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‘The Killing’ no longer killer TV

Billy Campbell (center) former Chicago acting student plays mayoral hopeful Darren Richmond. He’s also suspected murder was arrested last season.

Billy Campbell (center), a former Chicago acting student, plays mayoral hopeful Darren Richmond. He’s also suspected in the murder and was arrested last season.

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Updated: May 18, 2012 9:47AM

After three weeks of watching, I’m trying, really trying, to like the second season of the mystery series “The Killing,” but it’s starting to look like a losing battle.

Last year’s premiere of the stylish, intelligent, well-written and well-acted AMC channel drama left legions of viewers fuming with its non-conclusion. The last of 13 episodes brought us to a logical arrest, thinking the mystery of who killed Rosie Larsen was solved. Then, bam, in literally the last couple of minutes — not the guy, tune in next season.

Like many angry viewers, I said to myself, that’s it, I won’t be back. But when the second season premiered April 1 (April Fool’s Day!), I was back in front of the tube.

Why? Despite my disappointment at the non-ending, I remembered the many things I liked — the smart acting, the compelling writing (well, at least up until the final minutes), the moody atmosphere of rainy Seattle (actually Vancouver) captured in beautifully subtle, rich cinematography.

As a fan of stylish police procedurals with committed, often tormented detectives, I saw a lot to like in homicide investigator Sarah Linden, portrayed by Mireille Enos. While trying to grapple with her personal struggle to build a secure family life for her son, she was driven to find who had killed Rosie Larsen, stuffed in a car trunk and left to drown in a lake. Linden came across as an American version of Jane Tennison (played by Helen Mirren) in the British show “Prime Suspect.”

“The Killing” was populated by a cast of intriguing suspects, including Rosie’s high school teacher, a seedy businessman and a reform politician. Interesting subplots about a mayoral campaign, a prostitution ring — was the sweet-faced Rosie part of it? — and a Russian mob only added to the flavor of the show.

Most riveting was the plight of Rosie’s family. Crime dramas tend to move the victims to the sidelines, yet “The Killing” kept the grief, rage, frustrations and crisis of Rosie’s parents, brought achingly to life by Brent Sexton and Michelle Forbes, and Rosie’s brothers at center stage.

And I came back because I wanted to know who killed Rosie.

The second season has had some fine moments — a brief Narcotics Anonymous scene involving Linden’s recovering partner, a fleeting stab by Rosie’s brothers at finding normalcy and a poignant depiction of a character left paralyzed coming to the awful realization of his condition.

But these were moments. The luster was off the overall story. Linden’s treatment of her son began looking like neglect. The political subplot took on shades of the tired notion of government conspiracy. The new twists and turns in the story of Rosie’s family started feeling like a soap opera.

The first season’s unraveling left Linden not looking like a Jane Tennison. Her investigation first falsely pointed to one man, beaten into a coma by Rosie’s father, and then to the final episode arrest. That wrongly accused man was shot and left paralyzed by a Larsen family friend, who then is killed in police custody. Collateral damage from Linden’s investigation: one dead, one in coma, one in a wheelchair, one facing prison.

Sunday’s episode brought yet another suspect. But who knows? Maybe it’s just another red herring. That kind of reaction shows my enthusiasm is being worn down. Worse, I’m not sure I care anymore who killed Rosie Larsen.

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