The rise of original online programming has revolutionized the way we consume television. But are any of these new shows actually worth watching? Up Next highlights noteworthy original content from Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Studios and examines how the flexible online format functions within each show. All you need is a laptop and your friend’s Netflix or Amazon Prime password.
If it weren’t for Netflix, AMC’s “The Killing” would have ended on a darkly ironic note, with detective Sarah Linden becoming a murderer herself. But thanks to the online streaming company, the series received a second chance to give fans the answers they deserved.
Based on the Danish series “Forbrydelsen,” “The Killing” follows Seattle homicide detectives Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) and Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman) and their various cases, each episode covering about 24 hours of their investigation.
Although the first season received six Emmy nominations and gathered a decent following, the subsequent season did not fare as well. AMC canceled the show after the second season in 2012, only to revive it again for a third and final season in 2013. But this show simply won’t quit, as later that year Netflix announced it would renew “The Killing” for a six-episode season to conclude the series.
Released Aug. 1, the fourth season investigates the massacre of the affluent, seemingly perfect Stansbury family, whose sole survivor, Kyle (Tyler Ross), is a member of an all-boys military academy. In typical Netflix fashion, the company released the episodes all at once, a satisfying feature for fans accustomed to the cliffhangers that typically conclude each episode.
Netflix maintained the same production team, including showrunner Veena Sud and writers Nicole Yorkin and Dawn Prestwich, so the final season differs little from its predecessors except in length and subject matter. Instead of focusing on the deaths of various teenage girls in Seattle, this season examines the murder of an entire family. Granted, the storyline still has a few red herrings, but the writers develop a strong plot that delves into both Kyle’s psyche and Linden’s and Holder’s demons from the aftermath of the third season. Judging from the production and writing quality, Netflix’s decision to keep the original team proved the best choice for the conclusion of the series.
Unlike crime dramas like “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” or “Elementary,” “The Killing” abandoned the episodic crime formula in favor of a more in-depth study of one case per season. This decision has proved both a benefit and a hindrance to the show while it was on the air. Although the writers’ preference to feature the people affected by the case humanizes the victims and their family, this decision often produced excess storylines that distracted from the central plot.
Netflix’s decision to shorten the season enhanced the quality of the show because it prevented the writers from taking on extraneous subplots that would stretch the investigation into more episodes. The length of the season provided just enough space for the writers to explore the repercussions of the murders without resorting to other narratives to pad the running time.
Plus, viewers did not have to suffer through frustrating cliffhangers since they could stream one episode after another. Judging from how solid this season was, “The Killing” may have worked better as a mini-series.
The writers, perhaps feeling adventurous with Netflix’s freedom from rating dependency, also tested new waters with the show’s subject matter. This season explores Kyle’s sexual and psychological abuse, topics that may not be risqué in Netflix terms, though they do lead to a few disturbing flashbacks. The plot’s intensity led to several impressive performances from Ross as well as Joan Allen, who gave a compelling performance as newcomer Col. Margaret Rayne, headmaster of the military academy. Assertive and logical, her character offered a foil to Linden that made for intriguing parallels between the two.
By offering “The Killing” a second chance, Netflix gave a satisfying conclusion to the series. Perhaps this trend of online streaming companies renewing canceled shows could give hope to other cult series canceled too soon. Netflix recalled “Arrested Development” to life last year, and Yahoo recently took on “Community” for a final season, which could pave the way for other fan favorites like “Firefly” or “Freaks and Geeks” to be picked up. With the cheaper costs and wide accessibility of web television, any reunion seems possible.