“What I Know” is so unconvincing it feels like a sullen teenager’s rebuke to an audience invested in answers. Happy now? Speaking for myself, not really. I couldn’t believe how little all this resolution affected me after The Killing so thrillingly took my grudging engagement for a ride a few weeks ago. This is the same show that delivered Richmond’s hospital nightmare, the hunt for Holder, the anti-Western standoff, “Sayonara, Hiawatha,” and the crazy train of the last two weeks? No, this is the full-circle episode, the one that takes the show back to its roots. Wah wah.
That’s not exactly right, though. Yes, The Killing quickly reverts to a slower pace with scenes more rooted in everyday life, but the early going was over-felt. “What I Know” is severely under-felt, not a numbing emotional assault but a numb, emotional daze. Jamie unravels so quickly (and so comically) that it’s hard to reconcile this guy with the cunning manipulator, a disconnect that leeches his panic of agency. And since the mystery is seemingly over, the confused chaos isn’t an exciting runway train but the wreck at the end instead.
Then it’s decompression time, with two whole acts of forced banality as characters pick up the pieces and move on. At last The Killing lives up to its absurd twisty brilliance when Linden notices the busted tail-light on Terry’s car, but then we strap in for another five-minute tour de tears. At the end, Linden stands in an alley, drinking in her city of polite cyclists and forgotten Muslims. Even she is unfulfilled by all this. Linden’s the only thing in focus as she walks down the sparsely populated sidewalk, and eventually, she walks past the camera as the blurry city cuts to black. Inscrutability masquerading as meaning. Now there’s a twist I’ve seen before.
The real surprise is that beautiful, human moment of Mitch receiving Terry’s hug. “What I Know” is littered with bits that feel like bad improv, even from the show’s strongest cast members—Holder trying to guard Stan, Gwen holding off Linden and Holder, Jamie arguing with Michael Ames—but Mitch standing there in shock, making sense of this woman who’s been so good and so horrible to her kids, that is precisely the kind of humanity those slow, early domestic scenes are searching for.
As for answers, “What I Know” reveals that Jamie punched Rosie to the floor at the casino, and later, Michael helped Jamie stuff Rosie into a trunk. Michael starts screaming about how he’s not going to kill the girl in the trunk, and he’s not going to leave his wife, as killers do, and Terry overhears from his car. And that’s enough for her to slink out in her pantyhose and heels and do the job the men can’t stomach, or something. Director Patty Jenkins shoots it like a Beau Soleil ad, because it’s sexy seeing a scorned woman try to exert some control by killing someone who turns out to be her niece. Jamie the fanatical killer I buy. Terry? How Fatal Attraction.
And what do the answers mean? For a show about death, this one is awfully uninterested in Jamie’s. Rosie died for being in the wrong place at the wrong time—twice, technically. All this cascading misery flows forth from a fountain of ambition and amour fou, like a film noir (or two) with no perspective. Though “What I Know” throws a few bones to the Darren Richmond skeptics, The Killing hasn’t really explored either subject, though it’s circled around the block. Perhaps if Darren had actually made some moral concessions to power, this resolution would feel unified. Instead, the point is that bad things happen. Even to occasionally good shows, bad things happen.
The stylistic flourishes that usually help The Killing go down more smoothly only feel empty here. “What I Know” opens with Rosie screaming, and it turns out to be a howl of delight. The camera floats like a ghost around the Larsen home in a flashback to when Rosie was alive. The shot is echoed in a later scene where Linden creeps down the hallway to confront Terry. So much meaninglessness. On the bright side (pre-pun alert), the establishing shot of sunrise over Seattle comes the day after Jamie’s mayhem. For all its muddled tone, “What I Know” does deliver the pulpy delight of a killer with a flashlight in the woods. And probably my favorite touch is how, in the early scenes where everyone’s racing to get to that big showdown, Gwen stops to make a call, but the camera keeps pulling back. It’s got places to be, Gwen!
A potential third season could go either way (or more likely both at once), but I hope “What I Know” isn’t how The Killing goes out, even though it’s hilariously representative of the whole. With the Larsen case over, the show has a fresh start for a new season with a new consistency. And I, for one, can’t wait to find out who left that picture on Linden’s refrigerator.