It’s not a secret that I love television.
I gave it up for three years when I first started seriously writing. At the time, I had three kids and a full-time job—the only time in the day to write was after the kids went to bed. The only time I watched television was what the kids were watching. Rugrats, Spongebob, Lizzie McGuire, and whatever was on the now-defunct TV Land. (My two oldest, now 15 and 17, were probably the only kids in their generation who’ve seen most episodes of Little House on the Prairie, the Brady Bunch, and Bewitched.)
When I started watching tv again, I was highly selective. First, I couldn’t stand to sit through commercials. Other than during the Super Bowl, I don’t think I’ve watched a commercial – unless it was something on a kids show. I started buying DVD sets, then got an Apple TV when I moved and love it.
TV has gotten so much better over the last few years. I recently blogged about the BBC program LUTHER which I loved. Edgy, different, with fantastic characters. They only had six episodes, but each was riveting. They’re producing two two-hour episodes for the fall.
It’s no secret that I love JUSTIFIED, another amazing show with a cast full of talented actors who bring these flawed characters to life. The season finale? Wow. Just … Wow. I am so frustrated that I have to wait nine months for Season Three . . . but I’m thrilled to get a third season, especially since LIFE (another favorite show) was cancelled after only two.
I can’t remember where I heard the recommendation, but I decided to buy season one of THE KILLING.
I don’t know whether I love it or hate it.
With LUTHER, I had a complex, character-driven police procedural in an unfamiliar world (the UK) that tackled the issues of justice vs vengeance. John Luther himself is an intriguing character who bends (and breaks) the law for justice. Lots of shades of gray.
With JUSTIFIED, I had an over-the-top adventure with a hero you love and criminals you both love and hate. Boyd Crowder is one of the greatest characters created, a villain who was redeemed in so many ways that we begin to root for him, so when he starts down the dangerous road, we’re still on his side.
LUTHER made me think; JUSTIFIED kept me on the edge of my seat.
THE KILLING made me cry.
My crying in movies isn’t new—FINDING NEMO at both the beginning where the mother clown fish and all her eggs are eaten by a shark, except for Nemo who Marlin protects to the extreme until Nemo rebels and Marlin’s worst fears are realized. And again at the end when Marlin finds Nemo again and thinks he’s dying. I cried in TOY STORY 3 at the beginning when the mom sees Andy’s empty room and tears up because he’s going to college … and again at the end when he gives his toys to another child as he’s leaving for college. But I never, if ever, cry in television shows. They don’t seem to have that power over me . . . until THE KILLING.
It’s a crime show like the others. It had complex and very real characters. More real than the others in so many ways. It’s edgy. It has a political component I spent 13 years working in the California State Legislature, and the nuances of the political subplot are so true-to-life I suspect one of the writers has worked in politics as well. I’ve only watched the first two episodes (so far six have aired) but I couldn’t turn away. Even when I wanted to.
It’s not graphic or violent like JUSTIFIED. It’s not even that fast-paced. In fact, it’s quite methodical. I’m not saying it’s slow, because it’s not, but it doesn’t rely on the “high stakes” speed that other crime shows incorporate.
What captured me—and repelled me—is the emotion. There is so much emotion in each scene that I can’t turn away. But the emotion that hits me isn’t a feeling I want to have.
Fear. Grief. Heartache.
The victim is a 17 year old girl, Rosie Larsen. She goes missing on a Friday night. Her parents are on a camping trip, she’s a good kid and they trust her. They thought she was staying with a friend. No one realizes she’s missing until after school starts on Monday.
The parents begin to expect something when the detective, Sarah Linden, finds the father’s credit card near the victim’s bloody sweater. She doesn’t yet know the identity or fate of the victim, but pretty quickly realizes that it’s Rosie, and she’s likely not alive.
Starting with the parents absolutely believable reaction—worry and anger—followed by the father seeking answers, starting with Rosie’s ex-boyfriend and going to his house to drag Rosie home, only to learn the woman in the ex’s bed isn’t his daughter. I could see me playing out the same reactions, inwardly scared to death that something happened but holding onto the hope and anger.
But what really did it to me emotionally was when Stan the dad turns up at the location where Rosie’s body is found (through his own, increasingly frantic search) and while talking on the phone with his wife when a car is pulled out of the lake he demands answers. He’s nearly arrested until Sarah comes over and she doesn’t have to tell him the person in the car is Rosie. She turns and walks back and he breaks down sobbing in rage and pain while his wife is on the phone hearing it.
The opening to episode two has the parents identifying the body and that scene also had me in tears even though there was no rage or tantrums, just a quiet truth and grief. The parents, played by Michelle Forbes and Brent Sexton (from JUSTIFIED) made me believe that was their daughter in the morgue. That was followed by separate interviews where they are in shock, particularly the mother, speaking in monotones, knowing the truth but still not believing it.
Worry. Anger. Pain. Grief. Guilt. Sorry. None of these are violent, but they are all powerful emotions.
THE KILLING is one of the best shows on television today because it taps into the deepest fears a parent can have. And it probably affected me more than the average viewer because I have a seventeen year old daughter.
And because it explores these raw fears so truthfully, I almost hate the show. Almost. I can’t stop watching, but I can’t watch one episode after another. I need a break to recover. Maybe watch an episode of JUSTIFIED. Just as riveting, without the emotional pain.
Has a television show, movie or book ever affected you so deeply that you were emotionally wrung out after the experience?