I don’t know if Pastor Mike is the Pied Piper; with five more hours of The Killing to come after this episode, there’s still plenty of time for the cops to discover that they’ve got it all wrong, and that the P.M. is just a harmless creepy guy who stole a dead man’s identity so that he could have a solid excuse to spend his days hanging out with kids, and his nights looming up behind them in a sinister fashion. But from the start of the season, he’s always looked good for it. This isn’t because he seemed such a likely candidate, but because he was any kind of candidate, in a show that doesn’t have many of them. In its first two seasons, The Killing kept trying to pin the murder on one supporting character after another, the way House used to treat his patients by treating them for one possible ailment after another until he found the treatment that didn’t make their kidneys shut down and their face turn blue.
Viewers not blessed with medical degrees tended to be forgiving of House for all his shots in the dark, because what the hell do we know? But there are only so many murder shows you can watch before you start thinking that this isn’t so hard. The Killing learned the hard way that TV cops can only arrest the wrong person so many times before viewers begin to feel that they’re being played for idiots by worse idiots. So this season, The Killing hasn’t laid out that many possible suspects; Mills doesn’t even count, because he seemed such a likely suspect that anyone watching from the confines of his living room could see that he didn’t do it, and this was borne out when Skinner decided that he absolutely had to have done it. When it comes to strewing the screen with possible suspects and potential red herrings, The Killing is now a little like a reformed drunk who can't trust himself to have cooking sherry in the house and sometimes thinks about pouring the lighter fluid down the drain, just to be on the safe side.
If Pastor Mike is our man, much of the blame for the cops’ failure to wrap him up like a Christmas ham and neatly chuck him in a cell has to be laid at Holder’s feet. It hurts me to say it, but the better the man gets at repartee, the more he seems to shut down the part of his brain that ought to be focused on police work. Or just on developing a poker face. The scene in tonight’s episode where Holder and Linden talk to Pastor Mike after he practically catches them digging for bodies on his front lawn is supposed to tip the P.M. that the jig is up. But seriously, he ought to start pricing flights to Sweden after the first scene in his office, when Holder looks at him, grins, and almost starts drooling. I expected Pastor Mike to tell Holder that he’s not his type, but instead, he says that the kids at the shelter touch his heart because “Nobody misses them.” When Holder says, hey, funny thing, that’s probably just what the killer thinks, you have to wonder if Holder learned to be a detective from a how-to book he ordered from Acme. (Still, the scene almost justifies its existence just for Pastor Mike’s line when Linden notes that there are way more photos of girls than boys on the wall. “Girls like getting their pictures taken,” he shrugs.)
The only person who doesn’t think that Pastor Mike is the Pied Piper is Bullet. In her estimation, he’s “like, the only guy in Seattle who’s not a pedophile.” Bullet and Lyric are now officially a couple, and Bullet, who needs to step up and provide proper shelter for her sweetie on a rainy night, has arranged for Lyric to sleep over at the Pastor’s house, it having been well-established that there’s no room at the shelter or anywhere else. I’m not sure where Bullet is when Lyric is alone in the house with Pastor Mike, who, his spidey sense telling him that the cops are on their way over to pay their respects with a battering ram, sidles up to her and starts moaning about how rough he’s had it: “You don’t even look like yourself after awhile. You wonder if people notice.” (I think David Byrne said it best: “Changed my hairstyle so many times now, I don’t know what I look like!”) Bex Taylor-Klaus has sold me on the notion that anything that comes out Bullet’s mouth is pure street wisdom; it’ll feel like cheap, shitty nihilism if it turns out that the show gave her Lyric just so it could take her away, and then gave Bullet a blind spot where Pastor Mike was concerned, just so he could be free to do the taking. Here’s hoping this is just a place-setting episode before the grand climax, which will turn out to be good that it’s worth putting up with a little obvious contrivance in the home stretch.
- Meanwhile, on death row, it’s been as good as said aloud that Ray Seward is innocent. (Linden says it aloud to Skinner, who does not disagree, but they say it in his office, just to each other, in soft whispers.) Yet the guards all keep giving him shit about how they have to build a gallows and weigh him and everything before they can hang him, as if he’s the jerk. If Becker the asshole guard isn’t turning into the most thankless part on the show, I don’t know who’s got him beat. I almost wish his son would turn out to be the Pied Piper; it wouldn’t make any sense, but it would go well with his smirk.