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The Killing Recap: Revenge

FORECAST: Wintry mix with a high probability of taking justice into your own hands.

In contemporary-TV lingo, the term “procedural” refers to shows that have a certain script and stick to it, week after week, without much attention paid to serialized story lines or, to be honest, human emotions. You know the type: your CSIs and NCISs, your L&Os and S&Ms. (We think we just made that last one up.) The Killing is a very different sort of procedural in that there is only one case and its focus tends to hew to the technical definition of “procedure”: “a series of actions conducted in a certain order or manner.” What this means in practical terms is that we get to see absolutely everything, whether we want to or not.

And so “What You Have Left” uses the teaser — the portion of the show before the credits that usually excites us and draws us in with a surprise reveal of a plot point or, at least, David Caruso’s beady eyes from under those preposterous sunglasses — as an opportunity to ogle the creepy undertaker (not pictured here) as he preps Rosie Larsen for her funeral. Fingernails are repaired, hair is brushed, the coffin is wheeled. And we, we are bored. We suppose The Killing harps on the Killed in order to remind us the horrific human cost that is pushing the plot forward (and keeping Linden from zinfandel-stained nirvana in sunny Sonoma) but here’s the thing: We haven’t forgotten! Roughly one third of our attention is devoted to a family of misery-faced professional grievers (another third fixates on Detective Linden: Soggy Sweater Model, and the final third is split between not caring about the political plot and eagerly listening for cracks in Swedish actor Joel Kinnaman’s bizarro American accent). We’re not walking down to show-runner Veena Sud’s editing bay to slap the AVID out of her hands and tell her how to do her job — but this necrophilic business seemed more than a little over-the-top.

Anyway, the investigation drags on. Linden thinks it might be a serial job. Her mysterious boat buddy Reggie (not pictured here) thinks that her pal (relative? mentee?) is once again getting that “I already learned to live alone” look, and young Jack who (quite rightly!) is sure that they’re never moving to California, informs his mother that “no one” says BFF anymore as it is “retarded.” (Try telling that to the good people at the Bicycle Film Festival, young man!) Over on the creepier side of the office, Holder has decided that today — Day Six, for those who are counting at home — is a good day to dress up like a color-blind pimp. After carefully establishing that Linden’s ticket to Sonoma that night is — wait for it — nonrefundable, the two mismatched detectives head over to Bennett Ahmed’s neighborhood to do some old-fashioned investigatin’. Their first interview is with a southern African-American woman who has very suspiciously been beamed in from another show. She helpfully mentions that Ahmed “got that white wife real pregnant.” Then a fat guy across the street claims he saw Rosie enter Ahmed’s house on Friday night, adding “Excellent eyes, me. My whole family, good eyes.” (Fall back, David Mamet!)

Meanwhile, in the Ahmed household, Bennett and his “real pregnant” wife innocently construct a baby crib. “We’re gonna be okay, aren’t we?” she asks her Power Ranger husband. “Yeah, sure we are,” he says, and we in no way think of Rosie announcing, “I’m just so ready to be alive and live my life” minutes before dying. Cut to: Knock knock! The cops arrive. In an interesting play, Bennett admits that Rosie came by after the dance — he just “forgot” — in order to drop off a book. What book? “One of the Victorian novelists, I think.” Ahmed won’t let them in without a warrant so obviously he is guilty and thus ends The Killing. Q.E.D.

What’s that? Still here? Our mistake! It seems that Supercop Linden isn’t convinced: She thinks the teacher was lying about letting Rosie in, thus ruining Holder’s second cigarette of the day which is, according to science, also the second-best tasting. But before we advance this plot, we have to spend some time in the boring one: the mayor’s race. So! Richmond’s ad that ends with him triumphantly throwing his arm around professional murder suspect Bennett Ahmed is on the airwaves. Gwen feels left out by Richmond’s decision to investigate her e-mails, his general coldness, and his creeping case of whispery Batman voice. Jamie, meanwhile, is back in his element prancing about like an elvish Lee Atwater, pumping up the stakes for the evening’s debate. Also, the World’s Worst Principal shows up and attempts to barter for political favors which, pardon us for repeating ourselves, seems ill-advised, since her school lists “costumed sexual assault” as a full-fledged extracurricular activity. To sum up: Hardball Jamie wants Darren to cut Ahmed loose immediately. Richmond — who announces he was a public-interest attorney for fifteen years, which is notable since he is not at all interesting to the viewing public — won’t “ruin a man’s life” before a trial or even an arrest. “It’s how I am.” Retorts Jamie: “Who you are is five words: dead girl in a trunk.” Boom, roasted!

Holder, however, is merely a sketchy cop in the passenger seat. We sit on some sort of car confessional where he unloads about how there are “two” versions of him to a guy who is either his dealer, his secret internal-affairs supervisor, or with the mayor’s office. After he’s done with the psychobabble, Holder fills the dude in on the case and, in turn, learns about Stan Larsen’s many years of unprosecuted life as muscle for the Polish mob. We can only assume another mysterious envelope of cash is soon to follow. Thus freed of his karmic burden (however temporarily), our favorite skinny cop from Stockholm Seattle interviews Amber Ahmed’s sister who (a) hates Bennett because “there’s a war on” and “it seems pretty clear which side is which” (“Amen to that,” replies the equally racist Holder) and (b) reveals that Amber showed up at 1 a.m. and “real upset” on Friday night. Hello, new suspect! And, just like they always teach you at the police academy, when you’re really trying to figure out a timeline for victims entering and leaving a house, you should always check with the stereotypically creepy peeping-tom neighbor. Which good ol’ by-the-book Linden does! This super-original, totally believable guy with the telescope tells Linden that he saw Bennett in the rain at midnight with “a smaller person, kind of like you” — a.k.a. a woman. The two were carrying a girl who was wrapped in a blanket and not moving. Good job, Linden! You solved The Killing! The end. Please take a complimentary parka as you exit.

What’s that? No? Not the end? Sorry! It seems there are still two big set pieces to get through. One is the debate and the less said about it, the better. First Richmond has a blustery showdown with Senator Charles Widmore, who challenges the former public-interest attorney to prove to the party that he’s “capable” of winning. Richmond blusters back: “I’ll handle this my way.” Widmore: “Then we’ll see how the chips fall!” Then the two men fall to all fours, bare their teeth, and bite each other to death in the typical manner of aggrieved wolves in the wild. Okay, no. Gwen’s dad actually just walks away accompanied by his personal Umbrella Guy (which must be a booming industry in fictional Seattle). Then there’s a debate which is no way like any political debate on earth — in this one, the two blowsy candidates pontificate about defining dreams and great responsibilities like they’re trying out for Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, and the “moderator” just sorta sits there. Anyway, the mayor nails Richmond on Ahmed, and Richmond blows the whole thing. Afterwards, he’s left alone, whispering husky words of regret to himself and his fantastic, rain-proof hair.

And then there’s the funeral and we’re back to the too-muchness of it all. There’s a moment, early in the episode, when Mitch and Stan argue over a cufflink. It was a gift from Rosie. At Christmas? No, it couldn’t have been. Father’s Day? The two struggle to hold on to memories of Rosie, even as the memories are revealed to be imperfect. A nice, real observation. And then there’s the mysteriously paparazzi-free scene in the cemetery where Lil’ Larsen tosses a map on to the casket “so Rosie can find us when she flies over,” and we’re glancing at our own map to Ugh-ville. Afterwards, the Larsens host a little get-together where Mitch’s heretofore uninteresting sister catches sight of Jasper Pinchface’s dickish dad and immediately lashes out at Stan’s partner, downs three glasses of (no doubt Sonoman) red, and collapses in her bedroom with a little Neko Case vinyl and a blazing J.

Also at the nosh? Our man Bennett who, in short order, is fingered by Stan’s bud as “the guy” the cops are looking at. So, while Linden and Holder unsuccessfully try to arrest Amber Ahmed at her house (she’s huddled on the floor, clutching a hammer), Stan drops a meaty hand of vengeance on Bennett’s shoulder and offers to drive him home. At this point, the only logical reply is “Sure thing! I’m just so excited to live my life!” As Linden and Holder race after Stan’s vengeance mobile, the latest deluge begins.

Aaaaaand scene. Let’s be clear about the strange place where this episode left us: Either everything is solved (Amber Ahmed killed Rosie out of jealousy and Bennett, like a good Power Ranger, helped clean up the mess; Stan is about to revenge-kill the wrong-ish guy; Darren lost the election) or nothing we’ve seen matters and it’s all been yet another tricky digression. We’re not all that happy with either possibility. Which means, for this week at least, we’re not all that happy with The Killing.

Photo: Carole Segal – © AMC 2010