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The Killing Recap: Casino Teen

It seems pretty clear by now that the casino folks were involved in Rosie’s Larsen’s murder and that it was tied somehow to the waterfront development contracts that Mayor Adams has been trying to get pushed through. Because that’s what we all originally signed on for with this show, right? A drawn-out government conspiracy plot buckling under the weight of red tape? Sexy or original it is not, but at least there seems to be a momentary shortage of red herring in the frozen fish section.

In fact, this episode was full of action, relatively speaking. Everyone’s searching for something. Linden needs to find Holder, even if it costs her badge and subsequently, her son. Stan needs to find answers and some peace. Richmond needs to find, er, a convincing alibi and a better press secretary and also just a life because I’ve never seen a political candidate who had fewer friends. Even grumpy Nixon had more people whom he could call for a nice wiretapped chat.

We start off with Linden desperately trying to convince Duck to corral a rescue team for Holder. He refuses at first, and so she goes to the reservation alone, after dropping an exhausted Jack off at Holder’s place. She immediately crosses paths with Nicole Jackson, whose innocuous-sounding name and terrifying attitude I am having the hardest time reconciling. Linden tries to bluff by saying backup will be arriving any minute and is surprised when it actually does. If you were to think of this show in video-game terms, it’s been growing weaker and weaker this season, but every once in a while it finds a power pellet labeled “Holder and Linden love each other” and then the energy bar in the corner gains a few bars. That’s what happened last night. Even if Linden had been left on her own, it’s clear she wasn’t going to leave that island without her partner.

Either the search team or the search dogs were clearly trained by Linden back in the day, because they go the wrong way and end up in a junkyard. Linden sees a bunch of tiny homeless children living inside a gutted-out truck and smiles at them. They smile back, maybe sensing a kindred orphan spirit in her, and one of them points toward the woods. 

A beaten-to-a-pulp Holder is found passed out against a tree. For a minute, I thought he was dead, and I have to say I was of two minds about it. Obviously, I wanted this man to live for selfish reasons, like I have a crush on him and want him to be both my husband and also my best friend. And yes, of course The Killing would be nothing without him. But you have to admit that the ballsier move would’ve been for him to have died. Linden’s attempt to avenge his death would’ve given this show the forward momentum it needs, the kind that Rosie’s murder and Richmond’s attempted assassination have not.

Or maybe I was just afraid of which hospital Holder would be sent to if he survived. Even though the show didn’t specify, I’m convinced he ended up at the same magic beanstalk one as Richmond. I swear this will go down in history as one of the greatest missed opportunities in television history. I read about any show with the faintest medical premise being bought and I think, Why not a spinoff show about AMC’s miracle doctors? The premise seriously writes itself.

In the waiting room, Linden meets Holder’s sister, who I wanted to believe was a real character but they just didn’t give her enough to go on. She could’ve been a great character and her meeting Linden could’ve been a layered scene, but instead it merely felt like a way for the matchbook to get delivered. Same goes for Holder’s cliché-heavy interaction with his nephew, who incidentally (and I know this is a small point but it’s always bothered me) feels too young to have saved up for that coin that Holder returned to him last night.

It’s so frustrating, because this show is always halfway there. Clearly it is interested in saying something to us about family. There are parallels between Linden’s stubborn refusal to ask for help and Richmond’s denial of needing it. Holder feels like he let down his nephew in the same way that Mitch feels she let down Rosie. In her attempt to keep her son close to her, Linden has screwed Jack up even more, just like Stan screwed up Rod and Tod by kicking their surrogate mother figure out of the house. The connections are all being laid out for us, but the problem is that most of the time the scenes read like groupings of stage directions instead of dialogue.

Which is why the moment with Stan at the coffee shop this week was such a nice surprise. It all unfolded at such a perfect, subtle pace, the way the woman ingratiated herself, how she looked, the way those bags under Stan’s eyes drooped a full inch lower when he realized she was just some psychic shyster. If only The Killing could write all its scenes like that, just one understated beat strung together after another and at the end it would hold up all those scenes and have the most lovely hour-long necklace.

Can you tell how hard I am trying to not talk about the Richmond parts? My God, this plotline, it does not end. I so badly wish this show were being made in, let’s say, the fifties, so that the editing process would involve some dude splicing the tape together by hand. That way I’d be able to break into the editing suite with a pair of scissors and just snip out all the Richmond scenes. It would be quite seamless, I think. Even if we still needed to get in the riveting Mayor Adams contract dispute story, that could easily, happily, breezily happen through the casino. At the very least, Gwen needs to be put on another break-of-dawn flight to D.C. immediately, preferaby on one of those special planes owned by her father, Charles Widmore.

We learned a little more about Rosie this week, namely that she was a maid at the casino. Seems like awfully far for a cute teenage girl who could’ve probably just waitressed at T.G.I. Friday’s to go late at night to make an extra buck, but then again, it’s more believable than the prostitution angle. She tells Linden that she saw Rosie on the night of her murder, heading up to the tenth floor, where the construction site is. The staff all had keys to that floor until the day after Rosie was killed, and then they were all confiscated from them. Linden asks, “What did the key look like?” and how I wish they had allowed us to hear the answer to that question. “Um, it looked like, um, a key, like the kind you use to open the door to, um, your house.” Maybe that’s the problem, actually. It’s been so long since Linden’s lived anywhere that used real keys to open the doors that she’s forgotten what they are. This scene is probably the last we’ll see of Q-orianka Kilcher in any depth, which is a shame, because as one-note as her character turned out to be, she’s a real actress and this show could really use an infusion of youthfulness. As exciting as Veena Sud may think it is for us to watch a bunch of silver-haired bureaucrats duke it out over policy, an actual teenager (or close to it) caring about the death of one of their peers would really go a long way.

For a season and a half, we’ve watched Linden skirt the edges of a mental breakdown. She’s already lost her fiancé, but now she’s lost her badge and her son. The fact that she put Jack on that plane to Chicago means she’s a good mom, even if it doesn’t feel that way to her at all (it also means that the Seattle airport staff are as consistently bad at their jobs as everyone else we’ve ever met on this show, with the possible exception of that tech guy, since they allowed both Linden and Holder past security without a ticket). It was the right thing to do, but now she’s going to be even more intent on finding Rosie’s killer, as a way of justifying giving up Jack and silencing all the other mistakes she feels she’s made. Here’s to hoping that an unhinged Linden equals a little more chaos in the cracks of this show and a lot less political brainstorming sessions.

Photo: Carole Segal/AMC