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This story originally appeared in the April 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter.
Even before you got to this sentence, you have already decided I’m a f–ing idiot. Because only a f–ing idiot would dare defend The Killing.
But defend it I shall. Sure, I understand why you’re angry — I was, too. But this is precisely what qualifies me to change your mind. And I know what you’re thinking. “Ooh. He’s self-servingly finding yet another reason to whine about Lost.” You are, of course, correct. But we’ll get to that later. We always do.
First, let’s talk about Rosie Larsen, as she is the subject of the killing in question. And let us begin with the end — the controversial season finale in which we learned that Rosie’s killer was none other than …
The identity of that someone, of course, was not revealed to us. Yet.
We felt we had been violated. We stood in our showers and scrubbed ourselves raw until we folded ourselves into the fetal position and wept. And when we emerged, we numbly staggered to our computers in search of other victims with the hope that we were not alone in our pain and outrage. And what was its source?
The billboards advertising the show glared down at us with their riveting tagline — “Who Killed Rosie Larsen?” Is this not a promise? Is this not a binding contract of reasonable expectation between show and viewer? Is this not like asking an innocent child, “What do you think Santa is going to bring you this year?” and while they sleep, you dispose of the tree and the stockings so that when they awake you can attempt to convince them that THERE WAS NEVER A CHRISTMAS TO BEGIN WITH?!?
Were we misled? Yes. And yet, it turned out that misleads were sorta the point of the show.
In fact, the messaging behind The Killing continually reinforced that it was not going to be the cop formula we were familiar with, but something else entirely. There would be profound meditations on grief. Red herrings. Investigative dead ends. These are the things that drew us to it in the first place … so in some way, shouldn’t we have expected a lack of resolution? More importantly, it was either incredibly stupid or incredibly bold not to give us what we were demanding. I am inclined to believe it was the latter, and here’s why:
The minute we start vilifying writers for taking risks, we become complicit in an effort to make television boring. I am not interested in the dive where the guy just jumps off the board and flawlessly splishes into the water. I want to watch the one where there is a high probability he will belly flop so devastatingly that even the traditionally emotionless German judge cringes in empathy. And friends, I have had my fair share of belly flops.
See? I told you we’d get to Lost.
Because mistakes were made. Of course they were. But the potential morning-after remorse (“We told them the smoke monster was … what?!?”) was always mitigated by the feeling that at least we had done what felt true to our vision. No points, however, are awarded for trying one’s darnedest.
I am often asked why I focus so much of my energy talking about those who felt our beloved show ended in a spectacular mess. Those of us responsible have been accused of not just ruining six years of people’s lives but single-handedly destroying The Golden Age of Television. As you might imagine, it is unpleasant to hear such things.
And yet, when I am wallowing in the pool of suckiness that others have ascribed to Lost and realize The Killing is in danger of wading in blindly behind us, I find comfort in the words of Avatar‘s blue-hued Na’vi. Those noble denizens of the distant planet Pandora have an ancient and beautiful saying — “I see you.”
Having been both celebrated and vilified for making bold creative choices, I have come to learn that the fans of a TV show, love it or hate it, have earned the right to be told that they are seen by its creators. And as much as it sucks to suffer the slings, arrows (and tweets) of those who wish they had never watched it in the first place, it is our duty to acknowledge that those who are hurling them at us are suffering, too.
It is not my place to tell the creative powers behind The Killing how to do their job. Their show. Their vision. Their rules. And yes, I adamantly defend and celebrate their right to make whatever storytelling choices they want to and to make no apologies for having made them.
However, I can’t help but think how nice it would’ve been for all of us — like the Na’vi — to feel just a little more seen.
A co-creator and executive producer of the ABC series Lost, Damon Lindelof is co-writer of the Fox sci-fi feature Prometheus, opening in June, and Paramount’s Star Trek sequel, filming now for a May 2013 release.
THR POLL: Will You Come Back for Season Two?
94% said Yes
Time apparently calms the anger of TV fans. THR and research firm Penn Schoen Berland from March 22 to 25 asked 127 people who watched The Killing season finale if they would return to watch the show this season. Nearly all said yes, and nine of 10 respondents now say they were satisfied with the episode.
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