Last night's season finale of The Killing may serve as a series finale as well, given that the show has not yet been renewed for a fourth run. (And recall that this third season was something of a surprise in the first place.) But let's suppose we're in for more Killing, which was, in fairness, an improvement over last season in several respects. And let us also remember that a good chunk of the first season was pretty darn good! So thinking positively, let's also think outside the kill-box. Here are three out-there ways we'd like to see The Killing change next year.
1. Stop being about killing
Bullet was the best part of this season. Peter Saarsgard's creepy death-row inmate Ray Seward was a breath of freaky-fresh air, too. Some of the prison guards were interesting (Tyrol from BSG, keep on keeping on), a few of the other gutter-punk kids had their moments, and even Linden's ferry-manager boyfriend had a solid scene or two. Remember the early incarnations of Mitch and Stan Larsen in season one? Original, engrossing characters! Linden and Holder themselves are not like other cop characters on TV — in the best possible way. Where the show loses its power though is in the particulars of crimes and police investigations and mystery-solving and all that jazz. (Maybe not great news for a show called The Killing.) Go Treme-style on this and turn this into a show about a dozen or so sad people in Washington State whose lives intersect in organic ways. Call it The Killing: Aftermath and just let these stories continue on to spread out, without the need for a beginning-middle-end trajectory.
2. Make it about Holder and his lawyer girlfriend.
Holder's a weird hybrid of Jesse Pinkman and Balki Bartokomous, all hunchy posture and hoodies and goofy malapropisms — and you can't take your eyes off him, even when he's waist-deep in the most boring plots imaginable. Firefly alum Jewel Staite, who played Holder's DA girlfriend on a few episodes this season, is terrific, and the two of them together make an dazzling pair. Forget all the other people and turn The Killing into a show about a romantic couple and crime-fighting pair. He's a cop! She's a lawyer! He's an addict in recovery! She's a person with a lot of compassion! They seek justice.
3. If it has to be about killing, and it has to keep all the characters, just go ahead and be a procedural.
Again, The Killing does some things really well. It's a very immersive show, and it depicts a Pacific Northwest brand of dirtbag that few other shows bother to recognize. There's enough imagination behind the show to come up with some artsy serial killing and some elaborate sex-work rings — but not enough story strategy to support those arcs. So stop trying! Just solve a dozen of those mysteries a season; take a page from SVU's (long, long) book and crack down on a new sex-trafficking operation every week. Hannibal finds a new serial killer to track down seemingly every day, so there's no reason Holder and Linden couldn't do the same. That still leaves plenty of time for jogging in the misty, misty woods and for staring at photos of dead teenagers, The Killing's two favorite pastimes.