‘The Killing’ Season 1, Episode 10 Recap
I hope so, anyway. The final shot of Sunday’s episode of ‘The Killing,’ which showed Det. Sarah Linden riding a ferry to what looked like Rosie Larsen’s final destination, gave me some hope that the final run of episodes of this once-promising series will contain some actual payoffs, instead of endless red herrings and muddled character development.
Due to travel plans and other commitments, I wasn’t able to review last week’s episode of the AMC show, and a few of you asked if I’d given up on the show. Frankly, I was close to doing so after that episode. I was glad I didn’t have to review it, because it would have been an even-louder litany of the same complaints I’ve been making about the show for weeks — lack of well-crafted character development and a sludgy, slow-going case that ignores interesting leads in favor of the false trail of the week.
Salon critic Matt Zoller Seitz neatly encapsulated all my concerns about the show in this post on the May 22 episode. So the entire episode hinged on Rosie and the unfortunate Somali girl owning the same pink Grand Canyon T-shirt? Come on. The lowliest crime procedural would have felt sheepish about having one of its stories hinge on such a preposterous coincidence, and ‘The Killing’ was supposed to be smarter than even the best procedurals. I frankly was close to ending my recaps of the show after that, though I knew I would grimly carrying on with watching the drama. I do want to know how it all turns out, even after the show demonstrated that it couldn’t live up to the expectations I had for it at the start of the season.
In any event, this week’s episode was better than the one that proceeded it, thank goodness. Even though Belko Royce was more or less eliminated as a suspect, we got a good interrogation scene with the unfortunate mover after meeting his highly inappropriate mom. To me, the tip-off that Belko wasn’t the killer was the fact that his creepy ceiling montage had photos of the entire Larsen family, not just Rosie. If it had been all Rosie, all the time up there on the ceiling, he would have seemed much more like a budding serial killer and much less like a damaged, weird, mildly obsessive outsider.
In the end, though, the Belko interrogation just confirmed information that the detectives already had — she had a date with the mysterious Adela at 11:45 p.m. that Friday. At last Linden figured out that the Adela was a ferry, one that likely took Rosie to a casino with a logo that matched the design on a key the teenager had carried.
So was Rosie meeting Darren Richmond at the casino? It seems they did have a passing acquaintance, as video surfaced of Richmond and Rosie in a situation that recalled (perhaps deliberately) a certain public meeting between Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. The information Richmond gave his staff — that he’d never met Rosie — may well be true; he’s surely met thousands of people at public events, and he can’t be expected to recall every face, let alone names as well. But could it be another crazy coincidence that he had met Rosie and that she was found dead in one of his campaign cars? It seems unlikely (but then again, recall the incident of the pink T-shirt).
Though the story seems to be heading into the home stretch from a plot perspective, various elements of the show remain underwhelming. Here’s the sad fact about ‘The Killing’: It has managed to make certain characters less interesting over time. Take Jamie and Gwen, Richmond’s campaign aides. At this point, they’re really there to feed us exposition about Richmond, they really aren’t particularly interesting in and of themselves and I don’t know and don’t care if they might be suspects. If they do end up being implicated in Rosie’s death, I’m guessing my reaction will be “Eh” rather than “Oh!’
We know that Gwen’s sleeping with Darren, and that Jamie had a hardscrabble upbringing that’s made him determined to better himself, but that’s about it. And we’re in hour 10 of a 13-hour murder mystery — by now, Gwen and Jamie should be crucial to the plot, or at least intriguing people. But they remain bland campaign aides with little involvement in the story. They might as well be supporting characters from the kinds of cookie-cutter procedurals that ‘The Killing’ was supposed to improve upon.
Same goes for Mitch and Stan: Despite very good performances Michelle Forbes and Brent Sexton, their current plight is less affecting because the story hasn’t done all that much to make me care about them. My reaction to Stan beating up Ahmed was simply, “Well, that was stupid.” (Sidebar: I was surprised that Ahmed wasn’t dead after Stan was done with him.)
The problem is, ‘The Killing’ doesn’t bother trying to make characters interesting until it’s their week to be the red-herring or the clue provider, and after that, the show more or less forgets those characters even exist. Remember Jasper? Kris? Sterling? Jasper’s dad? Mitch’s parents? Amber, Ahmed’s wife? I’m sure Belko will also become a non-person now that his narrative function has been fulfilled, and I’m sure Mitch’s sister will become briefly more interesting if and when she provides some clues, and then she will fade into the background again.
I’m not saying ‘The Killing’ had to provide in-depth character histories and set up a rich tangle of relationships for every single character, even the minor ones, but people here just wander in and out according to the needs of the plot, and even the foreground characters haven’t been sketched out with the depth and complexity I’d hoped for.
I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Det. Holder — Joel Kinnaman is giving a sensational performance, week in and week out, and the way he shows us the steel spine behind Holder’s laid-back facade is one of the main reasons I keep tuning in. But I’m disappointed by the way that Linden has been portrayed. At first, I thought, “Great! Television is giving us a lead female character who is not a compilation of stereotypes! A female cop who is tough and socially challenged but still quite intelligent and determined.”
But ‘The Killing’ has succumbed to one of my least-favorite TV cliches — the one that dictates that if a woman is even mildly competent at her job, her personal life must be a disaster. Because, you know, in real life, you never meet women who are personally fulfilled, professionally competent and interesting human beings.
Linden’s cool reserve and non-verbal charisma seemed quite intriguing at first, but the show has hammered on her inadequate mothering and her inability to sustain a relationship with her fiance — but they’ve not done those things in interesting ways that made us care more about the detective. It’s just been the same stuff over and over: Linden doesn’t give her son enough supervision, and her fiance is pissed that she never moved down to Sonoma to be with him. We did learn this week that she’d once been treated for mental illness, but with three hours to go, how much time will there be to explore that issue in an interesting way? Not much, I’m guessing.
Meeting the fiance in the hallway of her sad motel was the least interesting Linden moment of the week, but her time with Richmond and especially Belko were better. In the interrogation, in particular, it was interesting to see how she used the fact that he was uncomfortable with women to get in his space and in his head, causing him to finally freak out and tell the truth. She and Holder were quite an effective tag team in that scene.
So, all that being said, I’m going to stick with ‘The Killing’ to the end, and I’m glad that this week’s episode had both an improved pace and some good scenes. Still, there are rumblings that AMC is going to give this show a second season, but unless the second season involves some radical changes in the show’s creative direction, I don’t know that I’d be on board.
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