FORECAST: Cloudy, with a chance of meatballs.
Someone once said “what begins as tragedy often ends as farce.” They may as well have been talking about The Killing: This week’s episode transformed what had previously been an underbaked drama into an overbaked comedy — with plot twists, permutations, and insane character choices that left us with only two options: to beat our heads against a rock, not gleefully like man-boy Belko, but out of critical, nitpicky frustration, or to laugh. Readers, we chose to laugh.
And, judging by comments we’ve received as well as the online musings of other waterproof recappers, we probably weren’t alone. Hating on The Killing has become not only popular, but also easy. “I’ll Let You Know When I Get There” (a title clearly repurposed from an Iowa MFA’s debut story collection, soon to be published by McSweeney’s) was loaded with more preposterous choices than a spring break trip to Lake Havasu, from Belko’s mother, Miss Norma Desmond, to Rick’s profligate, anti-Priceline attitude toward airfare purchases. Look, we take
no pleasure little pleasure in highlighting all of these infuriating, reality-defying bits of storytelling. The truth is, a compelling plot or richly drawn characters can cover even the most egregious of head-scratchers (Lost, for example, was primarily an egregious head-scratcher but it had wit, verve, and Michael Emerson’s creepy eyes). The Killing’s fundamental problems are, at this point in the season, so deeply entrenched that all one can really do is swat at the surface.
We begin where we left off last week: rain spattering Bennet Ahmed’s brutally beaten corpse. Oh, the indignity! To be mistakenly accused by cops of hiding a teenage girl when you are actually hiding a different one and then be left, near death, in the never-ending Seattle rain without so much as a parka! Rest in peace, little Power Ranger. May you form an unbreakable megazord with the other angels in heav — what’s that? Not dead, you say? Sigh. Of course not. Our pal Bennet is merely in a coma, ready to pop back to consciousness at the moment the show is in dire need of a deus ex machina — or, dare we say it, a dinozord.
Anyway, the real issue here is laundry. Remember, in last week’s gripping conclusion, when Mitch Larsen found another Grand Canyon T-shirt in the wash? And then left increasingly frantic, ultimately ignored voice mails for her husband? (It seems like precisely the wrong people on this show have figured out how to turn the ringers off on their phones.) Right, so Stan finally comes home, hands all covered in Bennet, only to be confronted by his crazy-faced wife waving a novelty T in his general direction. (Note: This was our first LOL moment.) “I found this in the laundry!” she bellows, in what was definitely television’s most dramatically charged undergarment-related scene since these guys ran the airwaves.
Back at police HQ we awaken to the reality that the show has spent nine episodes carefully leading us in one direction (Bennet is guilty! Terrorism! Muslims or something!) only to smack into a dead
English teacher end. Now, it’s square one: The newly simpatico Linden and Holder cover for the Canada-bound Aisha, but otherwise have nothing. After a long day (and night) of screwing everything up, Linden organizes her desk and pointedly doesn’t check Expedia for travel deals to wine country. “I never should have talked to the Larsens,” she says. (Correct!) “I’m not gonna lose any sleep over it. And neither should you,” Holder admonishes. (The only thing worth losing sleep over in Holder’s sweatshirt world being, of course, crystal meth.) Later that night, Mitch resumes her role as the worst while Stan makes a batch of shame pancakes and turns himself in.
Meanwhile, in Frasier’s apartment, newly Determined Darren listens to bebop, dribbles his gold-plated basketball, and sips whiskey. Then, for some reason, Linden shows up. “Your office said you’d gone home for the day,” she murmurs. (It’s one in the morning! Of course he went home!) After accepting a couple fingers of single malt, Linden informs Richmond about Bennet’s innocence and beating, confesses her own mistakes, then bolts. For someone with the reputation of being quiet and watchful, Linden sure seems to run her mouth off an awful lot! Color us confused — and Darren, too, who is left with a worried look, a seven-figure basketball, and an equally valuable view. Truly, heavy is the hand that sinks the $5 million free throw.
But Linden’s day nine isn’t over yet: It seems Jack and his little buds were smoking cigarettes and drinking beer on Regi’s boat. His transformation into a total delinquent is now officially outpacing the murder investigation. At this rate he’ll be spray painting hate speech on mosques before Stan gets arraigned! So, to save her son, Linden immediately boards a flight to California and drops this ridiculous case. Psyche! She checks into a motel. Let’s hope Jack and his buds stay away from the mini-bar! (Also: Who the hell is Regi, anyway? Will we ever find out her relationship to Sarah? Related: Do we even care?)
Time for some real policing! Linden thumbs through a Koran and mentions Sterling. (Remember Sterling? Miss u, girl!) Holder brings Linden a maple bacon doughnut that, to our unprofessional eyes, appears to be neither maple nor doughnut, but, hey, she’s the detective. About a week too late, the two decide to follow up on Stan Larsen’s mob connections: Linden interviews sad jailhouse Stan — a strikingly shot scene, actually, between the orange-clad bear-man and the sweater-bound lady cop — while Holder checks in on sketchy Belko, whose attempts to pull a Law & Order and make coffee while being interrogated only serve to make him sketchier. And then word comes down that there’s a cabbie who remembers picking up Rosie at the Ahmed house. While Linden interrogates him (while the guy eats a taco — another Law & Order classic!), we can’t help but wonder: Who conveniently found this cabbie? And why isn’t he in charge of this investigation? But hush: It turns out Rosie headed home after dropping off her Koran (?!) ... where someone was waiting for her.
Ding ding ding! If your Belko sirens have been going off since he took an uncomfortable interest in the bed-wetting habits of the Lil’ Larsens, then this was the episode for you. It turns out our rat-faced pal isn’t just a little screwy, he’s off-the-charts, villain-in-a-bad-episode-of–Silk Stalkings loopy: a 30-year-old who lives at home with his mother, “Bev,” a chain-smoking, negligee-wearing caricature who murders kittens and calls her son “miracle baby” and “little man.” Overall, just a series of very cool, very subtle choices here. But lest we get too fixated on Belko-as-baddie, it was all another red herring in a show filled with enough of them to open a communist fish market. Despite his photos-glued-to-the-wall fixation on the Larsens, it’s quickly clear that Belko is no murderer (unless you count beating rocks half to death). After a very bizarre interrogation scene that begins with Linden getting kinky (“70 years old. Sure hope I look that good in lingerie”) and ends with Holder using the cutting-edge cop technique of repeating every question Linden asks but louder (a method he clearly learned from Detective Garrett Morris on the first season of SNL, Belko admits he was in the house that night, against Mitch’s wishes, but only heard Rosie making plans about someone or something named Adela — the same name scribbled on a note wedged into her Koran.
While the exonerated Belko takes out his frustration on his unsuspecting thigh, Linden and Holder huddle up (the latter with a mini-basketball in his hands, clearly a trophy from the time he won $1.6 million on a disputed sky hook). Now, we’re not police officers, but it seemed pretty clear to us from the minute the word “Adela” made an appearance that maybe it was worth cross-referencing — at the school, the mosque, the campaign, heck, maybe even at the halal meat market. But Linden is no ordinary cop (in fact, according to some, she just might be the world’s worst cop — she flips through a phone book (very 2011) and then goes to have a chat with Rick, her would-be (more like won’t-be) husband who is waiting for her at the motel. “Want to come inside?” she asks. “No, thanks,” he replies. “I’d rather have this long-overdue, intensely personal discussion seated on the filthy hallway carpet of a fleabag motel.” Let’s leave aside for a moment the logical hoop-jumping it takes to accept the premise that Rick found it easier to fly back to Seattle for an hour or two to have this conversation rather than pick up the phone — this is, after all, a television show. Let’s also ignore the fact that it seems like a bizarrely confident outlay of cash not only to buy your own last-minute, same-day ticket but also airfare for Linden and Jack. (That classic midnight Seattle-Oakland flight must always be empty!) No, we can criticize this scene on a more basic level: It was hooey. We know Linden is dedicated to her job — Rick even refers to her perhaps being either wounded or institutionalized as a result of said dedication — but we have no evidence that she’s any good at it. Her refusal to leave or even, really, to speak with Rick seems like writers-room decision making, not any sort of emotional truth. So, after a good-bye floor kiss, Rick walks away, ostensibly for good. Good-bye forever, zinfandel dreams!
Speaking of hooey: With Belko scratched off it’s now apparently time to reset our suspicion meters all the way back to where they were in the pilot: focused on Darren. An exposition-minded intern at the campaign shows Jamie and Gwen footage of Rosie shaking Richmond’s hand at an event (Rosie, it seems, is the Zelig of Seattle, always showing up in photos and taxi videos when you least expect it — we’re anticipating the shocking release of images that show her participating in the moon landing and cheering on Lech Walesa at the Polish shipyard strikes). This reveal — coupled, we hope, with Darren’s insane personality swings over the past few days — seems to trouble Gwen. (As it should! We are running out of potential suspects here!) But not Linden: Like with all actual police work on The Killing, she stumbles onto the latest revelation by accident. During a morning jog, she discovers that “Adela” is the name of a ferryboat that takes vice-minded Seattleites to the Wapi Eagle Casino.
Oh, The Killing. Leave it to you to make the revelation of a boat be the dramatic cliffhanger of your fourth-to-last episode. It’s damning, but not altogether surprising. There is no momentum left in the show, no lingering interest in why or how. Merely who: and if it was Richmond, well ... so what? Rosie, that lovable, Alanis Morrisette–resembling, Koran-reading, Grand Canyon–adoring zero, is long gone. And frankly, we find it increasingly hard to imagine — or care about — a world in which she was actually alive in the first place.