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‘The Killing’ Finale Review: “What I Know”

The Killing
AMC

We’ve finally made it to the finale of ‘The Killing,’ and we’ve been promised — for real this time! — that we’ll get the answer to the question posed at the beginning of season one: Who killed Rosie Larsen? And guess what? We actually find out who killed Rosie Larsen! If you bailed on this show a long time ago, don’t worry, we watched for you and bring you all the details…

As we learned last week, that Rosie Larsen’s killer could very well be Jamie, Darren Richmond’s right hand weasel, but a guy who has mostly seemed innocent since day one of the investigation. What was Jamie doing on the 10th floor of that casino the night Rosie was murdered?

The finale opens with a haunting sequence as we visit the Larsen family on the day of Rosie’s murder. She plays with her brothers, argues with her mom, and tries to say goodbye to Stan, but he’s too busy yelling at someone on the phone. These scenes are filmed beautifully, evoking more melancholy in two minutes than the entire Larsen family arc has managed over the course of two seasons.

They waste no time filling us in on what happened to Rosie that night — Jamie admits to Darren that he was meeting with Chief Jackson and Ames that night because they were planting Indian bones on the waterfront so Mayor Adams couldn’t develop there. One of their guys was busted — that’d be Janek’s guy from a few episodes back — resulting in the late night meeting on the casino’s 10th floor. If Adams couldn’t develop the waterfront, then Richmond could take control and allow Chief Jackson to build a new casino there; in turn, the project would give Richmond enough money for future elections. Jamie caught Rosie on the 10th floor, she freaked out and he knocked her unconscious. Fearing she was dead, he took her out to bury her, but she woke up and he had to finish the deed.

Gwen shows up with Linden and Holder just as the argument between Jamie and Darren reaches its fever pitch. There’s some fantastic acting from both Eric Ladin and Billy Campbell in this sequence, as both fight for the integrity of their characters, and although much of the politicking over these two seasons has felt tepid and bloodless at times, the two of them give everything they have, their intensity infecting their characters. For once, we get the sense that the writing, direction, and acting have all harmoniously combined and resulted in something… well, great.

Unfortunately, the wind is knocked out as Jamie draws a gun and Holder shoots him before he can pull the trigger. When the police show up to the scene, they note that Jamie’s gun was empty — it’s a groan-inducing, maudlin add-on by way of a throwaway line that should’ve just been thrown away.

Now that we know why Rosie died, it’s hard not to feel disappointed. It’s not that the answer of who did it is bothersome — it’s that the motive behind the titular killing is just plain silly. The Indian bone plot point was already aggressively ridiculous when it was introduced, and it seems as though the writers could have picked any number of these banal, dangling threads to build their path to the answer of who killed Rosie. It literally could have been anything, but this thing with the bones? It belies an issue the show has had since the beginning — there’s just no grace to what they do here. While other shows build season-long mysteries (‘Breaking Bad,’ ‘Lost,’ to name two) or even series-long mysteries that deftly construct webs and integrate even the most seemingly innocuous characters and actions along the way (often unbeknownst to viewers until the finale) to come to their conclusion, ‘The Killing’ has been clumsily building its way to this end. Nothing, especially in hindsight, has felt essential to this end result.

It was all for some Indian bones these people wanted to plant on the waterfront so they could wrestle control and make some money. That’s it. Rosie died for some Indian bones. And now the score between the Indians and Pilgrims has finally been settled, I guess.

The Larsens are finally making some peace, as Mitch packs up Rosie’s room and starts down her path to acceptance, and the family prepares to move into their new home. Things aren’t going to end so quietly, though, as Linden figures out that Terry picked up Ames from the ferry the night Rosie was murdered. Ames received a call about the situation from Jamie, and Terry took him to the woods. It definitely gives Terry some much-needed dimension, and the scene that flashes back to the night on the lake while Jamie and Ames argued over what to do with Rosie is deeply unsettling. In fact, it may be the most emotionally unsettling the show has ever been.

Jamie and Ames bicker and Terry overhears Ames saying he won’t leave his wife, that Terry is a useless call girl and a nobody, which inflames Terry’s insecurities. In an effort to prove herself, she gets out of the car and rolls the campaign car into the lake, and we hear Rosie’s screams as the two men stand in the background. It’s an elegant, wide shot that’s commendable — rather than put us in the trunk with Rosie or focusing too much on the faces of Jamie, Ames, and Terry, they choose to step back and give us a sense of scope, of how hopeless the situation is, how alone they all are, and how senseless the crime was.

Indian bones be damned, this is the sort of stuff the show needs to do more of in the future. Forget the family melodrama — even with the Terry reveal, so much of that plot has been exhausting, and not in a particularly empathetic way or one that feels especially serviceable to the tone of the show. Looking back at Terry’s arc through both seasons, it’s hard to believe the showrunners knew the outcome early on, or they could have really given Terry some beautiful development. This ending feels half-cooked, as if they spent more time creating red herrings than planning for an endgame.

Back in the Larsen home, Terry explains that she didn’t know it was Rosie, and Linden and Holder beg her not to make a scene in front of Mitch and Stan. Michelle Forbes shift from shocked to devastated as Terry sobs and begs her to understand is so fantastic, and again, another example of how this show does (almost) everything right in this episode, accomplishing what they’ve been trying to do for two seasons in this one finale.

As the episode comes to an end, Richmond settles into office, welcoming Chief Jackson into the fold as a disappointed Gwen looks on. Linden drops off the short film Rosie made to say goodbye at the Larsen house and the family gathers around to watch. Holder receives a call about a dead body, and Linden… who knows where she’s going now.

Should ‘The Killing’ get picked up for a third season (it hasn’t as of this writing), here’s hoping they give us a little more of the emotional and tonal elegance seen in this episode, and less of the clumsy, clunky web-spinning that’s dominated so much of these two seasons.

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