AMC’s “The Killing,” about the grisly murder of young Rosie Larsen, was pronounced dead at the end of a troubled two-season run that included declining ratings amid a revolt by once-supportive critics and fans over what they perceived to be the failed promise to end the first season by revealing the identity of the killer.
But despite its cancellation, “The Killing” did not rest in peace.
The faithful, including some network executives and creator/executive producer Veena Sud, always held out a glimmer of hope that the series, which earned high praise for its moody tension and the performance of leads Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman, might somehow be resurrected.
Now, almost a year after its “series finale,” “The Killing” has risen and will be back for a third season beginning June 2, with Enos, Kinnaman and Sud on board.
The story picks up more than a year after the close of the Larsen investigation. Troubled Seattle homicide detective Sarah Linden (Enos) has quit the force and is trying to put her life back together, while former partner Stephen Holder (Kinnaman) has risen in the ranks and become a respected investigator.
A new mystery brings the pair back together: Holder’s search for a runaway girl who has become part of a band of wayward teens living by their wits on the streets of Seattle. The hunt leads to the gruesome discovery of murders apparently connected to a previous case headed up by Linden. When Holder seeks Linden’s help, she is reluctantly drawn back into her former life.
“I feel blessed and so lucky,” Sud said in a telephone interview. “This season represents an incredible opportunity to continue to tell the story of these great characters. I’m very grateful.”
She said she devoted extensive research into the lives of runaway street kids as a backdrop for the show’s return so “we can create a tapestry for Linden and Holder to play. We really wanted to highlight the best of Seasons 1 and 2 and continue what worked — the atmospheric storytelling, the investigation, looking at the impact beyond the victims, what are the shock waves that go through the world when someone is murdered.”
In mapping out the new season, Sud promoted co-executive producers Dawn Prestwich and Nicole Yorkin, who had been with the series since the beginning, to executive producers.
Said Prestwich: “There’s much more a sense of urgency and threat than there was the first season. Before, it was the investigation of a murder that had happened. Now it’s about killings that are happening.”
The producers spent considerable time studying documentaries of homeless teens, and also interviewed young hustlers and panhandlers.
Yorkin said “The Killing” will also explore the world of death row with a story line revolving around a convicted murderer (Peter Sarsgaard) whom Linden had arrested and who is scheduled to be executed in a few weeks.
The relationship between Linden and Holder will, of course, be a central element: “It takes them awhile to build back the trust with each other,” said Yorkin.
Still, the series and AMC face uncertainty: Will enough viewers who abandoned the series be enticed by a new mystery to return? The ratings noticeably fell off during the progression of the second season.
AMC President Charlie Collier said that the controversy surrounding “The Killing” put network executives in a tough spot, and that canceling the show was “very difficult.”
“Mixed emotions came with that decision,” Collier said. “It was made based on different inputs and competing needs. But when it came down to it, we just couldn’t shake these characters. We were passionate about the storytelling, passionate about the show and we kept hearing from the core passionate audience. Now we have a new case, with all our MVPs back. With a new case brings new opportunity.”
Enos said she was thrilled to step back into Linden’s skin: “Once we were back, it felt like no time has passed. Veena has such a strong driving sense of the story, and Joel and I love working together. This is the best crew I’ve ever worked with — such a warm, generous group of people.”
The actress is still puzzled about the show’s past struggles and the disenchantment of some of the fans.
“It was so strange,” she said. “The first season was such a love affair. Then it became so baffling. The reality is, I was much more proud of my work in Season 2, but we were shadowed by this weird audience reaction, this snark. But ultimately we were brought back because there’s this large audience that was so upset that we were gone.”
Baffling, perhaps, but AMC and Sud got the message and have made it clear: This season of “The Killing” will deal with one case and have a definite conclusion when the 12 episodes are over.
“What happened was absolutely a learning experience for me as a storyteller, and sometimes experiences are not easy,” Sud said. “You have to walk through a storm, and at the end of that storm was Linden and Holder. The worst thing that could have happened has already happened. Now I’m just rejoicing in the true pleasure and joy of being back.”