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'The Killing' Season 1, Episode 10 Recap

by Maureen Ryan, posted May 29th 2011 11:00PM
Now we're getting somewhere. Literally.

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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Regarding the money Mitch discovered was missing:

I think it's obvious that the money was the down payment for the house that Stan was keeping secret from Mitch?

June 04 2011 at 10:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I gave up the moment that brat emailed crime photos of The Dead Girl to his friends. That isn't a lack of supervision; that's sociopathic behavior, which means that supposed babysitter/social worker/friend/landlady isn't worth a bucket of warm spit, in actually helping this family cope with its antisocial-but-brill mother and damaged son.

What sort of parent doesn't have more than one friend to help out with her son?

What sort of parent doesn't have a Plan B, for a big move and career change, that depends on her leech of a boss letting her go? (And don't start me with his issues, 'cause if I do i'll tell you my theory about why the Mayor and him tag-teamed on the killings, to discredit Richmond and get rid once and for all of his uppity bitch detective....)

What sort of parent at least gets her kid away from all the crime scene obsessing? Just Moving To Sonoma wouldn't change Linden's personality, or what she makes a living at. What in the hell was her boyfriend expecting -- retirement? If she's that mentally ill to need that, then she shouldn't have regained custody of her son; if she's not, then her fiance treating her like she is, is a kind of emotional abuse, isn't it?

My bottom line: Would a girlfriend be able to declare such an ultimatum after two or three days of a cop doing his job, on a high-profile case? Would she break off the relationship, after going through that cop's psychotic break, knowing that his son might need the stability she'll provide, in under a fortnight?

The fact that this so-called "woman-run/focused" policier doesn't even question the inherent sexism of who Linden is, versus what she's supposed to be as a woman, and even doubles-down, with the mental illness bits, is as disappointing as the progressive hype was, in The Killing's promos.

The Killing's Motto: Bitches Be Crazy, or Nothing But Trouble.

Can't wait for Season two.

June 01 2011 at 2:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

From this episode, I think Rosie inherited Stan's gambling addiction. This explains what happened to the bank accounts and why she wanted to stay home alone. She either witnessed something at the casino, or owes a lot to the wrong people. If someone has already submitted similar comments, I apologize, I didn't read them all.

May 31 2011 at 9:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Don't know if we are allowed to speculate, but I wonder if the mayor of this show's very fictitious depiction of Seattle is the murderer -- and his campaign manager helped cover it up. This would start to tie everything together, and very likely throw the election into a tailspin to be resolved next season (which I assume would depict Days 4 to 26).

May 31 2011 at 1:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to howardhwen's comment

Days 14 to 26 I mean.

May 31 2011 at 4:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

chicago code needs to be picked up

May 30 2011 at 3:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Excellent review, Mo. I was pleased and surprised to see that one plot element/prop from a prior episode had actually been revisted, and it's not even human. We saw the photos again, the ones made from Rosie's video! Linden still had them up and continued to study them to help her with the case. Finally! Usually everything is discarded by the end of an episode but this "visual aid" actually survived. Otherwise, the best thing about the series has been discussing why it's not working. Thank God for the ferry.

May 30 2011 at 12:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I dont think all the hating on the show is justified, is there some slow points and some flaws with the show? Yes show me many first seasons of shows that dont have problems. It has good acting, I am intrigued on who killed Rosie yes the show could be better and if it gets a second season maybe some of the flaws of the first season will be ironed out but I think Maureen is to critical of the show and may expect to much on a given week.

May 30 2011 at 11:23 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jlkljnklj's comment

I agree. This show is about the closest to what a real investigation looks like. They're not chasing down "red herrings," they're eliminating leads and suspects. THAT'S WHAT REAL POLICE DO! They all act like real people instead of cartoon versions of themselves. The suspects doing magically fall into their lap after questioning one or two people (SVU, I'm looking at you!) They have to track all these people down. And it was realistic the way Linden and Holder kept following up on Bennett Ahmed. Holder was right when he said he looked good for it, and they didn't do anything out of line or over the top. I think Maureen is too impatient with this show, because she didn't really accept what the pacing was going to be. It seems slower because it's ONE DAY per episode, but we see it once a week, instead of in a row. I watched "Forbrydelsen" and got to see it much faster. The pacing is exactly the same, but people keep wanting it to magically speed up. I think it is because they were able to watch the original series back to back.

May 31 2011 at 11:03 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to henninggirl's comment

I disagree, precisely because the things a real investigation would control -- evidence being leaked, suspects being investigated/protected -- are slacked off about, so the principal characters can be involved when they otherwise wouldn't be. I shouldn't have to see that mother or father moping around if it isn't essential to the plot -- promos be hanged. Grief is a long, slow process, and it's almost an abomination to watch people feel it and expect something different, like "oh, did the mom know something? did the father love her too much?" Barring that wackness of either being suspects, it's deformative to have Stan become the brutal avenger, just 'cause he needs to be in every episode, and hey, isn't he angry about his daughter's death? We could be exploring so much more about her life but we get crap, week after week....

Would the formerly-mobbed-up father really stalk and kidnap twice the prime suspect, then beat him to the point of death? Wouldn't someone -- even his godfather -- tell him to snap-to and shut up, so at least the justice system can attempt to bring the suspect to trial, *then* they'd kill him in prison?

This series builds up structures of conspiracies (the Somali anti-FGM gang, Richmond's team, that modest Seattle lotto mafia), then refuses to use them either to advance the plot or heighten the tension. The waste of time over the most obvious suspects (black/Islamic/pervy schoolteacher/terrorist) was signaled as such, merely because it happened too early and for too long. More skillful plotting would have kept us off-balance about many more suspects, and would have kept the tension up every week. Now we're in a race between Will Linden Go Crazee Before Solving the Murder, or will Holder Snort First? Riveting....

And, um, L&H did go over the top -- violating the looseness of the Patriot Act with a warrantless wiretapping, which even now is only justified concerning Federal, not local, cases? Retroactively getting permission, when a running-buddy judge finally grew a Constitutional conscience? If they worked the evidence from the beginning, and didn't make easy, racially profiling assumption, they wouldn't have caused a possibly-innocent man to be brutalized, and his community terrorized. Bennet Ahmed, regardless of who wins the election, will own part of that city, should he wake up, or his wife get decent legal counsel. Is that "over the top" enough for you?

June 01 2011 at 3:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down

I think this is a great show. Last weeks episode was a bit slow but it made up for it this week. I am beginning to wonder if our Rosie was a good girl. Those shoes and now the money is missing. Maybe she has a high roller for a boy friend. I will be there next Sunday to find out the latest.

May 30 2011 at 10:50 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Pat Clarkson

"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."

I was thinking this too at first, but then I thought that if Belko is really obsessed with the family as a unit, maybe he sees Rosie's impending departure (college, life, etc.) as some kind of betrayal. Like once she left, the "family" would cease to exist, and he couldn't handle that possibility. I mean, the guy gets warm and fuzzy just sitting at their kitchen table by himself, so anything's possible. That could end up being just as creepy killer-ish as a sexual obsession with her would have been.

But I'm kinda hoping they moved on from him, because turning around in 2-3 episodes and going "WAIT, I think it WAS him after all!" would be rather lame.

May 30 2011 at 7:29 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Pat Clarkson's comment

It can't be Belko now. He's served his purpose for the show. And all along my read of the guy was that he was a loser and a hanger-on of Stan's from the old days. The way he was out there kicking and punching by himself while Stan actually did it to Bennet and the way he turned out to be a devotee of the Larsen family unit confirmed my theory: without Stan around, Belko is a harmless little nobody who doesn't have toe testicular fortitude to hurt anyone. The guy admitted to accessory to attempted murder and kidnapping, but was more worried about Mitch finding out he was upstairs...

May 30 2011 at 10:01 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
James E. Powell

The fiance in the hallway was a key moment when Rick referred to sitting with Sarah in a hospital while she stared at the wall. Her unstable personal life is not TV cliche, not this time. Something about her past, probably recent past, is driving her. While she goes on with the investigation, her people, Rick and Regi and to some extent Jack, are convinced that there is something else going on, something that may be destroying her.

When I saw the casino, I thought of One-Eyed Jack's and wondered, for the tenth time, if the writers simply took the script from Twins Peaks and wrote all the fun parts out.

May 30 2011 at 1:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to James E. Powell's comment

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