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For fans of 'The Killing,' what could possibly be next?

I don't know about you, but I've forgiven David Chase.

And not just because forgiving others is reputedly good for the soul (isn't there something to be said, though, for souls so pure that they truly know which sins are unforgivable? Just asking.)

I've come to see, over time, the point to Chase's soul-jolting anti-climax to end "The Sopranos" -- that, in a world of supposedly domesticated violence, an endangered mob don would never know the moment when the fatal bullet hit the back of his head. One second, he'd be eating a meal with his family in a New Jersey restaurant, the next would be instant lights out, practically at midfork.


All consciousness gone. A black screen, in sudden, head-swimming perpetuity.

I hated how "The Sopranos" ended at first. I wanted Chase charged with the show business equivalent of a felony. I thought it was an ending Anthony Soprano Jr. might have concocted if he'd been allowed to lurch into the writers' room and pound out some drivel on the computer keyboard.

I've long since learned to live with it.

I'll say this for the season finale of "The Killing" last Sunday night.

I didn't loathe it nearly as much as I did the ending of "The Sopranos." I even see some virtues in it.

I still think that Chase was having a decidedly un-private joke at the expense of the audiences that turned "The Sopranos" into a great bit of modern American pop mythology. As popular as his weekly creation was, you certainly could understand its creator having ambivalent feelings about the fans who loved it so.

The consensus about the anticlimactic finale of "The Killing" is that this is the way writer/creator Veena Sud was able to wangle a second season for the show out of the AMC network -- that she, in effect, froze every (living) character in the show in place, waiting for further information from the plot gods (i.e., mere writers) above.

And while they're all frozen, wouldn't it be fun to give each of them screwball twists of varying magnitudes to get viewers all jumpy and chatty and inclined to clutter up message boards with heartfelt reports on all the different ways their knees jerked?

So what we saw was:

In the real show-stopper, one of the show's two heroes -- the funky cop and recovered addict played by Joel Kinnaman -- falsified a crucial bit of evidence to convict the aspiring Seattle mayor played by Billy Campbell while he was, apparently, mere seconds away from being assassinated by the shiftless creep who worked for the family of Rosie Larsen, the original murder victim.

Got it?

It's all very elementary for those of us who were hooked completely by the show from Episode One.

For the rest of you, it translates this way:

One of the biggest salaries on the show -- perhaps THE biggest -- will have been subtracted from the budget if, indeed, the show returns without Campbell (whose character, we could quite logically be informed next season, is now six feet under, waiting for others to prove posthumously either his guilt or innocence).

That way, the two principals -- Mireille Enos and Kinnaman as the two dogged Seattle homicide cops who spent all of the first 13 episodes getting used to each other -- can come back to the show with little salary bumps.

And considering that the show just threw a monkey wrench of ambiguity the size of Pittsburgh into Kinnaman's character on the show, that would be more than warranted.

In the first season of "The Killing," after all, he was secondary to Enos as she played Linden, the obsessive homicide cop who kept putting the Larsen case ahead of her slightly neglected son and completely neglected fiance.

But her mumbling partner was far more fascinating. He was the one complete original on the whole show -- a tall, shambling investigative prodigy with very little in the way of social or even communicative skill and even less in the way of personal hygiene.

After every episode as the show's wildly unconventional reimagination of what a "hero" looks like, the last thing we saw him do was tell an off-screen conspirator that their plan to implicate Campbell's character in the Larsen murder worked.

Translate that to: Whoa! Hold the phone.

Nobody saw that one coming, so let's give creator Sud credit.

When the show returns, then, no matter what, there will be no way it will be able to continue with Kinnaman in such a markedly secondary role.

Unless they're going to yank him off the show completely (i.e., throw his character in jail for wretchedness above and beyond the call of duty), his sudden lurch into moral ambiguity is going to have to be explained -- and explored -- at some length.

From where I sit, that one little plot twist gave the show a nice feint into the psychological territory of Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

And that's why I'm fine, thank you, just fine with "The Killing" finale's sudden pitch of the show's entire audience into the maddening territory previously inhabited by the accursed "Sopranos."

"The Killing," let's remember, was based on a Danish TV series that ran for 20 episodes (as opposed to 13) and ended with the killer being the character who, in the American version, is now vengefully heading for the mayoral candidate with murder on his mind.

Things, then, have been changed considerably from the Danish series.

And, in truth, quite possibly for the better. To have that character -- played by actor Brendan Sexton III in the American version -- turn out to be the murderer of Rosie Larsen would be more than a bit of a cliche. (And while we're at it, a disgusting piece of social snobbery even Victorian mystery writers might have deplored. Making the poorest character in the show the villain is more than a little un-American.)

The way it ended last Sunday, it's anybody's guess which end is up.

And who killed Rosie.

I may not be thrilled with the thundering anticlimax, but I'm ready to watch a few more episodes -- maybe even a fresh new round of 13 -- to find out.


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