Okay, so let me get this straight.
At the end of last season, Linden quit because she couldn’t handle any more dead women, whether they be married mothers who were also prostitutes or A-plus-student runaways who were also secret casino waitresses. Then, after being given a second chance to learn from its mistakes, this show 8x FFWD’d its way through her arc from last season, culminating in her taking a new jogging path where she discovers a symbolic dying cow. This naturally sends her to the house of a fully functioning witness to the crime that’s consumed her for years, where she proceeds to not ask him any questions about the new vital clue he drew a picture of, but instead uses that drawing, Goonies-treasure-map style, to find a swamp full of seventeen dead bodies that no one has ever discovered before. Guys, do you know what this means?
Last week, I was all for being open-minded. I really was. But if things are going to get so bumbled this early on, I can’t be expected to just look the other way. I will admit I’m a little relieved. Having this show be logical was disrupting my sense of the order of the world a little bit. It could still straighten itself up. Until then, though, let’s talk about the scene where Linden becomes a detective again. I rewound the moment where Skinner gives her badge back three times because I was sure that what he was actually handing her was a brand-new iPhone, still in its little white box. It goes to show that just because packaging may evoke associations with a slick product, it doesn’t mean that what’s inside will actually deliver. The same way an atmospheric setting doesn’t guarantee good television.
The dead bodies that were found in the swamp were teenage girls killed three to five years ago, within a six-month period. The mysterious floating red blotches we ended on last week were biohazard bags. Our killer is a conscientious type, not wanting to infect our waters, even if it means disposing of his (her?) victims in brightly colored plastic bags with warning labels printed all over them. Two of the girls are identified by the end of the episode, both teenage runaways. “Throwaway kids, all of them,” says Linden to Holder. “Not Ashley,” he points out, who was the girl whose body they found last episode. “She still ended up the same place though, didn’t she?” says Linden, because in The Killing’s universe all paths of life lead to the same seedy underbelly. It doesn’t matter if the connections are actually sound. Peter Sarsgaard’s wife doesn’t fit the profile either, since she was not only not a discarded teenager but a loving mother. Which makes her practically a unicorn on this show, the kind of fantastical creature you just hear legends about.
Even so, the fact that Linden used Adrian’s drawing to find the bodies should be compelling enough evidence for Skinner to at least entertain the idea of Peter Sarsgaard’s innocent, but he’s not having any of it. Perhaps because even he’s not able to explain how she did this. When one of the cops asks him how the bodies were found in the debriefing, he’s all, “Anonymous tip,” because what the hell else is he supposed to say? That his ex-partner identified a child’s stick-tree formation now that a warehouse had been magic-markered in? But it’s still a total coincidence?
Skinner tells the cops not to get carried away thinking that there’s a Hannibal Lecter–like serial killer on the loose. But if anything, the investigation seems pretty subdued. Holder and Linden separately go looking for Bullet, because of what she said about Kallie being missing (I was mistaken in calling Bullet a cross-dresser last week. No disrespect was intended. She’s a lesbian who is often mistaken for a boy because her hair is short and she wears, well, traditionally boy-seeming clothes. Like I said last week, I thought the actress was a boy at first.) Holder finds her first and she tells him about Goldie, the pimp who raped and beat her. She doesn’t mention the rape (because she doesn’t want to be a rat, even though that seems like an unwise move), but she leads Holder to Goldie’s rave den where a stash of kiddie porn is found. That’s enough to bring him in but not enough to hold him. Holder and his wet blanket of a partner spend most of the episode together in their car. “Department’s best guys out here chasing pimps without pants around their ankles,” he grumbles. I’m having a hard time believing this guy’s claim of being such a stellar detective if he doesn’t believe in stakeouts or footwork. A regular McNulty, this guy, always dying to go back to the office to file some paperwork. I’m sure Holder misses Linden even though she’s being all mean to him, too, pissed that she spent all day looking for Bullet when he already had her. Maybe Veena Sud reacted to people poking fun at her fondness for flip phones by getting rid of all forms of electronic communication entirely? I think it’s safe to say that we’re all crossing our fingers that enough money was found in the budget was for a future Bockmail appearance.
Without Bullet to not ask questions of, Linden instead decides to pick a super-savvy location to fail to get answers from Adrian: the playground of his elementary school. She sidles up to him all suspiciously, this traumatized child who most likely saw a stranger slice the throat of his mother, calls him by his name, and holds up his tree drawing. She doesn’t tell him that it’s been hanging on her fridge for the past three years and so it’s the first thing she sees every morning, but she might as well have. He says he wants to see his dad and then a teacher calls over to him, clearly freaked out by this grown woman whose just hanging out talking to little kids inside the school fence and so Linden, of course, takes out her new badge and calmly explains the situation. Just kidding! She glances furtively over at the teacher, hurriedly tucks the drawing back into her sweater, and speed walks away. Nothing shady about that.
I still like Bullet even though that appears to be a divisive opinion. I mean, I’m fine with the actress at least. Perhaps the memory of the last teenager runaway we spent a significant amount of time with on this show isn’t as fresh in your minds as it is in mine. As long as she doesn’t start pirouetting, I’m going to cut her some slack.
Peter Sarsgaard, meanwhile, is slipped a razor in a bar of soap, which it seems like he’s going to use to slit one of the guard’s throats but instead uses it to carve a tattoo off his chest.* He’s rushed to the hospital. I’m sure he’ll survive and will probably use the blade to kill the whole prison hospital staff, which we’ll then overlook once he’s proven to be innocent. He’s also joined by a chatty inmate neighbor who I’m going to just mute whenever I see him onscreen.
We end with Holder and Linden discovering Kallie in one of Goldie’s kiddie-porn videos. The same dramatic music plays that is always supposed to serve as a sort of elbow to the ribs that something surprising has just been revealed, but discovering that Callie is actually in danger or that the one verified bad guy was involved in some way could not be less of a shock. Really, the only question we have right now is a two-parter: How many episodes until Holder and Linden become partners again, and then once they do, how many episodes after that until this show becomes more third-season Moonlighting than not?
* This recap originally read, “swallows [a razor] so as to cause a great deal of internal bleeding.”