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The Killing Recap: The Difference Between Wright and Wrong

Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) - The Killing - Season 2, Episode 12 - Photo Credit: Carole Segal/AMC

So remember that time in the magic hospital room when Jamie brought up his grandfather/father/uncle Ted Wright and we thought it was just a lame parable that he pulled out of thin air in order to get Richmond out of bed? And then remember how when Richmond brought up Ted Wright again, during his fake CNN-type interview, we thought, That’s weird. I guess the writers couldn’t come up with another sentence for him to say. When he brought him up again in last week’s episode, during the most important speech of his career, right before he dropped the mike onto the floor in an unintended moment of hilarity, we were so numb to the lazy maneuverings thrown to us by This Show that we didn’t even bother to formulate a rant against it in our minds.” Surely, though, that would be the last time we would hear about him, not that it was this close to the end. Out of all the dropped story lines there was no way that would be the one the show would bother returning to, especially since it wasn’t really a story line at all.

Right?

I’ll return back to that question at the end of this recap. À la Veena Sud.

We begin with Linden and Holder watching the news of Richmond’s announcement on the television in his office. The news camera helpfully lingers on Jamie and Gwen as Linden and Holder identify them as their new prime suspects, throwing me into a momentary spiral of uncertainty as I contemplate whether this makes the cameraman good or bad at his job. Suddenly they’re surrounded by cops but Linden has a plan. She’s going to use the doctored Richmond photo as leverage against Mayor Adams. It’s a solid enough strategy, which is why it’s confusing that she has only now thought to use it. It feels very similar to last week when she and Holder were like, “We need to get back into that casino. I guess maybe we could get a search warrant?” and then they just DID, making the whole Holder-gets-beat-to-a-bloody-pulp-while-Linden-gets-committed-to-an-insane-asylum plotline feel even sillier than it already had.

The Mayor gives in and Holder and Linden head to their office in his car to try to figure out whether it was Jamie or Gwen who killed Rosie Larsen. Now that we are one episode away from getting an answer I just need to point out a few things. First of all, even setting aside all the ridiculous writing that makes up This Show, it is not fun to watch a mystery that you, the viewer, cannot solve. I know that AMC has their Suspect Tracker up on their site and all that, but the only reason anyone would’ve guessed Jamie or Gwen before last week’s episode would’ve been because they are the most unlikely.

Watching this episode reminded me of that old Malcolm Gladwell article, in which he talks about the distinction between puzzles and mysteries. He writes that puzzles can be solved if you have all the information (like the location of Osama Bin Laden), while mysteries are more about the need for judgment (like what will happen in Iraq after we topple Saddam Hussein). The Killing feels like a puzzle that is kidding itself about being a mystery. We never had access to any clues that it didn’t want us to, which means that we never had any chance of solving the mystery on our own terms.

It’s not like we were ever shown that photo on the casino wall of Gwen as part of the 1812 Overlook Hotel staff or given a glimpse of Jamie’s gym log that said he didn’t have his key card (the security guard who kept the log is definitely going in the Good at Their Job column, by the way). Which is why, no matter who we find out the killer is next week, it’s going to feel like a letdown. As Gladwell writes, “Puzzles come to satisfying conclusions. Mysteries often don’t.”

And secondly, I just want to point out that this show started off about the murder of a teenage girl. How it went from being that to a story about a land dispute between a middle-aged businessman, a paid of warring politicians, and a corrupt Native American lesbian couple is the sort of mystery that makes the quagmire of Iraq seem like a cake walk. Last week, Veena Sud admitted that the reason there aren’t smartphones on The Killing is because she doesn’t have one herself. I feel like that has a lot to do with the banishing of all initial teenage plotlines as well. It’s sort of like the end of Being John Malkovich, when all the old people have taken him over. While he still may have the body of a younger person, his taste is pure senior citizen.

Okay, so rant over, getting back to the business at hand. Linden and Holder find out that Jamie lives with his grandfather. We, the viewers, wonder if they’re talking about Ted Wright and momentarily wonder if we should go back over a past episode to clarify once and for all what relation Ted has to Jamie. But then we think, nah, and also it would just be too crazy if Ted Wright was an actual character, especially this close to the end of the season. Then they go and talk to the guy in charge of key cards for the campaign. He turns out to belong aggressively in the Bad at Their Job column because he allowed an important piece of information to get deleted off his computer two days after Rosie’s murder and didn’t think to call Linden up and tell her. (He probably sent her an e-mail that she couldn’t figure out how to open.) They don’t mention this but he also apparently forgot to deactivate the card since it worked just fine when Linden and Holder tried it last episode, despite having been lost for a month. It’s moments like this when I want television to be real, if only for a minute, so I can be like, “Dude, you guys should totally hire whoever is in charge of key-card security at the Hampton Inn in Yonkers, New York, where I stayed last week. When I tried to use the computer in the business lounge, like, half an hour later after I checked out, my card wouldn’t work at all. Now that’s what you call security.”  

The key-card guy (Kimber is his name) tells Linden and Holder that Gwen lost her card right around the time when Rosie died. Which would make her a prime suspect. But then they find out that Jamie also appeared to have lost his card since he didn’t have it at the gym. Making them both equally fake guilty again. They go and talk to the council woman whom Veena Sud thinks we were dying to hear say Vee Jay Jay (because that’s more fun than us ever seeing Sterling or Jasper again), and she tells them that Gwen canceled some dinner with her the night Rosie died. Then she recommends a lovely lunch place around the corner whose specialty is red herring.

They figure out that Gwen was driving the campaign car that Rosie was killed in earlier that night and confront her about it. She gets all indignant about how they almost ruined a man’s life by falsely accusing him even though it was totally her testimony that made them suspicious.

Somewhere around here, Linden and Holder also discover that Ames was going to cut his wife out of the casino deal and was actually going to run away with Terry, but it’s hard for me to tell you exactly when because everything about this particular plot makes me so sleepy. I can’t even get a read on what that guy looks like, he’s so generic. He’s got silver hair like Roger Sterling but he’s not Roger Sterling — that’s the best that I can do. When he got on the elevator at the end, I was like, Who's that guy? How’d an extra make it into this scene? Oh right, we’re supposed to be caring about him.

Meanwhile, Mitch is back and pulling a Gwen by being terrible to everyone despite the fact that she was the one who's been acting awful. Tod won’t let her make him a grilled cheese because she doesn’t know how to cut the crusts off because that is a super-hard thing for a mother to learn how to do. Terry tells Mitch how hard it was when she was gone. “They needed a … ” she says. “They needed a what, Terry?” Mitch snaps back, “They need a what?” But Terry doesn’t answer and my money is on the second half of that sentence being the mystery that stretches over seasons three and four. Mitch then says that Terry has no right to judge her since she’s not a mother and so she doesn’t understand why it’s a logical, kind decision to abandon your children when they need you most. (Speaking of those children, if Rod doesn’t turn out to be the killer of Rosie Larsen, it’s time to replace that actor, Mad Men–style. That kid is doing some serious Macaulay Culkin in The Good Son Method acting and I’m not sure if a show about an unsolved murder is the right forum for that.)

Linden and Holder figure out that Nicole Jackson and Kobeyashi are an item. Linden tells Holder, “You just figured that out now?” which seems uncalled for, since the writers clearly also just discovered it as they were writing that line. They notice Kobeyashi’s broken hand (because they’re astute like that) and then later, when Linden is looking at the Overlook Hotel photo, she notices another woman with her arm in a sling. She puts two and two together (you know that Nicole Jackson’s M.O. is that she pushes the women she’s dating backwards so that they’re forced to grab onto the doorjamb for support and then she closes the door on their hand/arm), and she and Holder confront Kobeyashi about it. Apparently Nicole Jackson killed a woman eight years ago and pinned it on her former girlfriend. Linden convinces Kobeyashi to hand over the missing surveillance footage, by grabbing her by the throat and blaming her for Jack being sent away. Which makes her the third person in this episode to fail to take responsibility for the crappy ways they have acted.  She and Gwen and Mitch should start a band. They could call it the “Frowns.”

They go back to Holder’s place and put the footage into his laser disc player (just kidding!) and start watching. There’s the campaign car, but they can’t see who's in it. (Where is Ray when they need him?!! He could’ve done some Command-Zoom business on that in his sleep.) They switch to the next disc and there’s Rosie carrying what looks like an empty backpack and taking the elevator up to the tenth floor “to say good-bye.” There’s me, pausing the episode so that I can sigh loudly and dramatically at my dog. And then we’re rolling again, here comes Nicole Jackson, followed by Amezzzzzzzzzzz ...

Intercut with all of this is Richmond getting a call from a mysterious stranger as the election results roll in. He has his driver take him to some house in the middle of nowhere. Inside a man asks him what’s the rush, is he in a hurry to make another speech about him? Richmond, Linden, and Holder all realize that Jamie lied to them in the same moment that we, the viewers, realize this show will stop at nothing to not have to think of new ideas. Because, ladies and gentlemen, we’re feeling pretty confident that that man in the house is none other than father/uncle/grandfather Ted Wright.

Photo: Carole Segal/AMC