THE SHOW "The Killing"
WHEN | WHERE Season premiere Sunday at 8 p.m. on AMC
WHAT IT'S ABOUT As usual, the rain is falling. A pitiless gray drizzle obscures the Seattle skyline, or -- if viewed through a car windshield -- melts it into a grim, lugubrious mass of sullen greens, blues and reds. Inside this car, a murder is about to be committed. A young female prostitute, whose body is later found dumped in a rotting deserted warehouse, has nearly been decapitated.
So begins the third season of "The Killing," which has left behind Rosie Larsen -- the case that consumed the entire first two seasons -- for a crime evoking the Green River serial murders of the 1980s and '90s. Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman), a homicide detective with the Seattle P.D., is drawn to the case, against the counsel of his partner, Carl Reddick (Gregg Henry), a career clock-puncher who'd rather work on something less challenging. Meanwhile, Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos), forced out of the department in the second season, is working as a ferry attendant, has a boyfriend and a modest Cape on a secluded island. She has no interest in looking back until her old partner forces her to: Someone she had once put behind bars years earlier, a brutal killer named Ray Seward (Peter Sarsgaard), seems to have left the same grisly calling card -- so to speak -- as the killer of Holder's Jane Doe.
MY SAY Still dripping wet and still not a lot of laughs, "The Killing" nevertheless makes a compelling case during Sunday's two-hour launch that AMC made a dumb mistake when it initially pulled the plug last summer. At the time, the network made the not-unreasonable assumption that viewers had abandoned the series, along with most critics. Then, Netflix started to kick the tires for a possible revival, at which point AMC decided it had acted too hastily. (Netflix still has a stake in this season, and the series will stream on the service after wrapping the 12-episode AMC run.)
The case that "The Killing" makes Sunday is simply this: Everything fans loved about it the first season is back. The rain, the gloom, the pervasive sense of doom promising (say) some weird mashup of Ingmar Bergman with "Twin Peaks..." The colors, or lack of them... you start to think this isn't a TV show so much as the palette of a seriously depressed artist.
But most of all, Holder and Linden: What is it about these two? What "it" is is that ineffable thing called "chemistry." Separately, they can at times be tedious, or worse, they can skirt TV cop cliches. (She has the damaged soul, he's the "hard-bitten" one, and so on.) But on-screen together, they pop, and suddenly, you want to know everything about them, especially what made them the way they are, and how that's going to somehow help them crack open this terrible crime. It's a magic combination that doesn't come along all that often on TV.
BOTTOM LINE Good, compelling, creepy start. (Hey, Sarsgaard is on board -- how could it be otherwise?)