The Killing: “Ogi Jun”
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The Killing: “Ogi Jun”

C

The Killing

“Ogi Jun”

Season 2, Episode 4

Well, that was exciting!

After spending an hour doing actual policework, Linden and Holder finally track down Alexi Giffords, the culprit with the manga tattoo working for Stan Larsen and/or Janek the mobster. He escapes, but his sparsely furnished place becomes an immediate crime scene crawling with cops. But none of them discovers what Linden does: a sketchbook drawing of Rosie helpfully labeled “Rosie” and half-heartedly scratched out by either a kid who wasn’t actually that ashamed of his drawing or an art department who really wants us to be sure it’s Rosie Larsen in the picture. And now we know one thing for sure: Alexi Giffords definitely did not kill Rosie Larsen.

And I was this close to suggesting season two was maybe showing signs of change. Who knows? Maybe this one isn’t a season-one-style slipknot connected to the next in a long, sadistic series of chain-yankings. Maybe Alexi Giffords did kill Rosie Larsen and The Killing is preparing to solve one case and open another. Or maybe Alexi didn’t kill Rosie, and Linden will figure it out as soon as possible, so we can get on with the case. But experience says we’ll be spending another hour chasing geese, unable to get away from the stench of rotting fish in this lugubrious town. Smart money says Alexi drew Rosie for class, and it was probably graded by Bennett Ahmed.

Of course, the jury is still out on this latest twist, though it certainly seems like an extraordinarily redundant measure. Under the writing of Jeremy Doner and the direction of Phil Abraham, the team behind season one’s inauspicious “Super 8,” most of “Ogi Jun” shows genuine promise. It’s still The Killing, with the overwrought colors, lighting, and writing of freshmen Greek tragedy. And the whole point is, I don’t know, that horror cascades outward like some anti-Friday Night Lights, so don’t kill people, please. But nothing suggests the humility to change like last week’s joke about all the rain. There was barely any precipitation on-screen last week, and this week, there’s a slight drizzle to everything, and the effect is immediate. Two drops wind their way down a hospital window as Jamie chats with a teary Gwen on the phone about Darren’s morning routine. With just a suggestion of sadness and gloom, there’s room for the audience to fill in the gap, which works wonders for a genre that thrives on audience involvement.

The camerawork has also been surprisingly sharp these past two weeks, really bringing out the emotions by not rubbing our faces in a bloody public suicide or drowning the audience in a thousand tears. Last week’s “Numb” was directed by Brad Anderson, the horror-drama auteur behind The Machinist and Session 9, a perfect choice to help shepherd the final stretch of the tonally similar Rosie Larsen case. Phil Abraham, notable for his work on The Sopranos and Mad Men, manages to find some color in his sets and even sets up Alexi’s mother with the Don Draper special, shooting her from behind as she sits on the couch holding up a cigarette. Another shot has Jamie speaking to an offsceen Darren, only his frozen feet visible in the shot. “Ogi Jun” doesn’t wander from subplot to subplot. Like its narrative—did I mention there’s actual policework?—it’s procedural, sensibly transitioning from a dim golden car scene to an urban stakeout, for instance. There’s a rare cleanliness to “Ogi Jun,” a comprehensible purpose guiding its construction.

Which brings us to the narrative. Linden and Holder immediately restore the status quo—he confesses his almost unbelievably limited involvement in the conspiracy, she chides him for trusting the wrong people, and they resume the case with him subordinate to her—and follow a Larsen van back to Janek’s Polish-restaurant-cum-base-of-operations.

There's no sign of the tattoo, but they do finally realize that they’re about two weeks late looking into Stan Larsen’s criminal past. Apparently, about 17 years ago, Janek was trying to expand his small-time racket, and Stan solidified his loyalty by executing another enforcer who was skimming off the top, Pyotr Mikhaelsky. Possibly of note to cops investigating the murder of a girl found in a trunk is that her father once bound a man, stuffed him a trunk, and shot him in the head, but there’s no time like the present. They interview Pyotr’s then-girlfriend Monica and determine pretty quickly that she couldn’t have killed Rosie as revenge. They interview Rosie’s best friend, and she recognizes the tattoo as belonging to a guy she once saw outside Rosie’s house whom Rosie said had been in prison. They interview the guy who does tattoos at juvie, and with a well-placed candy bar bribe, Linden gets the street name Gifs out of him.

Gifs was a foster kid, so next Linden hits up Regi for some intel. Regi gets a co-worker to give Linden Gifs’ file, and it turns out Gifs is actually Alexi Giffords upon adoption, but he was born to Pyotr and Monica. What’s more, Monica gave him up just after Stan Larsen killed Pyotr. There’s a brief foot-chase, but Alexi escapes, leaving Linden and Holder to discover his drawing, the one annoying weight attached to a nicely organized procedural.

Meanwhile Stan and Terry are trapped in the usual domestic tragedy, but only briefly. Stan sees the Beau Soleil fire on the news. Terry keeps her mouth shut. Terry reaches out to her married lover, but the wife answers, leaving her to cry alone with her cigarettes. But Stan spends most of “Ogi-Jun” on a procedural of his own. It starts with him going to recover Belko’s body, but Janek had already done so. So he meets Janek, who tips him off to the trouble that Tommy’s having at school. He drives by school just in time to see some kids pushing on Tommy at recess. Finding these little connections between wildly unconnected scenes gives Stan some momentum from scene to scene, keeping the pace up even while Linden and Holder are off-screen. Eventually, Stan discovers evidence of arson in his van, so he confronts Janek in a huff that sends Alexi sneaking out of the restaurant for his appointment with Holder. It’s very butterfly effect. The mobsters handily deal with Stan, who goes home with a new target of his rage. And then Monica shows up to exact her revenge: She tells him he got what he deserved.

Finally, Darren’s depressed and pushing everyone away, eventually telling Jamie to draft a resignation speech. Before that finale, though, Mayor Adams pays him a visit. Darren growls about what made the police so certain he killed that girl, just short of accusing the mayor of extraordinarily foul play. The mayor smiles like a good villain, and Jamie says, “You’ve got a lot of nerve coming in here.” It’s practically Detective Comics, and that’s a good thing. These pulpy narrative tropes would sizzle if The Killing would just embrace its genre. But, like so many contemporary television dramas and B-movies with exorbitant budgets, it’s stuck straddling the expansive gulf between its origins—muscular, exploitative, low-rent crime pulp—and its aspirations—long-form prestige drama. So it winds up settling for shallow melodrama, deeply invested in the inner lives, well, inner griefs of all these characters connected to this single crime without much animating thematic purpose. It’s constantly dusting off the old dark discoveries and presenting them as new insights, when simply crafting a cold, hard narrative is more than enough.

Stray observations:

  • Jeremy Doner doubles the laughs this week! There’s a funny, almost slapstick-y moment where Darren wants Jamie to put him in his wheelchair, shouting, “Come on,” and Jamie says, “I’m trying. You’re, like, twice my weight.” And there’s a bit where Holder is razzing Linden for hooking up with a fed, saying, “Oh, snap, Linden rocked a booty call. Dial 1-900-Linden.” She barely smiles, slowly turns, and says, “That’s not even enough numbers.” Okay, so these aren’t that funny written out, but trust me, the performances sell the comedy.
  • Remember Jasper? He’s in the background of the scene with Sterling, just standing there glowering at Linden.
  • Mireille Enos is playing it especially tight this season, and the reasons for her humorlessness keep mounting. Helo is suing her for joint custody due to neglect.
  • Also, there’s a feint at thematic heft toward the end, when Regi asks Linden, “How’d you like someone poking around in your file?” She immediately responds, “If it stopped a murder I’d be fine with it.” Maybe The Killing intends to explore the struggle between security and liberty, but for now it’s just a forebodingly zealous act-break.
  • The Larsen kids ask about Belko. “He’s been sick.” True story.
  • Holder's an omnivore again. In case that's a clue.

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