The season finale of AMC’s The Killing aired last night, and the reviews are in: critics are angry, and so are fans, based on the reactions I’ve seen in the Twitterverse. And they have every right to be. The show started out promisingly, but soon degraded into utter nonsense, like a live-action installment of Scooby Doo stretched out over 13 episodes. The show confused constant downpours with atmosphere, grief porn with characterization, and pointless red herrings with plot, all the while showing contempt for its audience’s intelligence. And if that weren’t enough, the shocking twist at the end of last night’s season finale essentially shat all over everything audiences loved about the talented Joel Kinnaman’s Detective Stephen Holder. Audiences should be angry…

…because they’re supposed to be angry. Therein lies the brilliance of The Killing. We’re supposed to be frustrated with the detectives’ incompetence. We’re supposed to hate all the characters. We’re supposed to want to smash our heads against brick walls for having watched this steaming pile of crap. Because that’s what this show was supposed to be. It was supposed to be a giant “fuck you” to its audience. By taking a bunch of brilliant actors and dropping them in the shittiest possible show, it made a bold, brilliant statement: critical response doesn’t matter; AMC’s pedigree doesn’t matter; all that matters is the fact that 2 million suckers tune in every week to get jerked around. It’s a fierce satire, attacking not only the entertainment industry for green-lighting a concept without looking at the details, but also the viewing public for being so easily manipulated into following an increasingly maddening season of television to the bitter end. Thus, when examined on a meta level, The Killing has been nothing short of brilliant.1

The Killing used a three-pronged attack to infuriate its audience: The Political Campaign of Funhouse Mirrors and Flawed Logic;2 The Larsen Family Grief Porn Extravaganza™; and How To Royally Fuck Up a Murder Investigation.

The Political Campaign of Funhouse Mirrors and Flawed Logic
So, the political campaign was important to the story for…some reason. It involved this guy:

"Hey, don't I look and talk like local Ottawa weatherman Eric Longley?"

Jamie

this gal:

"Maybe if I dye my hair a darker colour, Darren will actually love me."

Gwen

and this guy:

"I'm holding the five-million-dollar basketball!"

Richmond

And then there was some shit involving a corrupt mayor, the incredibly powerful, election-swaying union and Somali voting blocs, and a skull unearthed at a newly discovered ancient Indian burial ground. Each new scandal or shift in the campaign would wildly sway the candidates’ fortunes, as if voters couldn’t remember what had happened the previous day. Some might consider this poor writing, but I think it’s brilliant. The political campaign was a commentary on how easily Americans are manipulated, how their collective memory is shorter than that of a gnat. Insulting an entire nation requires temerity, and The Killing was able to pull it off. So what if we can’t remember who the fuck Yitanes, Nathan, or Gwen’s dad are? That’s the point. Just like the voting public, viewers of this show have trouble keeping track of boring, seemingly insignificant characters. By pointing out the viewers’ inability to care about the political campaign, The Killing brilliantly illustrated the extent of voter apathy in the United States.

The Larsen Family Grief Porn Extravaganza™
Within six or seven episodes, The Killing had done the unthinkable: it had managed to make me hate a grieving mother. Between neglecting her sons, inciting her husband to beat up Bennet Ahmed, and firing Belko, Mitch had not a single redeeming quality as a human being.

"I'm sad. Fuck you guys. I'm running off to Europe."

Mitch

But damn, did she cry a lot! And speak in a choked-up voice. And act like a bitch. And generally fail at being a human being. One might be quick to accuse The Killing’s writing staff of incompetence for managing to make Mitch so unsympathetic. But that’s part of the show’s brilliance. We’re supposed to hate Mitch Larsen. We’re supposed to think she’s an execrable human being. We’re not supposed to enjoy any of her scenes. Because we’re all idiots for watching this show, and that’s what The Killing is trying to tell us. We might not be as despicable as Mitch Larsen, but we’re nearly as stupid as her.

How To Royally Fuck Up a Murder Investigation
The intrepid heroes who were investigating this murder were Detectives Sarah Linden:

"I haven't showered in 13 days."

Linden

and Stephen Holder:

"Gimme some craaaaaack, homie!"

Holder

Maybe showrunner Veena Sud has a beef with the Seattle police department, but I’ve never seen a pair of more incompetent investigators in my life. They failed to look into things like Rosie’s search history, the volume of gas in the campaign car’s tank, or Belko and Terry’s possible involvement until way too late in the game. And that’s not to mention Linden implying to the Larsens that Bennet would be arrested or her continued visits with Councilman Richmond.

But the detectives were supposed to be stupid. They were supposed to be fuck-ups. Because that’s how life is. People make mistakes. And those mistakes lead people down the wrong path, pursuing red herrings. So what we have here is not a commentary on police work in general, but a commentary on our lives. The Killing knows how stupid its audience is, and by showcasing the work of the two world’s worst detectives, it shines a mirror on our own faults and foibles. For that, The Killing is brilliant. We hate the detectives. We think they’re idiots. But really, the detectives are just like us. The show plays off our self-loathing, the same self-loathing that pushed us to watch 13 episodes of this tripe. And by “tripe,” I mean “brilliance,” because this show was supposed to be tripe…I mean brilliant…I mean tripe. Oh, fuck it, I don’t know what I mean anymore.

I probably won’t be tuning into The Killing next season. After all, I’m just a mindless sheep who can’t handle its brilliance. And that’s the point. I’m supposed to be too pissed off to want to tune in again. The show spent so much time insulting my intelligence, intentionally frustrating me, and testing my sympathy that it neglected to craft compelling characters or tell a good story. But that was the show’s intent all along. And for that, all I can say is that The Killing is brilliant.


1 Kind of like the second season of Community! *rimshot* No, I’ll never stop taking cheap shots at that maddeningly disappointing season of television.

2 With apologies to Ted Mosby.