What is it about police procedurals set in the Pacific Northwest that divide television critics? Twenty years after David Lynch's Twin Peaks wrapped its polarizing run, nobody seems quite sure whether The Killing, the new Seattle-set police procedural (adapted from the Danish hit Forbrydelsen) that premiered on AMC last week, is the best new show on television or an unwatchable slog through the minutiae of big-city police work. Two weeks into its run, here's how critics are coming down on the show's strengths and weakness:
Pro (and Con): It is slow
The one thing supporters and detractors agree on is that The Killing is slow. Very slow. Slow enough for The Hollywood Reporter's Tim Goodman to compare it to Rubicon, the glacial CIA drama that AMC cancelled after just one season. "Put [The Killing] next to the hyper-paced, action-packed, fast-talking American police procedurals and it looks like Abe Vigoda in the 100 meter sprint," concedes Goodman, who likes the show. This isn't a problem, he writes, since "the hook [the show] sets goes impressively deep" and lures viewers in. Time's James Poniewozik offered up a dissenting review in his wrap-up of the most recent episode Poniewozik complained that after three hours, viewers still "don't yet know why we should care" about the show's central mystery, a result he says, of the deliberate pacing.
Pro: It is understated
At The New York Times, Alessandra Stanley praises the show for depicting violence in a "subdued, meditative way that is somehow all the more chilling." than if far different from the usual exploitation of violence on American television. The producers are much more interested in the aftermath of the crime, focusing "unrelentingly on the grief of parents who refuse even to concede their child could have gone missing, or on the pain of a friend who feels responsible for not doing more to protect the victim."
Pro: Star Joel Kinnamen is terrific
Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnamen are both drawing strong reviews for their portrayals of the two Seattle homicide officers investigating the murder of a high school girl that's at the heart of the story, but Kinnamen in particular threatens to reinvent the television detective, says Slate's Troy Patterson. "You've seen plenty of detectives who don't play by the book;" admits Patterson. "[Kinnamen's character] has destroyed the book and used its pages for rolling papers."
Con: It's not Twin Peaks
There's a sense of disappointment that the show seems unlikely to mimic the schizophrenic plot arc of David Lynch's cult classic. Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times enjoyed the premiere, but was quick to note it would "probably not cause the stir of the David Lynch classic," while at Slate, Patterson singled out AMC's Twin Peaks-inspired marketing campaign for scorn. The ads, he write, promise an experience the show doesn't deliver, as if the network was "hoping to telegraph its intentions or to trigger a Pavlovian response," from viewers.