The Killing is a TV series that, ironically, refuses to die.
The serialized crime drama has received cancellation notices twice since its debut on AMC in 2011. Yet it’s still kicking and about to make a farewell victory lap on Netflix.
“Coming back from the dead twice, basically outdoing Lazarus, is something of a miracle,” series creator and executive producer Veena Sud says. “I am so grateful to be loved enough to be brought back.
“To be able to tell the final chapter, to be able to end the story gracefully and in the way I always intended, is a beautiful thing.”
All six commercial-free episodes of the fourth and final season will be available for immediate streaming on Netflix beginning Friday.
The Killing is hardly the first television series to have been resuscitated in this way. There are others on the air now, such as Family Guy on Fox and Unforgettable on CBS, that survived after being sent to the cancellation scrap heap. But it’s still a rarity when this happens.
“This has been a very intense roller-coaster ride for four and a half years,” Sud says.
Indeed. The Killing, starring Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman as Seattle homicide detectives, has weathered turbulent times throughout its run.
Loyal viewers have always appreciated darkly nuanced performances from Enos (a 2011 lead actress Emmy nominee as Sarah Linden) and Kinnaman (who plays her partner, Stephen Holder).
But the show also was subjected to an intense audience backlash at the end of the first season, when, instead of wrapping up a 13-episode murder investigation, the story continued to languish throughout the entire second season.
While it’s true that the pacing of The Killing differs from most TV crime dramas — refusing to shoehorn a complicated murder case into just one episode, unwilling to gloss over important details and poignant moments en route to a solution — it became clear that one season is the limit as far as most viewers are concerned.
That said, compared with the glacially paced “Who killed Rosie Larsen?” story of Seasons 1 and 2 and the serial-murder case of Season 3, which ended with Linden executing instead of arresting the killer, the plot of the new season moves at breakneck speed.
“That’s because the stakes are so high this time for our two leads,” Sud explains. “They are in the eye of the storm in a way that they have never been before. They’re the ones with the secret. They’re the ones on the run. They’re the bad guys.
“So it felt like this intensity of pace is perfect. If we went any slower, I think that Linden would have killed herself.”
This is the end
While Linden and Holder deal with the consequences of covering up her crime, they also start a new investigation involving a family massacred in its home. A troubled teenage son, visiting from a military academy, is at first believed to be the culprit in a murder/attempted-suicide scenario, but the matter proves to be not so easily explained.
These grisly murders, inspired in part by Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, fit neatly with Linden’s own crisis of conscience.
“When Sarah turns on the lights, we see for the first time the horror that visited that house in the night,” Sud says. “Because of her own crime and the telltale heart that’s beating underneath the floorboards for her, walking into a house that has blood all over the white walls, it’s a crime that is screaming at her, symbolic and reflective of her own deeds — and there is no escape.”
Sud says she has been “spoiled forever” after four seasons of writing for Enos, a Houstonian and rising star.
“Not only is she is a phenomenal actress, but she is also one of the nicest people in the industry,” Sud says. “She’s grounded, she’s kind, and she’s hugely talented. That combination is such a gift to have in a lead.”
Despite her fondness for the show, the producer promises that, unlike musical artists who do farewell tours, only to make comebacks after a few years, The Killing has really, most sincerely wrapped up everything in these half-dozen episodes.
“The novel has ended, the book has been closed,” Sud says. “There is no possibility, the way we end this season, to do another season of The Killing.”
Other shows that beat the odds
Here are 10 current and recent TV series that found a way to overcome cancellation:
Arrested Development: Comedy about the dysfunctional Bluth family was canceled by Fox after three seasons (2003-2006); revived for 15-episode fourth season on Netflix in 2013.
The Comeback: Comedy starring Lisa Kudrow ran one season on HBO (2005); returns for six episodes on HBO in November.
Community: Comedy about a community college study group was canceled by NBC after five seasons (2009-2014); a 13-episode sixth season will stream on Yahoo! Stream.
Damages: The Glenn Close legal thriller was dropped by FX after three seasons (2007-2010); aired on the DirecTV channel Audience Network for two additional seasons (2011-2012).
Family Guy: Cartoon sitcom was canceled by Fox after two seasons (1999-2000), revived for a third season (2001-2002) and canceled again, then brought back in 2005; begin Season 13 in September.
Futurama: Sci-fi cartoon comedy was drooped by Fox after four seasons (1999-2003), returned as four direct-to-video films (2008-2009), then revived by Comedy Central for two seasons (2010-2013).
Heroes: Superhero drama aired on NBC for four seasons (2006-2010); returns to NBC as Heroes Reborn, a 13-episode miniseries, in 2015.
Southland: Cop show ran on NBC for one season (2010) and was canceled weeks before the scheduled premiere of its second season; ran for four more seasons on TNT (2011-2013).
Unforgettable: Crime drama starring Poppy Montgomery was cancelled by CBS after one season (2011-2012), but was “unconcealed” six weeks later; Season 3 episodes are currently airing.
Veronica Mars: Mystery series was canceled after three seasons (2004-2006 on UPN and 2006-2007 on CW), but revived as a feature film (released in March 2014).