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The Killing Recap: Casino Royale

Near the end of this week’s episode, Stan Larson shows up unexpectedly to speak at Richmond’s press conference. By way of introduction, Richmond says, “This isn’t about what happened to me. This is about justice for a young girl and for a family who still need answers.” If I had been one of the reporters there that day (the twentieth since this hunt for justice has begun) I would’ve interrupted with, “Excuse me, sir. While I’m relieved to hear that the focus will no longer be on you, I think we all know why we are gathered here and it has nothing to do with Rosie Larson. Detective Stephen Holder is the one we care about. Any chance he can run for mayor?”

Joel Kinnaman is clearly why most of us are still watching this show. He is the creamy Oreo center among the discarded chocolate biscuit pieces that comprise most of this show. He is the sweet to Linden’s sour. I could’ve easily watched him cooking breakfast burritos in his apartment for the entire hour, but owing to an ongoing murder investigation that even the fictional city of Seattle has lost interest in even though it involves a teenage prostitute and the attempted assassination of a major political candidate, that wasn’t possible.

Instead, most of Holder’s scenes take place at the casino, providing us easily the most compelling action of the season. Not that it was an easy route getting there. That whole phone call between Ray and Linden where he tells her about his “FBI task force” buddy who isolated the portable diesel generator cooling fan sound on Rosie’s voice mail, was painful. This is now the new literal definition of nonsense. All online dictionaries were updated with that scene at exactly 10:01 p.m. last night. Today, thousands of kindergarten teachers are forcing their young students to memorize a moment from a TV show they will hopefully never watch.

I also didn’t buy Holder’s getting on Linden’s case outside the casino. Linden is clearly unraveling, and while I’m finding her less realistic as a character than I did last season, the idea of her piecing together a hypothetical mind-set for Rosie doesn’t feel crazy to me. It seemed like the writers were trying to justify splitting the two of them up so they could have two separate story lines going on in this episode (story lines that they could’ve structured in a manner much more true to the characters, by the way). It’s becoming a trademark on this show to take the longest, most convoluted route to solve the simplest problems.

In any case, Holder ends up casing the casino on his own, looking for any construction sites or connections to Red Herring Jasper’s Dad, while Linden pursues her newest stumbled upon lead, Rosie’s love of butterflies. Because if that third grade show and tell project from her locker is any indication, there’s nothing that girl loved more than butterflies. And fun. And the Grand Canyon. And high-end professional escort attire. Linden heads to where Rosie filmed the butterfly migration and encounters the casino chief lady (whose name, I guess, is Nicole Jackson), who isn’t at all happy about Linden wandering around. My guess is that she’s never happy, since I can’t remember the last time a woman on this show smiled or had the smallest glimmer of hope in her eyes, but she’s especially pissed about this. She tells a story from her childhood about a little 9-year old Native American girl who was murdered as a “warning from the white man.” Safe to say it’s all very suspicious, but there’s nothing Linden can do about it since she doesn’t have any authority on casino grounds. She’s escorted back to her car and sent on her way.

She arrives home just in time to see two of the most swanky dressed social workers I’ve ever seen talking to Jack. Someone has called child protective services on her, maybe Nicole Jackson, maybe Jack’s dad, maybe whoever ended up being the bad guy on The X-Files. Jack ducks into the bathroom and Linden’s phone doesn’t ring, but she still says she has to “take this call” and goes out into the hallway to get away. It’s believable that the social workers would buy this, though, since this show has done a very solid job of demonstrating that Seattle residents are at least ten years behind when it comes to technology like phones and computers. Linden and Jack reconvene in her car. She speeds away, which feels like an extremely unwise move, while Jack finally unleashes all the frustration and anger he’s been feeling. America nods sympathetically and tries to figure out if there’s a way to start a Kickstarter campaign to get him some much-needed therapy.

Stan finds out about Terry and kicks her out of his house. Rod and Tod make an escape ladder out of pumpkin seed sinews and stash it under their bed. Gwen proves that she deserves to be employed on this show by being just as bad at her job as everyone else. It’s her idea to convince Stan to endorse Richmond against BFF Jamie’s better advice, then she lies to Stan and Richmond has to wheel himself over (even though two scenes before he wasn’t yet strong enough to have a press conference anywhere but in his physical therapy room) and clean up her mess. Then when Stan does show up he’s an unstable wild card just like Jamie predicted. Stan is mad that the press doesn’t care about his daughter while Richmond is worried that they don’t care about him either. I continue to have such a problem with this plotline for so many reasons, the main one being that it’s boring but also, it just doesn’t make any sense that Richmond would have to try so hard to get front page news coverage. If the fact that he’s found a miracle immortality potion isn’t enough to dominate the headlines, then how about just his having been shot and paralyzed by a madman who also blew away his own mother and then killed himself. When is the last time you saw a story like that having to grapple for airtime?

Like I said, though, Holder is our sanctity of light. Every time we return to him in the casino, it’s like the model train wreck that is The Killing righted itself and got back on its little plastic tracks. His scenes are purposeful and entertaining. That exchange with the older prostitute was a nice weird scene. If The Killing is so intent on taking things so slowly, why can’t it do it more like this? If they’re going to focus on a single location, why not make it as full of possibility as the sprawling casino, as opposed to say, a paralyzed man’s hospital room?

Holder fails to access the tenth floor where the renovations are happening, but on his way back down, in the elevator, a cleaning woman hands him a book of matches. Inside the cover is written, “Tomorrow 11:00 am.” She also mentions Rosie’s backpack. And because she works for the casino, which is just one giant pulsating red flag, hopefully she will turn out to be more than a red herring. I’d much rather follow a potentially intriguing character like her to the end of this season than the bland posse of government conspirators and mob bosses that we’ve been promised elsewhere.

The episode ends with Holder getting the shiznit kicked out of him by Nicole Jackson’s thugs and it’s hard to watch. He manages to sneak in a good line (“Business in the front, party in the back”) right before, as he always does. A call is placed to Linden so she can hear his cries of pain. For the first time all season, the stakes feel like they might be returning and they have nothing to do with Rosie Larson. Like Stan says, she means nothing to us. But the man on the hunt for her murderer does.

Photo: Carole Segal/AMC