The Killing: “Head Shots”
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The Killing: “Head Shots”

On The Killing, the case is stalled, but the show is quietly bubbling along. It’s powered by the confrontations and outbursts that keep erupting, from the many suppressed pockets of resentment and hostility that keep the show’s pulse alive. All the characters are miserable to some degree, but the show is alive. It’s even faintly political. There’s an angry, underclass defiance to a character like the motel manager played by Grace Zabriskie, whose response to a bunch of cops showing up armed with warrants and threats to knock down every door in the joint can only be: Bring it on. Dragged into the station, Zabriskie doesn’t claim to be astonished that somebody made a porn tape with an underage girl on her premises; she insists that she made it herself, by herself. “I’m a modern woman. I do it all. Now, where’s my soda?”

There may be a touch of admiration for the hateful old woman. The Killing admires characters who play their cards close to the vest and suffer in silence. So far, the hero of this season is Bullet, the street kid who wants to feed the pimp Goldie to the cops, if it’ll lead to the truth about her missing friend, though Bullet draws the line at coming right out and admitting that Goldie raped her. Tonight’s show is most fun when Bullet and Holder, the hip-hop cop who’s into health food, are rubbing up against each other, working on their rapport. Bullet tells Holder, who’s munching a carrot, that he looks like “a big, hairless, albino Bugs Bunny.” Holder takes it really well: “I like rabbits. And Bugs Bunny’s the bomb.” The two of them end up trading trivia about rabbits’ eyelids and the limitations of their digestive process—probably to Bullet’s delight, since reciting facts about animals are her fallback mode whenever small talk is required. But she’s casual about it.

The strangest chemistry is between Bullet and Twist, the aspiring actor-model—“I can’t go back to juvie!” he tells his probation officer. “I’m supposed to go to L.A. next month. I got my head shots and my hair and everything!”—who’s the boyfriend of Lyric, the girl Bullet is in love with. Bullet has no way of telling Lyric how she feels. But last week, when Lyric was threatening to go out on the streets to raise a little money for the big move to L. A., Bullet dissuaded her by telling her that, if she got herself murdered, the cops would think Twitch did it. It was as close as anyone on this show is ever likely to be mistaken for Cyrano de Bergerac.

Tonight, Bullet stoically attaches herself to Twitch and keeps an eye on him when he’s wandering the streets in a traumatized, self-destructive fog after that parole officer takes advantage of him. “I don’t do that,” Twitch protests. “I’m not gay.” “Neither am I,” shrugs the parole officer. Like the scene in which Linden asks the missing girl’s mother if she knows her daughter was working as a prostitute, and the mother replies, “It’s just a phase,” it’s a reminder that it may be better just to not say anything to the adults on this show. They’re likely to take it as an invitation to say something back, and the odds that it’s something nobody would want to hear are overwhelming.

Certainly Ray Seward looks more and more noble as he continues to get quieter and quieter. Seward comes as close as he ever has to proclaiming his innocence—and the show comes as close it ever has to pumping its fist and shouting “Amen!”—when he tells the other guy on death row that it’s obvious that he’s guilty of the crime of which he was convicted, because he never shuts up about it. When his new friend protests that talking about his case is a way of keeping hope alive, Seward sneers, “Hope’s the same as faith. Bitch’ll get you killed faster than this place ever will.” When Seward refuses to take his prescribed medication, the more seasoned and Cro-Magnon of the death row guards—i.e., the one who wasn’t Chief on Battlestar Galactica—forces him to cooperate by whaling on the other prisoner, and the surprise is that Seward turns out to give a shit. The other surprise is that, after Seward gulps down his pills, the bloody heap in the next cell complains that he gave in too easy. “I could’ve taken a lot more,” he says.

As for the cops, their main focus—besides Holder demonstrating his way with the ladies—is on tearing each other down. Holder’s current partner, Reddick, can’t believe that Holder doesn’t want to join him in talking shit about his former partner, Linden. He keeps saying that Linden is career poison who can’t teach him any of the tricks that have gotten Riddick—where, exactly? Linden finally can’t take it anymore and tells sums Riddick up, to his face: “22 years of experience, and all you are is in the way.” She says it all quiet and soft-spoken, too, adhering to this show's belief that a sucker punch hurts that much more if the person on the receiving end has to strain to hear it over the sound of the rain falling. Here’s hoping that a distraught Riddick doesn’t stagger down to where the skate punks hang out and get his ass kicked. Much as I like Holder, he's not worth that.

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