The Killing: "A Soundless Echo"
B+

The Killing: "A Soundless Echo"

B+

The Killing

"A Soundless Echo"

Season 1, Episode 4

Just a few weeks into its run, The Killing has already established a clear storytelling pattern: Each episode ends with an enticing lead that, within the first few minutes of the following episode, proves to be a red herring. The writers have to draw the mystery of "who killed Rosie" out for 13 hours, so there are bound to be dozens of dead ends along the way. I just hope that the formula isn’t quite so predicable going forward, or we may have a House problem on our hands.

Tonight, the first order of business for Linden and Holder is interrogating Jasper and Kris. Just as several astute commenters predicted, the girl in the infamous tape turns out to be Sterling, not Rosie. In a conversation with Linden, Sterling reveals that she went down into the cage with Kris and Jasper and that the blood at the scene was from her nosebleed. While Sterling's confession certainly conjures up some pretty disturbing images, I, for one, feel weirdly relieved that it wasn’t Rosie in the video. 

One thing I am enjoying about the show is how it delves into the darker side of adolescence. Rosie’s death represents a tragic and more extreme manifestation of teenage angst, but there are elements about her story that are, if not universal, at least relatable. For example, her relationship with Sterling appears to be one of those poisonously competitive friendships at which teenage girls excel. Sterling, perhaps jealous of Rosie’s good looks and sick of living in her shadow, was more than willing to oblige Jasper and Kris’s invitation to the cage. "Don't you ever just want to feel like you're here?" is her explanation. Later, Sterling’s walking down the hall, headphones blasting Belle and Sebastian—of course—when a boy gropes her menacingly. Sterling hated feeling invisible, but her new-found notoriety is certainly much worse.

Sterling divulges a key piece of information: She’d barely seen Rosie in recent months, because she’d often skip class and take off on a city bus. Linden dispatches Holder to follow this clue, and he grumbles about being sent to do the grunt work while she cozies up to the Linden family, though, frankly, it’s not like they’re a whole lot of fun to be around. Holder’s investigation leads him to the end of the bus line, a neighborhood where white girls like Rosie are a novelty. He trails a guy wearing a Fort Washington jacket to what appears to be some kind of youth center. (Side note: Wasn’t Richmond offering Yitanes’ husband a plumbing contract at youth centers around the city? Could this be the connection between Rosie’s murder and the Richmond campaign?) The center is decked out with Richmond for Mayor posters, but the real discovery is an “After School Hoops” team picture that includes Bennet, Rosie’s teacher.

Meanwhile Linden, scoping out Rosie’s room, discovers a secret cache of letters from Bennet, hidden in a globe lamp. “Dear Rosie, you're an old soul in a young person's body," reads one letter, which ends with the line, "it is a soundless echo." After hours at school, Bennet runs into Mitch, and, after telling her what a great student Rosie was, gives Mitch a book of poetry that Rosie liked. All signs indicate an affair, or at least an unusually close relationship, between Rosie and her teacher, but if the past two weeks have taught us anything, it’s to remain skeptical. (Again, kudos to the commenters who, way more perceptive than I am, suspected some kind of Rosie-Bennet dalliance all along.)

In most other ways, the goal of this episode is establishing character and fleshing out backstory, rather then propelling the plot forward—though, on a show like The Killing, these things are all related anyway. It was, relatively speaking, a quiet episode, where the writers dutifully laid the groundwork for future revelations. We're now a few weeks in, roughly a quarter of the way through the series, so it's time to settle in and get to know our main characters a little better. Here's what we learned: These folks sure have a lot of secrets.

Linden, as we already know, is not so great at the whole work-life balance. Tonight, her fiancé, Rick, shows up as a surprise, bearing a tray full of wedding cake samples. “I brought the tasting to you,” he says. Noticing the bandage on Linden’s arm, Rick asks, “It’s not happening again, is it?” She assures him that it—whatever “it” might be—is not. The exchange is infuriatingly cryptic. Has Linden cut herself in the past? Broken out in oozing, stress-related hives all over her body? I haven’t the faintest, but what seems clear is that Linden's tough exterior camouflages some deep emotional vulnerabilities.

In any case, Linden and Rick's romantic reunion is short-lived. On a hunch—provoked by a crumpled pack of cigarettes (hers?) hidden in a pillow--Linden  dashes off to make one last search of Rosie's room. Hours later, Rick returns to the boat, where Jack sits alone in the dark. “She’s not here. Get used to it,” he says. At first, Rick is angered to discover that Jack’s been eating the wedding cake samples, but he immediately relents and suggests that the two of them finish the entire tray. There’s something manic and vaguely unsettling about the whole scene—especially the way Rick devours a whole slice in a single bite. I’m willing to stake money on it: Rick is bad news.

Stan has even more secrets. He reveals to Belko that, before Rosie’s death, he’d secretly bought a new house for the family. (A note to spouses everywhere: Buying a house as a “surprise” is, as a rule, not a good idea.) Belko graciously extends an offer to “do something about that Richmond guy… like old times.” Stan doesn't take him up on the offer, but we can divine that Stan had a checkered past—maybe in organized crime or the like. With a mortgage and now a funeral to pay for, Stan, in desperation, turns to one of his old “associates” for a loan. On one hand, it will be interesting to see just what Stan will have to do to repay his debt. At the same time, I’m hoping the (possible) mafia/crime connection doesn't prove to be too central. Rosie the victim of a mob hit? That would just be too, well, boring

Last but not least is Darren Richmond, whose campaign is floundering in the wake of Rosie’s murder. He desperately needs donations to fund a media blitz, and so, at Gwen’s behest, he goes to a party thrown by Tom Drexler, a young, “rebellious” (you can tell from his beard), Ayn Rand-worshipping bazillionaire with money to throw around. Tom, it turns out, wants to build a stadium on the waterfront, but the current mayor’s development plans are getting in the way (a mayor who isn’t trying to build another stadium—now that’s a rarity). Darren makes no promises regarding the stadium, but Tom hands him a check for $50,000 anyway. We discover that Darren is originally “a rich kid from Connecticut” but that he came out west 25 years ago and that he genuinely wants to defeat Adams, who’s been “robbing the city for almost a decade.” Before the episode is over, there’s one last wrinkle: It turns out Jamie—who appeared to have been fired last week—is working as a double-agent, trying to get Mayor Adams to reveal that he planted the leak about Rosie’s murder. How Richmond figured this out, or when he rehired Jamie, is anyone's guess. It’s all very interesting, I suppose, but I’m finding it hard to care enormously about this storyline just yet; as far as secrets go, "I'm actually from Connecticut" is not exactly earth-shattering.

Stray observations:

  • Kris tells Holder, "They know you got the itch like me." Is/was Holder a junkie, too? (Not that that would be surprising, exactly...)
  • Gwen's dad is a Senator. Somehow this makes me trust her less than I already do, which is not a lot.
  • The scene where the Larsens spot the crime-scene photos was harrowing; I can't decide whether Linden did the right thing in the first place by lying to them about Rosie's suffering.

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