By Darren Franich
June 20, 2011 at 06:52 PM EDT
  • TV Show
  • NBC

Hopes were high when The Killing debuted on AMC back in April. AMC had a near-perfect track record — Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, and no need to mention Rubicon — and The Killing felt like the next step in the network’s rise to glory. It was to be an “anti-cop show” cop show, tracing one murder case over the course of an entire season in sharp contrast to the typical procedural structure. Early episodes earned accolades, high ratings, and comparisons to Twin Peaks. But the show lost a broad swath of its viewership and declined in quality in the red herring-laden second half of its season. (It’s never a good thing when one of the best episodes in a long time essentially ignores most of the characters and the main plot.)

But The Killing must have still had some devoted fans. How else to explain the near-rabid reaction to last night’s finale, which pointedly did not answer the central question of the season: “Who killed Rosie Larsen?” If critical reaction has been mixed, fan reaction has been vehemently negative — there’s already a site called f—, which says simple, “Dear ‘The Killing: F— You!!! Sincerely, Everyone Who Used To Watch Your Show.” Executive producer Veena Sud told EW’s James Hibberd that the show’s choice to keep viewers guessing was not unlike the divisive finales of Lost and The Sopranos. But those were series finales. The Killing will return next spring, after nine long mounts of festering wounds and pent-up viewer anger. Perhaps a better comparison would be to another cult-hit serialized show with a famously disappointing first-season finale. Will The Killing go the way of Heroes?

Mind you, the negative reaction to the two finales comes from very different strains of fandom. Heroes was a national sensation in its hyper-kinetic first season: 13.48 million people tuned into the season finale expecting a final showdown between Hiro Nakamura and Sylar (and please try desperately to imagine a time before those names conjured up immediate sensations of aggressive lameness.) What they got was a lame fight with bad digital effects and, worst of all, zero payoff. Conversely, The Killing‘s viewership appears to have shrunk to a core base of true believers: Viewers like me who stuck with the show, even after long hours of aimless melancholy, because of the promise of a cathartic revelation.

Which might explain why Killing fans feel especially betrayed — we stuck with the show and defended it, and now we are left without any catharsis. (It certainly doesn’t help that, on the same night, Game of Thrones ended its first season with a shot that might as well have been subtitled “NOW THIS IS WHAT WE CALL F—ING CATHARSIS.”)

To misquote John McCain, I’ve always believed that the fundamentals of The Killing are strong. It’s blessed with good lead performances by Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman, cool atmospherics, lots of rain. But I want to know: Will you return for the second season of The Killing? Do you think the show can recover? Is this like the first season finale of Lost, which just got you more excited to see into the Hatch? Or is this Heroes all over again?

Follow Darren on Twitter: @EWDarrenFranich

  • TV Show
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  • NBC
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