This isn’t a review of the season finale of AMC’s The Killing. I already wrote a review for TV.com, and this site sums up my frustrations better than I ever could. But what I wasn’t able to touch on in my piece is the way some of the critical reaction really irked me—well, not the critical reaction so much as the critical reaction to the critical reaction. Still with me?
While most critics seemed to agree that The Killing finale was a colossal disappointment, some argued that it was exactly what the series needed. Fine, we can agree to disagree. But rather than just acknowledge a difference in opinion, I saw several versions of the “You weren’t watching it right” argument. I’m not even sure it can be called an argument, but the basic idea is that the reason people (myself included) didn’t appreciate The Killing‘s season finale is that we had a faulty conception of the series. More specifically, we were too consumed with the idea of determining the identity of Rosie’s killer and missed the point entirely. It’s about the journey, not the destination.
Where have I heard that before? (Outside of sex columns, that is.) Ah, yes, the contentious season finale of Lost—which, for the record, I loved. As the modern classic series approached its end and it became clear that all our burning questions weren’t going to be answered, some felt no ill will at all. Lost was always about the characters, so not knowing why women can’t have babies on the island or what the deal with Walt was or [insert your loose end of choice here] wasn’t a big deal. Others were a little more indignant: “We stuck with your roller coaster of a show for six years. You owe us some goddamn answers.” As far as I’m concerned, both sides made valid points. But nothing riled me up more than seeing critics I respected spouting the same line of bullshit: “If you’re watching Lost for the answers, you’re watching Lost wrong.”
The condescension in statements like this is obvious, but what really strikes me is the ego required. It’s “I’m right and you’re wrong” on a whole different level. If you’re convinced someone else is somehow watching a show incorrectly, you must also be sure that your manner of watching is the one, true way. How can anyone be sure of that? (I don’t even know if Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse would agree on the right way to appreciate Lost.) I think this is especially galling when it comes from a critic. Expressing one’s opinion is part of the job, but suggesting that said opinion is the only valid one discounts the likely diverse views of one’s readers. It is insulting to everyone’s intelligence but one’s own. And that’s kind of dickish, right?
I also hate the way this line of reasoning limits discussion. If someone is angry over The Killing finale, telling him that he simply doesn’t get it halts the conversation. How do you respond to that? The black-and-white nature of “a right and wrong way” mentality makes it impossible to find a middle ground. Not to mention the fact that it provides an easy out. Case in point: “I loved The Killing finale because I understood what the series was trying to do all along.”
Which is not to say that there is anything wrong with legitimately loving the finale! Or the Lost finale. Or any number of divisive TV episodes. I’d be a hypocrite if I said otherwise. My point is, there are always reasons to like or dislike everything, and chalking opinions up to a fundamental misunderstanding of the material is an easy and obnoxious out. Of course, this is never going to change, and there will always be critics who bug me, whether they write about TV, film, music, literature, or what have you. My goal has always been to write for a wide audience, and to sound informed without sounding like a jerk. I hope I’ve at least partially accomplished that. And if you ever hear me say that you’re watching something wrong, feel free to tell me to shove “the right way” up my ass.