It’s pretty fascinating to watch The Killing these days. Oh, not because of anything that’s happening onscreen. In fact, in spite of what’s happening onscreen. To borrow an analogy from a plot direction that this show has inexplicably decided to commit to, it’s like Veena Sud and her crew are lying in a hospital bed and the doctor is telling them that, no, he doesn’t advise they continue to test the patience of even their most loyal fans. They could still have a chance at happy lives that involved writing for a perfectly serviceable show if they just faced the reality of their situation. The writers, though, refuse to listen, insisting they know what is best, that they can feel the sun on their scripts, etc. “We know what phantom pain is,” they hiss. “It’s what we strongly hinted would come at the end of last season.”
I know that a show shouldn’t be at the mercy of its viewers, but the way The Killing has decided to react to the outrage over last season’s unresolved finale — by slowing the plot down even more — is some balls-to-the-walls nuttiness. Which is not to say that I don’t appreciate intricately paced dramas, like Breaking Bad and Mad Men, whose plots gradually unspool like finely woven pieces of silk. And you know it. Just as our television screens are no longer black and white, the same goes for its content. Just because I am confused about why The Killing feels determined to kamikaze itself one drawn-out, sick-bed scene at a time, that doesn’t mean that I’d rather be watching CSI. It means I want and am rooting for it to get its act together.
Okay, so clearly I am being driven crazy by the Senator Richmond story line, so let’s start there. What the hell is going on? That’s not a hypothetical question. I actually want Veena Sud to leave a comment down below explaining what the thought process is behind devoting a third of her show to this. Is this what she meant by an “anti-cop” cop show? That the two cops cancel each other out and really she has wanted to do a medical drama all along? Will that be the ultimate twist?
I could maybe handle focusing on Richmond’s recovery if we could even get to that part. Last week was already such a toothful of filler when we had to watch Jamie agonize over how to tell Richmond the bad (but extremely obvious) news that he couldn’t move his legs. But once he finally didn’t manage to choke those words out, I felt pretty confident that we’d be able to move on from there while still remaining wary of what form the next development would take. At the time, I felt like the best but most unbelievable scenario would be that Richmond is given a new spine and legs and we pretend he never got shot. The worst case was a whole lot of screen time devoted to his shooting hoops from his wheelchair. In between those two were a lot of other options, but none of them involved him confirming that he was paralyzed. For an hour.
Have you guys ever seen the movie Unbreakable? Nice, solid film. Underrated even. There’s this one scene where Bruce Willis truly begins to accept that he might be a real-life superhero. He goes down to the basement with his son, where he keeps his bench-pressing set. His son keeps adding more and more weight and each time Bruce Willis is able to lift it. When they run out of weights, they tie paint cans to the ends and even then, when it’s 350 pounds, Bruce Willis can do it. It’s a tense, quiet scene, almost three minutes long, that the whole movie has been building up to and at the end of which we definitely get it: He’s a super hero. In the DVD extras, though, there’s a deleted scene that made me crack up when I saw it. It’s even longer and it involves Bruce Willis going to the gym and pressing even more weight. That’s what that scene where Richmond stabs the pin into his leg at the end of this episode reminded me of, a final dramatic hammering in of something we already very much knew.
The rest of the episode followed a similar sort of one-step-forward, two-steps-back method of development. Linden spends a great deal of the episode trying to track down Rosie’s backpack, which turns out to be Holder’s. Since we already saw him switch it out last episode, that reveal is no surprise. It would’ve taken him maybe a minute to explain if he’d actually picked up his phone, but he was too busy acting like the junkie cliché that this show has so artfully avoided making him into until now. The handling of Holder’s drug addiction was one of the things that the show pulled off so wonderfully last season. The speeches he gave in his NA meeting and to Linden at that fast-food joint, while they were looking for her son, were restrained and original and great and basically the opposite of everything that happened last night. Holder may be hurting, but there just have to be more effective ways of showing that than having him knock out his former dealer’s mom.
The Larson family, meanwhile, is struggling to convince us of the artificial plot device in which a devoted mother like Mitch abandons her family. Scenes of sister Terry taking Rod and Tod to school are interspersed with Mitch in a seedy hotel room having a one night stand and staring shakily at a conveniently dark-haired teenage girl smoking out by the pool. It is such nonsense and the only thing I am holding onto is the possibility that she had something to do with Rosie’s death and is acting like this because she feels guilty.
The one real piece of new evidence examined this week, the anime tattoo that that tech guy (who appears to be the only competent cop in Seattle) pulled from Rosie’s Super 8 film, could conceivably point in that direction. Linden, of course, identifies the tattoo by using her patented method of stumbling upon the answer in a way that doesn’t involve any actual powers of detection. She keeps a photo of it in her car where her son, Jack (who's been known to forward those same kind of photos around town) is able to easily see it and explain to her what it is. It’s a character from a graphic novel she bought him and that they happened to have packed in the single box they’ve retained from their former life. The book tells the tale of a martial arts master out to avenge his father’s death, who was taught everything he knows by a sensei turned evil.
Since this show has been known before to dangle a bit of literary symbolism in front of you in a way that makes it seem like an important clue but turns out to be nothing more than a mildly interesting Wikipedia entry, I’m not going to take the anime plot literally for now. While attempting to cook dinner for Jack, Linden receives a message in her Bockmail account (note the number of messages in her inbox is one). On any other show, I would’ve sworn the part where the tech guy has to walk her through how to download an attachment (“Click ‘Download Attachment’”) was a nod to Andy Greenwald, but The Killing has never had much of a sense of humor about itself. She opens it and we see that it’s footage recorded the night that the Beau Soleil server warehouse was set on fire. And quick tangent here, but why did the mob boss guy even bother setting that fire if he’d already stolen the computers? Also, why are there video cameras everywhere? And why did they direct Mireille Enos in that scene to make it look like she was noticing something that only a brilliant, seasoned detective would be able to pick up on? Wouldn’t anyone who saw those cameras deduce that they go over their footage? And (last thing, I promise) why was the image of the moving van, shot by a jewelry store camera two blocks away, the only valuable thing discerned from all that footage? If we’re going to run with this whole there are cameras recording everything angle, wouldn’t the cameras surrounding the warehouse in all directions have recorded the arson happening or at least have seen the van stop and park?
Regardless of how we arrived at this knowledge, we learn that the rest of the person connected to the tattooed arm, who we have presumably never seen before, works for Stan’s company. He also works for Stan’s former mob boss, who, like everyone else on this show, appears to have nothing else to do but focus all of his time and energy on the solving of Rosie Larson’s murder. I’d love to see a spinoff show about the day before she was killed. Every scene would just be a different character staring off into space, waiting for their cellphone to ring or for their inbox to ding loudly.
So now we know that the object in Rosie’s mirror is closer to the Larson family than it first appeared. It will take some expert maneuvering to realistically convince us that he is someone who, in between reading anime, also works for the mob and who knew Rosie well enough to go on long, giggling bike rides with her without anyone in her overprotective family noticing despite his being employed by her dad. Since we all know that isn’t going to happen, we can at least rejoice in the fact that Linden and Holder will be back working the case together. I don’t care how many steps backward it took to get there. Her wool sweaters may be impenetrable to the rain, but they still absorb his tears.