Archive for June 20th, 2011


How “The Killing” Screwed us all in the ass!

I’ll admit it. I got raped. I didn’t get it as bad as Rosie Larson did, but I got screwed all the same. The victims: The people who watched AMC’s hit show, “The Killing.” The perpetrators: “The Killings” writers and executive producers. For those that don’t know by now ( and I’ll assume if you’re reading this blog, you do) AMC’s “The Killing” was a 12 part drama that began with the rape and murder of a teenage girl found in the trunk of a car, and each week gave viewers more clues as to who the killer was, supposedly culminating with the answer at the end of the season. If you watched the finale (and if you didn’t and don’t want me to spoil it for you, stop reading please) you know that rather than answer the question, AMC chose to end on a cliffhanger, and promises a conclusion next season on Season 2 of “The Killing.” Unless, of course, “The Killing” Season 2 has strong ratings then they might just drag this thing out some more, hell, why not reveal the killer on season 5 of the show. That will really get people to tune in!

I can’t speak for anyone else, but count me out for season 2. If others follow my lead in protest AMC will have to admit they screwed up and the show will get cancelled, and they will be punished for this t.v. sin. Okay, okay, perhaps I am being a bit melodramatic here, this is only a t.v. show. Life will go on, and my anger will subside, but in all seriousness, “The Killings” finale (or lack therof) brings about a good topic for a blog. Exactly what are the ethics of plot devices, and in particular, cliffhangers.

Cliffhangers are not new. Most people know that Charles Dickens used to write serial novels, and readers would flock to the harbors with each successive installment, waiting to see what happened next. In the old days of cinema, slick producers put out serial films, that always ended on a cliffhanger, trying to draw the same audience back for more. Even the old Batman t.v. show ended on a cliffhanger every stinking week (although you always knew Batman and Robin would slip out of whatever device was holding them and kick some serious t.v. butt). But I do believe there are ethics in plot devices, particularly when it comes to mysteries.

Stephen King once said (and I’m paraphrasing badly here) that it didn’t matter how long you took to show the ghost, but at some point you did have to show the ghost. He was referring to horror movies mostly, but what he meant was, you can leave the viewer (or reader) in suspense for a very long time, but you must reward their patience with an answer at some point. We need to see Norman Bates with his mom’s wig on, we need to see the wizard behind the curtain, we need to… well you get the idea. When it comes to book’s the solution is obvious; we find out everything at the end of the book. Although Stephen King himself kept readers on a seven year cliffhanger between books three and four of the Dark Tower series. But mostly books wrap up nice and neat. Television, not so much…

In T.V. shows, if you know you’re going to be renewed for a following season, your job is to hook viewers in such a way that they come back for the next season. All t.v. shows do this to some extent. Smallville, which just had its series finale, used to leave us on a cliffhanger every season, and my own favorite show (also on AMC) Breaking Bad left us with a doozy last season, Walter held at gunpoint, Jesse possibly becoming a murderer, etc. But the difference is you can leave viewers on a cliffhanger so long as the central plot from the season you are watching is wrapped up. It may be annoying , for instance, to not know what will happen to Harry Potter in the next book or movie, but at least whatever demon he was facing at the time you read the story was dealt with. Even Breaking Bad wrapped up the Jesse/Drug Dealers storyline before leaving us wanting more.

“The Killing” had only one premise: Watch the show and you will find out who the killer is. That was it, and they didn’t deliver. This is like a lot of Heavyweight fights, months of buildup, and a lousy result. This is like a girl that takes you back to her apartment, takes off all her clothes, gets you in the bedroom, then says ‘You know what, I’m kind of tired, maybe some other time.” It’s just wrong, man!

It would be okay if “The Killing” didn’t reveal all the secrets, who is behind the larger conspiracy, what will happen to the family, and the detectives, etc. But they had an obligation to all of their loyal viewers to reveal the killer. If that is your show’s premise, you simply must show the ghost. AMC had me from hello, and I would have gladly watched the next season, but I simply can not do it now. That would be rewarding AMC’s arrogance (and after the Mad Men debacle, is this network getting arrogant or what?)

No, I will not be back to see next season’s show, but perhaps you will. And perhaps you feel differently then I do. Are their ethics to cliff-hangers? Let me know how you feel. Send me a message here, on facebook, or at my e-mail (

Thanks for listening.

Jack B.