(NOTE: Story contains key plot details from final episode)
By Tim Goodman
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - It's pretty clear when dissecting "The Killing," which had its season finale Sunday, that there are two opposing forces at work.
In one camp are the steadfast fans who kept the faith throughout a trying 13-episode season as a pair of Seattle cops tried to find out who killed schoolgirl Rosie Larsen.
In the other camp is a raucous bunch of displeased fans and critics who have been harping on the AMC show's reliance on red herrings.
While the performances of Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman as the aforementioned cops -- and of Michelle Forbes and Brent Sexton as Rosie's grieving parents -- were excellent, there really is no defending the show after the unsatisfying finale.
Had politician Darren Richmond (Billy Campbell) been the killer, it would have worked thematically: the man-of-the-people councilman turns out to be a psychopathic killer who is driven to commit heinous acts by the tortured memory of his dead wife.
Beyond that, a satisfying ending could have bled into Season 2, where we saw B storylines from Season 1 get wrapped up as a new case emerged.
But no. Richmond wasn't the killer (we assume). And now he looks to be gunned down in the final seconds by Belko, the mentally-challenged friend of the Larsen family. But since the screen went black, that will probably be a red herring, too. Worse, we find out that detective Holder -- played with ever-increasing brilliance by Swedish actor Kinnaman -- helped frame Richmond.
Great acting can't cover annoyingly thin character development. Red herrings are not acceptable plot devices or story accelerants, and asking the audience of a serialized show to commit to another season when it hasn't been given any answers in the first one is foolish.
And so -- disappointment. What's worse is that we all might have been sold a bill of goods on the Danish series that led to this U.S. remake. Although it enthralled a nation, "Forbrydelsen," as it was called, had numerous detractors who thought the series didn't make a lot of sense and that -- wait for it -- it made gratuitous use of red herrings. Beyond that, it appears that Sud is veering away from the actual killer in the Danish series and that this stuff with Holder being in on the conspiracy is at least in part a U.S. variant.
If true, the liberties being take in the AMC version of "The Killing" are not even good ones and God only knows where they will lead. In fairness, the Danish series went 20 episodes, so it could be that Sud will wrap up exactly who killed Rosie Larsen around the seventh episode in Season 2, then move on to a new case.
What we do know right now is that "The Killing" wasn't able to save itself in the end, that some fans may rightly recalculate their loyalty and that AMC is as fallible as the next channel when it comes to quality control. There are no red herrings in those sentences.