The Killing Recap: The Guy With the Symbolic Tattoo

The Killing
Episode Title
Ogi Jun

So there were at least two breakthroughs in last night’s episode. The first is that we made some progress on the tattooed guy, at a quicker pace than this show has allowed otherwise this season. The second, and more important, development is that it appears Detective Linden has finally learned how to silence her cell phone.

I don’t know how it happened, but if I had to guess, I’d say it involved her being at a house with a television playing in the background. Just as she was about to leave, a special report came on about how Rosie Larson’s murder had been connected to an illegal phone vibrator distribution ring and that’s when she put two and two together. In the old days, Holder would’ve been the first one she told about this, but she’s still feeling grumpy about his role in the phantom tollbooth photo incident. We know this because of the scowl she makes whenever he says anything to her. Normally I would say that is just her face on this show, but then she and Holder go visit an old work friend of hers on the force and suddenly she has this huge, ridiculous smile on her face that is definitely meant to convey how she likes this guy much more than she likes Holder right now.

You know those scenes in certain kinds of police procedurals that this show is in denial of being exactly like, where there’s a staff shrink-type and they ask the traumatized kid to draw a self-portrait of themselves before, like, their mom married their stepdad or something? And in the first picture the kid draws a stick figure with a big, perfect U mouth and then he draws the second picture and the stick figure looks the same except the U is now upside down? That’s what Linden was like in this episode, always either beaming or doing the opposite, depending on Holder’s proximity to her, as opposed to the sad-eyed, wry expressions that endeared her so much to me last season.

Holder seems back to his old self, though, which was a relief, and he did manage to get her to almost grin once by bringing up her favorite subject, the inner workings of the foster-care system. The tattooed kid, Alexi, grew up in it after his mom gave him up when he was 4. Holder and Linden go to juvie and visit the guy who gave Alexi the tat, a guy who has an enormous one on his own face just in case we don’t get the picture and also have never seen a tattoo artist in real life and so assume that that’s how it is. Linden passes him a candy bar under the table and he spills the goods on Alexi, and later she tells Holder that it’s a trick she picked up in her younger days.

Another thing we've done before that the show seems to think we haven't is fill out a questionnaire. That's the only excuse I can think of for why the show expects us to believe the reason Jamie calls up Gwen. Supposedly the hospital has given him a series of questions that, if answered, will help Richmond recover better. And in order to do that, Jamie needs Gwen. The first question is about what it was like waking up next to Richmond on a typical morning pre-accident, a very realistic question it takes him way too long to figure out might be an insensitive one. She gamely tries to answer, listing a bunch of regular stuff except leaving out tooth brushing, since Richmond apparently needs to be taught how to do that. I’m not trying to be a clueless monster, but wasn’t it weird when the physical therapist guy assigned to show him how to adjust to his new life included tooth brushing on the list? Are the writers even reading the sentences they are typing? Or are they approaching their scripts more in the way you dash off a quick e-mail right before you run out the door, without checking for typos or even really looking at the screen?

And that’s going to have to be the last comment on the Richmond story line for now, because he’s still lying in that hospital bed and it doesn’t look like he’s getting out of it anytime soon. Jamie couldn’t even get him into the wheelchair. Everything about this story line is what Dorothy would get so worked up about in Tootsie, and if the good writers were making fun of hospital scenes like these in the eighties, how is it possible that the bad writers think there’s any way we’ll take them seriously now?

In other news, Rod (or is it Todd?) a.k.a. Tommy has turned into a bad kid. Stan and Aunt Terry seem confused about why: “Something’s going on with him.” I can’t imagine what that something might be, other than their dad going to jail for attempted murder, their mom abandoning them, their sister being found in a trunk, her killer leaving bloody backpacks at their door, and their TV set playing only terrifying news footage of their most nightmarish fears. Oh wait, it turns out he’s being bullied (which is inadvertently trendier than this show normally goes). Stan finds out about it because the mob boss guy, whose name I cannot commit to my memory no matter how many times I watch and rewatch these episodes, tells him that his men saw some kids picking on Tommy while they were stationed at his school. And while I found it insane that once again we are expected to believe that the Larson family is important enough for a mobster to devote any of his attention and muscle to, I did sort of enjoy picturing his men squeezed into the little desks at the boys’ school and then standing up too quickly and the desks are squeezed around their middles. I’d watch that show for a minute.

Because the writers have admitted to not knowing where the arc of last season was headed, I have to think that they thought Stan’s mob boss (okay, it’s Kovarsky, I just looked it up) wasn’t going to be a major character. Don Thompson, the actor who plays him, simply does not come across as the type who plays a main character, especially not one whose very nature already feels like a cliché. As the show moves more and more in the direction of Rosie’s murder being tied up in Stan’s criminal past — which Linden and Holder failed to look into in any detail for the entire first season — I’m finding it quite hard to care about any new developments in this show. Unless next week reveals that Alexi was a total dead end (which would shock me because truly, the three fans left watching will riot), it appears that a definite and not all that interesting line connects Rosie’s death to the murder of his father by Stan. Since we apparently won’t be finding out the killer’s identity until the end of the season, that means all we’ve got to hold onto otherwise right now are the Battle of the Pained Phone Conversations, one between Linden and Jack’s dad and the other between Terry and that married dude she can never get to call her back. There’s never been a better time to silence those phones.