We’re one month away from the arrival of the fourth season of “The Killing,” the stiflingly atmospheric detective drama that ran on AMC for three seasons and will now continue on Netflix.
By all accounts, the upcoming season -- which will consist of only six episodes -- is going to be the last for this show. But “The Killing” has been cancelled before -- twice, I believe, once between its second and third seasons and then again after Season Three -- so this might be one of those never say never scenarios.
Apparently, Netflix stepped up when AMC finally stepped down and gave Executive Producer Veena Sud an opportunity to bring the series to something resembling a proper close (or so we have been told) after the turbulent events at the very end of season three. I won’t say what those events were, because if Netflix is that interested in the show that means it is popular with subscribers who may still be making their way through any or all of its previous seasons. Given the robust afterlife that almost all television shows now have on one or more platforms, especially those that are serialized in nature, spoiler sensitive people are suddenly everywhere, especially in the media, where many people who work in and around television are simply too busy to watch programs when they are first telecast.
Anyway, “The Killing” must have high Future Viewing Potential or Netflix would not have extended it. I assume that economics had something to do with the limited episode order, because six -- even if they are each one hour long without commercials -- doesn’t seem like enough to tackle the multiple upcoming storylines that have already been discussed with journalists, including Detective Sarah Linden struggling with the internal and external ramifications of her behavior at the end of the previous season; Detective Stephen Holder continuing to keep their damning secret; a possible romance developing between the two; and their investigation into the murderous attack on a family that has left only a son alive, the young man having been shot in the head during the ordeal.
These sound like stories that could easily have filled a lively 13-episode season, given that the investigation into the murder of teenager Rosie Larsen took a punishing two full seasons to be resolved. It was that long, dragged-out and ultimately confusing and not-very-interesting tale that sucked the wind out of “The Killing,” a series critics were largely salivating over when it debuted on AMC in April, 2011. Critics had been told, or at least led to believe, that the mystery surrounding the Larsen murder would wrap at the end of season one. When that didn’t happen, many of them turned on the show. But even its new detractors had to concede that its third season, which revolved around the hunt for a serial killer seemingly tied to a case from Linden’s past, was much more satisfying, if even more depressing.
Of course, keeping the fourth season to a tidy six episodes will make it much easier to binge come August 1. For many folks that will position the next run of “The Killing” as a six-hour movie rather than a six-part show.
Given the up and down and all around history of this show it won’t surprise me if the franchise somehow lives on after these next six episodes, with or without both of its leads -- maybe as a miniseries or a movie. (I would love to see Linden or Holder leave Seattle on her or his own and start life over in a new city with new colleagues -- perhaps a location with a little sunshine far away from damp and drizzly Seattle, which has never looked more soul-deadening than in this series.) It would seem that if it is popular enough for Netflix to produce a fourth season then a continuation should be a possibility.
Even during its narrative dives, “The Killing” has always been a spectacular showcase for its talented leads, Mireille Enos as Linden and Joel Kinnaman as Holder, and a number a grand guest stars, especially Michelle Forbes as Rosie Larsen’s grief-ravaged mother in seasons one and two and Peter Sarsgaard as a man facing death row in Season Three. (Forbes was nominated for an Emmy Award for her work in Season One. Sarsgaard should be among this year’s nominees when they are announced next week.) The sure to be sensational guest star of the upcoming season is Joan Allen, playing the headmaster of an all-boys military academy attended by the young man who survives the massacre of his family. I’m already intrigued.