Charting The Killing's Demise

Slate's Culture Blog
June 16 2011 4:17 PM

Charting The Killing's Demise

AMC's murder mystery The Killing debuted in March to strong reviews, with a Metacritic score of 84 (landing it in the "Universal Acclaim" category). Critics who watched the premiere including Slate 's own Troy Patterson  and  the Culture Gabfest praised the show's moody tone, prickly characters, and confidently unhurried, absorbing pace.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the Wapi Eagle Casino. As the 13-episode season wore on, emotional arcs flatlined and subplots failed to cohere. The investigation at the show's center dribbled out in a series of silly red herrings and unsatisfying dead ends, underpinned by some very questionable police work . Characters made increasingly preposterous choices. And by God THE RAIN, IT JUST WOULD NOT STOP. Among the brigade of recappers who stuck around week after week (including yours truly ) frustration occasionally shaded into anger, and often exploded into flat-out mockery. As Vulture's Andy Greenwald put it by episode 10, "Hating on The Killing has become not only popular, but also easy."

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On Monday, AMC announced that it's picking the show up for another season. The press release, wisely, quoted reviews that mostly date back to the show's debut. (They must have realized that critical comparisons to Scooby Doo were not going to get viewers pumped to return.)

Just how far did The Killing fall over the past three months? We decided to see by charting out the shifting opinions of some of the web's top episode-by-episode reviewers. Some had already assigned their own letter grades, which we converted to a 5-point scale; for the rest, we assigned our own numerical score from 1 to 5. (Full list of recappers at the bottom of the post.)

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As you can see, overall critical opinion started dipping almost immediately, with some uptick on episode 6 (when the Ahmed storyline started heating up), and a downturn on episode 9 (when the Ahmed storyline crashed and burned). Most people seemed to think episode 11 (which took a major detour from the main investigation to explore the detectives' relationship and follow a separate, contained mystery) was a step in the right direction. But as a whole, the chart shows a distinct downward trend though perhaps not as steep a decline as I would have imagined.

Last Sunday's episode was, in my mind, the most exasperating of the season , and while not everyone agreed, many seemed to find it a step backward from episode 11. Will Sunday night's finale be killer enough to save The Killing ? I'm having a hard time believing it, but I'll be excited to read what the recappers have to say on Monday.

with Stephen Davis

Read the recaps here:

Alan Sepinwall at HitFix

Meredith Blake at the A.V. Club

Andy Greenwald at Vulture

Maureen Ryan at AOL TV

Todd VanDerWerff at the Los Angeles Times ' Show Tracker

Me here at Brow Beat

Follow  Brow Beat on Twitter . For more culture coverage, like  Slate  Culture  on Facebook.

 

Nina Shen Rastogi is a writer and editor, and is also the vice president for content at Figment.