After two seasons obsessing over the murder of Rosie Larsen, "The Killing" was given its own death sentence, when AMC announced last July that it had canceled the show. Six months later, after working out a deal with Netflix, AMC decided to give the show – based on a Danish crime series – another shot. The question is if viewers will do the same.
"It's such an endeavor, such an epic journey, when you are working on a show, especially a show that is so character based. You really don't stop thinking about what's the next path, what's the next story for your characters," says creator and executive producer Veena Sud, speaking of the time it looked like "The Killing" was gone for good.
"It was such a blessing to hear we would have another chance to continue to tell the stories of [Sarah] Linden and [Stephen] Holder."
Once a promising drama, "The Killing" angered its small but devoted fanbase when the first season did not wrap up its central murder investigation, ending with an especially infuriating cliffhanger. The case was eventually resolved in Season 2, but by then viewership had dropped from 2.3 million to 1.7 million for new episodes, with even die-hard fans swearing off the show. Nevertheless, AMC seemed mournful when it announced its cancellation, calling it a "difficult decision."
"There was such passion behind 'The Killing' from the very beginning, throughout the cancellation to today," says Sud, "There was a sense, even when we got notice that the show had been canceled, we wouldn't die off so easily."
AMC announced in January that it would be giving "The Killing" a second chance (The New York Timesand The Hollywood Reporter both detail the terms of the comeback). Premiering Sunday, the third season will finally give fans the new case they were asking for.
"The Killing" continues in what has been a perpetually gloomy Seattle (though Sud promised the sun will shine a bit this go around), reuniting detective duo Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) and Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman) a year after the Larsen case. Both detectives have moved on: Linden, leaving the force to pursue a more peaceful existence outside Seattle; Holder, establishing himself with a new partner and a well-connected girlfriend. But a murder investigation coupled with another disappearance sends Holder back to his old partner's doorstep. He asks Linden to reconsider an old case from years ago — an investigation so troubling that "The Killing" has been referencing it since its pilot episode.
"We are trying to take what the best aspects of the show are and bring them back this season," says Sud. "The characters of Linden and Holder, who the fans love, the idea of this place called Seattle which is its own interesting, dark, beautiful, tragic world."
The new season will retain the show's structure of three interweaving narratives, the first, again, being Holder and Linden's investigation.
"Season 3 is about people who are invisible and irredeemable to some," says Sud. "The victims are runaway kids, street kids, drug addicts, a population people don't pay attention to and barely see – very different from the Larsen family and Rosie Larsen."
The third storyline in Season 3 introduces the audience to an inmate who is staring down his death sentence.
"The broader world we are looking at, instead of city hall, we are in the political world of death row – which is kind of its own ecosystem," says Sud.
Peter Sarsgaard joins the cast to play said inmate to a particularly menacing degree. "He's not a 'Green Mile' type of con. He's not a guy with a heart of a gold," adds Sud.
To research her murder mysteries, Sud has been embedded with police forces for the past 15 years, a practice she started in film school and continues today. Before "The Killing" she was a writer and executive producer on the crime drama "Cold Case."
"What really draws me toward stories of homicide are the real life investigations and how cops catch people. What's the true nature of their work?" says Sud. She is also especially interested in expanding on the victims' stories.
"I hear over and over from victims' families that the victims' stories on television aren't told enough," she says. "That's what we try to do as well, to really humanize the person that's in the body bag and see the huge impact that this person's death has on not only the immediate family, but on the community around them."
She is insistent in her desire to defy cop procedural conventions, on both the episodic and seasonal level (most notoriously, not solving the Rosie Larsen case by the end of Season 1). However, as the uproar of dragging the Larsen storyline into Season 2 proved, abandoning conventions can be risky.
Sud assures that Season 3's case will be resolved by its finale. The new season will also unfold over the course of about a month, speeding up – somewhat – the initial pacing of "The Killing," in which each episode followed one day in the investigation. But don't expect her to fold on every viewer demand.
"Our fans' thoughts and feelings certainly are important to us," says Sud. "As is important is this idea that we have to tell the best story we can."