Will The Killing Satisfy Us This Time Around?

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
June 3 2013 10:32 AM

Will The Killing Satisfy Us This Time Around?

Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman

Photo courtesy of AMC

The Killing returned to AMC last night, having been given another chance to make good on its early promise (and that of its Danish progenitor, Forbrydelsen). As if to prove that the show has learned from its previous mistakes (i.e., taking two seasons to answer the question, “Who killed Rosie Larsen?”), the show’s creators have taken pains to point out that this time around, the case—a sordid tale of street kids and a sadistic serial killer—will be wrapped up over the course of 10 episodes.

June Thomas June Thomas

June Thomas is a Slate culture critic and editor of Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section. 

When Season 3 begins, Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) has left the police force and Seattle proper. She’s living out on Vashon Island and working a minimum-wage job on the ferry system. She’s jogging every morning and co-habiting with a younger lover, but she’s clearly got a long way to go before she’s healed from the damage that police work has done to her psyche and to her family. (Her teenage son is now living in Chicago with his father.) Naturally, though, she’s pulled back in to that injurious world when her former partner Stephen Holder (the magnificent Joel Kinnaman) comes out to inquire about an old case of hers that bears a remarkable resemblance to a fresh murder he’s investigating.


Over at ThinkProgress, Alyssa Rosenberg accurately describes Season 3’s Linden as “broken.” “To a certain extent,” Rosenberg writes, “Linden’s reaction”—seeking an island refuge from murder and mayhem—“is the rational one—and it mirrors one that I think many viewers at home are experiencing, feeling that they can’t make emotional commitments to characters who will end up brutalized.” Like Linden, Rosenberg adds, “maybe we need to walk away entirely.”

Why do we viewers subject ourselves to shows that focus on serial killers? Even if they’re good—like the excellent BBC drama The Fall, which is now available on Netflix—we’re choosing to be entertained by the disturbing psychoses of cold-blooded killers.

It seems to me that The Killing is offering its own answer to this question: We watch because we’re hopeless addicts.

Each one of The Killing’s main characters—Linden, Holder, convicted serial killer Ray Seward (Peter Sarsgaard)—is an addict. If there’s any difference between cops and criminals, it’s that the cops are at least trying to shake off their bad habits. The first thing Holder, a recovering drug addict, asks Linden, after not seeing her for a year, is whether she still smokes. Both claim they’ve given up cigarettes, but we see them lighting up soon enough, to cope with stress or, in Holder’s case, to help with an investigation. Seward can’t stop killing—even from a death-row cell, he bashes a man’s head in just for the thrill of it—and the good guys have lost control of their commitment to justice. Holder has a great girlfriend, but he’s in the office at all hours, unable to stop thinking about the case. And Linden, having finally introduced some balance into her life, is already well on her way to being sucked back into the old, familiar dysfunction.

If we viewers are addicts, the best way to break a connection with a show that’s bringing us down is to go cold turkey. If you managed to avoid the first two episodes of Season 3, you may have gotten that monkey off your back. If you watched, chances are you’ll be there until the end, feeling bad about being entertained by rape and murder until they reveal whodunit in the season’s final frames.



Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?


Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

One of Putin’s Favorite Oligarchs Wants to Start an Orthodox Christian Fox News

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

Trending News Channel
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 9:13 PM The Smart, Talented, and Utterly Hilarious Leslie Jones Is SNL’s Newest Cast Member
Oct. 20 2014 11:36 PM Forget Oculus Rift This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual-reality experience.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.