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'The Killing' returns, plus more dead shows worthy of revivals

Actors Joel Kinnaman and Mireille Enos in a

Actors Joel Kinnaman and Mireille Enos in a scene from the second season of the television series "The Killing." Credit: Handout

In this week of the dearly departed coming back to life -- "Arrested Development" -- it's probably appropriate that AMC's "The Killing" is about to be reborn as well. It was a fate not foretold: AMC canceled the show last summer, no one in the critical community (or of greater importance needless to say, the viewing one) seemed to complain too loudly and that was that. Except it was not that: Neflix explored a revival, AMC had second thoughts, Fox came up with more money (or translated, came up with a cheaper way to produce), and suddenly all the parts came together.

The series bows with a two-hour opener Sunday, and I've posted my spoiler-free review below. But in a way, this would seem to indicate that "death" in TV terms is no longer final, but only conditional, and that other promising series that ended prematurely -- or at least before they found a voice or an audience -- could also claw their way back at the behest of Hulu or Crackle or Neflix... "Cougartown" and "Southland" found new homes, and a "Veronica Mars" movie has financially crowdsourced itself into existence. Even "24" is coming back for a curtain call.

But there are many other shows that could emerge from the undead: What about "Rubicon," AMC's intriguing sort-of-thriller that -- with a little more action, lot less talk -- could be a genuine thriller?  "Ben & Kate?" That had a lot going for it. Still bummed about the death of "Smash?" Don't be! It may simply be in the undead state, awaiting an infusion of new cash -- and show-runners, ideas, and maybe some new cast-members -- to bring it back from the undead...

It sounds morbid, maybe potentially scary -- a revival of "Animal Practice" anyone? But it's not. The economics of television are changing, or so we are informed--- where Netflix can make money from subscribers who binge, and Hulu can do same from those who select their "ad experience."  Shows based on good ideas, even if they weren't always good in execution, would seem to stand a better chance of a revival in this new world, which is why -- oh fans of (say) "Warehouse 13," "Happy Endings," and  "Enlightened," all is not lost... but only in a state of suspended animation.

"The Killing," AMC, Sunday, 8 p.m.

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 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 Bergman with "Twin Peaks..." The colors, or lack of them -- the ALMOST reds and greens, smudged by deep shades of gray and brown... 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 "hard-bitten," 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 to 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?)

Grade: B+

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