent what happens. But it’s more likely the show will finger the real killer, as mentioned in a promo for season two.

Sadly, not many people have the patience to sit through thirteen slow moving episodes, and it’s a testament to The Killing‘s quality that it hooks as many fans as it does. While it may have lost a few with the vague ending, hopefully even more will be brought into the fold once it gets out that The Killing does not tolerate laziness in its viewers. It makes not only the characters, but also the people watching at home, work for the truth. The story is not an easy one, and a solution is not to be had, even after thirteen episodes.

One thing relatively predictable is that Belko will not succeed in killing Richmond. Rosie’s father, Stan Larsen (Brent Sexton), is already facing charges for nearly beating to death a man wrongfully accused of the evil deed. Richmond is probably not the killer, as evidence against him is not real. It doesn’t seem likely that Belko will go through the exact same thing. If there’s one thing The Killing doesn’t do, it’s repeat itself. But I could be wrong. Maybe that’s the beauty of going down that path. A similar situation with drastically different circumstances and results.

For season two, only three main characters have been revealed in the press to have signed on at this time. Holder and Linden will be back, which seems like a no-brainer. Obviously, Linden will not go through with her move to California permenantly, as with the Rosie case still open, her obsession will not be sated. Whether she gets off the plane immediately following the final seconds of “Orpheus Descending,” or is haunted by the unsolved mystery for months at her new home, she will return to Seattle to continue to work the case. Given her personality, it’s a solid conclusion.

Holder is still deeply connected with Larsen, too, though his motivations are more murky. Those who have come to adore him as a hero may root for Holder to have the best of intentions in using a fake photograph. Holder and Linden are sure Richmond is their guy, so unable to get the footage he needs, Holder could have forged the shots to put away the man he believes is a bad guy. It’s not a smart or noble move, but it’s one that may be forgiven by the audience, if not the police department.

Another option is that Holder is paid off or blackmailed into providing those doctored photos to his boss. While blackmail may fall into the same category as the above theory, bribery definitely would not. Holder is on a strict budget. He may want the money for drugs, which would be a huge disappointment. He may have powerful friends in high places. He may have some personal connection to the real killer, and have a reason to hide the truth. The possibilities are endless, and only season two will uncover which is correct.

The third character booked to return is Rosie’s aunt, Terry Marek (Jamie Anne Allman). What this means is anyone’s guess, but it will likely connect to her clan. Stan’s story has been emotionally moving, and it will satisfy many to see it continue to play out. As the season ends, Mitch (Michelle Forbes) leaves Stan. Will Stan be with Terry, as their bond seems a little too close for brother- and sister-in-law? If so, sympathy for Stan may fade. Or maybe with Mitch gone and Stan in jail, Terry is the family member the police will work with as they figure out who really killed Rosie.

“Orpheus Descending” is a brilliant play, with lots of unexpected occurrences and loose ends. While it does not deliver what everyone wants, it continues the series in the same vein it carries with consistency throughout season one. Keep in mind, the original version of The Killing has a twenty episode first season, so there is still material to mine. Toss a second case in to go along with Rosie, and it can be just as dense as the first season. I, for one, cannot wait for the second season, which will likely air spring 2012.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome is the creator and writer of It's All Been Done Radio Hour, a modern scripted live comedy show and podcast in the style of old-timey radio serials, and the founder of the Columbus-based entertainment network, IABDPresents. He is also the Chief Television Critic for Seat42F.com and a long-time contributor for Blogcritics. Plus, he works fiction into his space time. Visit http://iabdpresents.com for more of his work.
  • madeline

    I am one of the loyal viewers terribly disappointed about the final episode of the killing. What a gyp!

  • Charlie

    It’s perfectly valid to be negative on this show. I started out hugely enthusiastic after the first two episodes, but since then have dropped to the point where I will probably only reluctantly watch the second season. It’s just a time-sink issue now. I’ve invested my time — yes, watching patiently — into thirteen episodes already, and I’ll see where it goes. But that doesn’t mean I’m happy about it.

    I simply don’t see how you can call it “a brilliant story”, as the plotting has been past ridiculous. I didn’t see the Salon article, but anyone who said these two cops are horrendous is absolutely correct. It doesn’t help that they have the worst kind of coincidental red herrings thrown at them constantly. An FBI terrorism sting that reveals a little Muslim girl being sent out of the country somehow wraps itself around a prolific white-girl murder case… without any real connection between the two? The odds of that are…? Oh, and also tied into it all is a local politician’s own campaign car? Of which he has a fleet of… how many? He seems to have a campaign of three people, how many official cars does he need? Oh, and the girl’s father is a former hitman, so of course the terrorist connected to the FBI sting get semi-whacked. Right.

    All of this I could forgive in the name of entertainment if they just tightened up the plotting and gave us, the viewers, some intellectual material to chew on. Any good mystery story has all the clues there for you to see, and if you’re smart enough you can figure it out in advance, but here they give you nothing. Every week it’s dum-dum-DUM “THIS is the new prime suspect”, then the next episode shows that no, that person’s all good too. After twelve eps of that, showing Richmond standing there in the shadows did nothing for me. If he’s in the shadows at the end of one ep, clearly he’s not the killer in the next.

    And worst of all, these cops, the “heroes”, are just terrible. How can this end in a scenario where they have jobs? Either Richmond is innocent, in which case the cops go to jail for using a doctored photo in evidence. Someone’s going to want to know where the photo came from, someone named Internal Affairs, hopefully in the form of Lt. Jon Kavanaugh. Police need thousands of pieces of evidence to show an incontrovertible story, yet Holder and Mystery Driver think one doctored photo will be enough? Makes ZERO SENSE. If the toll camera had been working and Richmond was shown, great, all is good, though the toll camera operator would need to testify to the photo. If the camera wasn’t working, or there was no Richmond, submitting a doctored photo would cause a ruckus as soon as the cop responsible for the camera saw the news. Either way, the idea of the photo making the case is horses@$%.

    And if Richmond’s guilty, same thing, someone’s still going to have to defend him and challenge the evidence, in which case the photo will again get him off free, and the cops will lose their jobs.

    I don’t mind a slow, complex, show that unfolds over multiple seasons. I just detest one that seems to ask you to think, and when you do makes you hate yourself for the time you’ve wasted.

  • David Perez


    I agree with your points. If this was just another piece of network hackery,I wouldn’t care. But this had so much promise. The look of it, the pacing, the acting — all great. Then the last two episodes just collapse under their own weight. Not only are these bumbling cops, but the writers resort to a lame premise at the end. Any defense council could easily show that the photo is doctored, thus, even if Richmond did it, the case would get thrown out and the cops possibly prosecuted for malfeasance. Very disappointing for a show ostensibly geared for a smart audience.

  • David Perez


    While I’m not as harsh as Bill Simmons, this is an interesting take on the show in the new website, Grantland.


  • The faked evidence photo clearly has larger implications. Yes, it would not stand up under scrutiny. But there are still any number of reasons someone may want it out there, such as to kill Richmond’s campaign. Thus, if that is your biggest complaint, I urge you to wait and see how it plays out next season.

  • Gerry

    I viewed the season much as you did, Jerome, and liked it. I didn’t think the series was perfect. We spent a little too long with Mitch’s deep grief, which, while very realistic, left the viewers a little too long in an uncomfortable place. Even though the show aimed at a slice of life portrayal, it is still a drama and has to be constructed to move fluidly. But given that the grief was exactly what a parent would be feeling, I don’t think it was a fatal flaw, nor did I think the lack of a tidy ending was a fatal flaw. The point of the show was the impact of the murder on all these people, from the cops to the parents. Dramatically, I think the introduction of a possible bigger conspiracy will kick off season two. I’ll be there to watch it.