Jonah — I will probably give The Killing’s second season a shot, but I have to say I wasn’t nearly as impressed with the first as you seem to have been.
(I don’t think there’s anything in this post that really counts as a “spoiler,” but if you haven’t made it at least halfway through the season and plan to watch it some day, you might want to skip it.)
A good murder mystery has to handle its red herrings deftly. It has to provide enough evidence to convince you a character is guilty, and then provide a plausible explanation for that evidence that’s consistent with his innocence. This show, to put it mildly, has not succeeded at this task.
I’m speaking, obviously, of the victim’s high-school teacher, Bennet Ahmed — the first Killing character who, in the eyes of the audience, was obviously guilty. For starters, lots of evidence built up very early in the season, making it clear that the creators would have to backtrack to keep the plot going through all the episodes. Second, he’s a black Muslim, and you don’t have to be a paranoid right-winger who sees liberal bias everywhere to know that he wouldn’t be depicted as the killer of a pretty white teenage girl.
But third, and most important, the show failed spectacularly when it came time to re-explain the evidence against Ahmed. As Salon put it:
In the city of Seattle, population 563,374, police are investigating the high-profile murder of a high school student. At a certain point their case intersects with the FBI’s investigation of a local mosque. The mosque members are upset that the cops haven’t investigated the recent disappearance of another minor, Aisha. It turns out that Aisha and Rosie both showed up at Bennet’s house — on the same night? — and promptly disappeared. Both apparently owned the same Grand Canyon t-shirt. Same logo. Same color.
You said you haven’t seen the finale yet, so regarding that, I won’t say anything beyond that I have mixed, but basically positive, feelings. And I agree that The Killing doesn’t engage in the kind of pandering that other crime dramas are prone to. But this “twist” was an insult to viewers, and I think the show will have to avoid similar tricks in the future.