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The Killing Recap: The Pink T-Shirt

FORECAST: Diffuse clouds. Some downpours. You know. Whatever.

Let’s begin with a question: How many people out there still care who killed Rosie Larsen? Be honest. As The Killing enters its final third, we find ourselves casting about for something to latch onto, for something to be invested in. It doesn’t help that the show seems intent on mirroring this lack of focus as it transitions itself from a taut procedural about a single case to a far noisier thriller about terrorism, religion, and Islam. Or something like that: Mostly, it’s starting to seem as if bets have been hedged, cake is attempting to be both had and eaten. Episodes like “Stonewalled” — pitched somewhere between the piercing, intimate moments of the show we thought we were getting (distracted, heartbroken Stan spreads spicy horseradish on the boys’ sandwiches instead of mayonnaise) and the much broader, messier stakes the show (or the network) seems determined to play with, perhaps in an attempt to reach a wider audience (DEA investigations! smuggled passports! vandalized mosques!) — leave us as frustrated as Detective Linden on the day she forgot to wear her Gore-Tex to work.

Furthermore, the wider The Killing goes, the further we get from the killing itself. Decades of detective stories have taught us to expect the killer to be one of the people we’ve already met. If it isn’t, we’ll be disappointed: All the time spent with red herrings like (the forgotten) Jasper and Mrs. Ahmed will feel like a waste and, worse, revealing the killer to be a new or unknown character will feel like a cheat. But suspicion has been focused on no one but Bennet Ahmed (and now the mysterious, unseen Mohammed) for weeks now — are we even prepared to believe that the killer was, say, Gwen or our personal dark horse candidate, Belko? It’s a tough storytelling spot, to be sure, and we don’t envy the challenge showrunner Veena Sud and her team are facing. Yet it’s a corner they painted themselves into, presumably with ample buckets of waterproof paint.

We pick up this week at the moment we left our soggy heroes: facedown, handcuffed in a meat locker. (Wait, that sounds much more exciting than it actually is!) By cracking the lock, Holder and Linden have apparently compromised a counterterrorism investigation and the Feds couldn’t care less that the contents of the locker are about as un-Halal as possible: It’s set up like a girl’s room, replete with stuffed animals, back issues of Tiger Beat (“Seattle’s Darren Richmond: Dreamy Mayoral Candidate ... or the Dreamiest Mayoral Candidate?” “Six Tips for Borrowing a Cute Guy’s Umbrella” “My Teacher is Actually a Power Ranger ... and Other True Tales of High School”), and wrapped presents under the bed. Is this the murderer’s lair? Or just a standing set for the local version of iCarly? We won’t know, because Holder and Linden are quickly shaken loose and frozen out while their harried lieutenant (who is great at being a harried lieutenant, by the way) admonishes them: “You were breaking a padlocked door without a warrant! They were looking for suicide bombers!”

Linden, however, is dogged. A glimpse of a pink T-shirt on the makeshift murder (?) bed has sent her into an investigative tizzy — one not helped by the fact that Rick not only isn’t answering her calls, he’s also having Emmy, his monumentally passive-aggressive assistant (??), work late at his place. Thus dissed, Linden has no choice but to throw herself into the case — and it doesn’t matter if a couple of laws get bent in the process. First, she sweet-talks a lab tech into e-mailing all the gruesome Larsen crime photos to her unlocked houseboat (sweei Wi-Fi connex at the marina, FTW!), then she bluffs her way onto the FBI’s staging area where she manages to snap a few photos of the telltale tee — before the Feds ferret all of the clues away forever.

Actually, it seems our gal Sarah is seeing all sorts of things she shouldn’t, including Holder once again making the titanically epic mistake of accepting an envelope of cash through a car window directly in front of a police station. Soon there’s disharmony between our untrusting twosome and even Harried Lieutenant is encouraging Linden to head south or at least throw Holder an investigative bone. (We also learn that Holder made the jump from county narc to Real Adult Policeman thanks to some strings being pulled.) Adding to the tension? Those anti-Instagrams of Rosie in the trunk have somehow been leaked to the press, causing agita for Linden and something much, much worse for poor Mitch — she’s so disturbed when she conveniently sees them on the Fake News Network that she leaves the boys in the car with the engine on, almost poisoning them. (Luckily Aunt Terry saves the day — she’s gonna need some high-test glaucoma medicine tonight!)

All of this business led to two revelations, one good and one less so. The good: Linden inappropriately follows Holder and his mystery car buddy to an unknown destination. And it turns out many of you commenters were right on the money: It was a misdirect, the guy was Holder’s NA sponsor. Here, in front of a crew of fellow recoverers, Joel Kinnaman gives an affecting speech about where he’s been (lying to the beloved sister who raised him, stealing a gold coin from his trusting nephew) and where he’s at (six months sober; giving his sponsor his paycheck to reduce temptation). Of course, Detective Linden — a woman who can crack a murder case but is incapable of switching her cell phone to “vibrate” — nearly interrupts the proceedings. But it leads to a newfound peace and respect between the two cops: The scene between the two of them at the marina was the finest of the episode, and Holder even gets to drive his own car now like a big boy.

(The other revelation, that it was Linden’s son Jack who leaked the grisly pics to all his buds, was less successful. Not only because Jack is a sour little kid whom we’re honestly not all that interested in, but because we just don’t buy Mirielle Enos in these scenes. Yes, she’s been justifiably praised for her calm demeanor and piercing glare. But her emotional confrontation with Jack came off as petulant and shrill. Still waters are only compelling if they’re concealing torment underneath. Scenes like this make us not so sure there’s really much there under there, though we’d certainly love to be proved wrong.)

The rest of the episode advanced things incrementally. Mitch confirms the pink “Grand Canyon” T-shirt was Rosie’s, but also falls to pieces when she discovers that a worried Stan has stripped bare her only daughter’s bedroom-cum-makeshift-shrine. She and Stan say hurtful things to each other, the sort of things it’ll be awfully hard to unsay (“You let her stay home that weekend!” “If you weren’t so strict maybe she wouldn’t have hid things from us.”), and the most disturbing sight on The Killing since Jamie’s ralphing con gusto was Mitch’s meticulous, episode-ending reconstruction of Rosie’s bedroom. Darren, meanwhile, is going for the jugular, sending Jamie on a witch hunt to shake out some dirt on Mayor Adams. Jamie brings home the goods thanks to an absolutely preposterous meeting with Tom, the gadabout billionaire/deus ex machina, who has apparently forsworn afternoon cocktail parties for the season and replaced them with midday underground cage fights. (Can we have a show about this guy’s life instead? It would be fascinating!) Anyway, Tom passes some dynamite dirt onto Jamie, leading to Jamie and Gwen bickering about whether Darren is gonna go low or not. After an intense parole hearing for his wife’s murderer, Darren punches a mirror, thus signifying his transition into ... wait for it ... Dark Darren. Dark Darren, of course, green-lights the leak, outing the mayor’s mistress, whose life is promptly ruined. (Sure, the press swarm her, but they leave the Larsen funeral uncovered? And totally ignore Bennet Ahmed’s TARDIS house? [That’s a house that’s much, much nicer on the inside than on the outside. Look it up, nerds.]) Dark Darren takes no prisoners!

We end no closer to resolution than where we started. Holder has conveniently set up a wire on Ahmed’s house (No McNulty) and Bennet — who seemed weirdly surprised that his terrible principal might want the named, lead suspect in a murder/terrorism investigation to sit the next couple of plays out — obediently begins chattering into his bugged phone in what sounds to our clueless ears like Somali. Just in case we didn’t get the memo, he helpfully switches into English to let his MIA pal Mohammad know that “the passports will be arriving tomorrow.” Then he adds, “Don’t worry about the police, they don’t know anything.” And he sits back, strokes his moustache, and lets out an evil laugh that rattles the floorboards.

Okay, not really, but that was some violation of Storytelling and Suspense Building 101 (“show don’t tell”), no? After eight days of investigation, it’s not that we’re discouraged by the pace of the revelations, it’s that we are finding it harder and harder to care. Rosie, despite being pretty, is a cipher: How many ninth-graders fall in love with the Grand Canyon, anyway? We’re secretly hoping her goody-goody demeanor really was a front and that she and Mohammad were planning on running away together to a water-resistant Jihad Academy, one financed by Tom Drexler in between his busy schedule of early morning sky-dives and black-market monkey kumites. But we’re not holding our breath.

Photo: Carole Segal/AMC