Let the record state: Sunday, May 15th was the day that Sarah Linden officially went rogue.
Overall, “Stonewalled” was a wildly uneven installment. There were many—too many—moments of absurdity, but there were also several long overdue developments that made this feel like the breakthrough episode we’ve been waiting for for weeks. For some time now, it’s felt like The Killing was in a kind of narrative and emotional deep freeze, and this is the episode where things finally began to thaw. It’s only regrettable that it took some high melodrama—not to mention terrorism and maybe even a little human trafficking—for the show to finally get there.
Back to Linden: for weeks, the taciturn, squinty protagonist of The Killing has toiled away in near silence, while the show has slowly doled out meager rations of her backstory. This week, Linden finally seemed to awake from a stupor, and she came out swinging—at Holder, at her son, and at those pesky Feds. And while it was practically cathartic to see Linden do something—anything—other than chew gum and peer off into the distance, Linden’s emotional outbursts and desperate attempts to recoup her files also felt somewhat forced.
From the beginning, we’ve gotten all kinds of foreboding suggestions that Linden can get “carried away” with her cases, and now we finally see it happen. When the investigation into Rosie’s murder overlaps with an FBI terrorism inquiry, the Feds win out. This means that all of the evidence from the case—including the new evidence from the mysterious meat locker—will be turned over. Linden is fully aware (as, let’s face it, so are we) that Rosie’s death had nothing to do with terrorism, but this latest twist serves two purposes: prolonging the “is Bennet a terrorist” subplot another week, and expediting Linden’s meltdown and our revelations about her past.
I think one of the reasons that The Killing, despite its significant potential, is so far just-kinda-okay, is that Rosie is just a big black hole at the center of the story. Instead of getting to know her through the investigation, we’re getting to know everyone else. (Ideally, of course, we’d be doing both.) This is a problem because it means we don’t care terribly about the identity of her killer—at least not on a visceral, I'd-pay-a-hundred-bucks-to-know-the-answer-now level. Murder mysteries should inspire obsessive, fevered speculation, and I doubt anyone feels that passionately about discovering the identity of Rosie’s killer. There is also something undeniably creepy about how irrelevant Rosie has become to her own murder. Finding her killer matters only slightly more than finding out why Linden almost lost her son, or what’s the deal with Mitch’s cuckoo sister.
Over at Richmond for Mayor HQ, Jamie uncovers a scandalous secret about Mayor Adams. He desperately wants to leak the information, but Darren and Gwen insist they are above such base personal attacks. “We go after policy, not character!” All the build-up made it seem like this secret was going to be a real doozy—perhaps Adams was really born in Kenya? Or was a patron of the Emperor’s Club? Or a raging meth addict? So, I have to say I was a little disappointed to find out that Adams was just having an affair with an intern. First of all: Boring! Second of all: That’s what Gwen refused to leak to the press? Two weeks back, when the City Council called an “emergency session” to de-fund the Seattle All-Stars program, some commenters thought I was a pie-eyed idealist for thinking it seemed a tad excessive. With this latest plot twist, I think the opposite is true: would any politician, even a relatively idealistic one, really hesitate to leak information about his opponent’s affair with an intern? Yeah, right.
In any case, Darren is no longer in the mood to play Mr. Nice Guy and, to Gwen’s surprise, he orders them to release the story. He changes his mind after attending a parole meeting for the woman who killed his wife (presumably in a drunk driving accident). She asks, humbly, for his forgiveness, but Darren does not appear ready to grant it. (He’d rather punch mirrors.)
The single most absurd moment of the episode has to be when Mitch “forgets” the boys in the garage, while the car motor is still running. Luckily Mitch’s crazypants sister arrives at just the right moment and is able to save the youngsters from certain doom. Understandably, Mitch is distracted by the photos of Rosie’s murder that have been leaked to the press, but I do think the show is really over-selling the whole “Mitch is so upset at losing one child that she’s endangering the others” thing. And while I appreciate that The Killing is trying to paint a realistic portrait of grief, I have to say that I dread the Larsen storylines more than any other. There’s just something about their grieving that feels clichéd (fighting over Rosie's bedroom) rather than specific. That, to me, seems like the crucial distinction. But at least Mitch's wallowing yielded a kernel of information: she was the overly strict parent, and Stan was the permissive one.
This week the stalemate between Linden and Holder finally reached a breaking point. Linden suspects that Holder leaked the crime scene photos—to pay off gambling debts, maybe, or to pay for some drugs. When she sees him getting into a car with his bald buddy, she follows him to what turns out to be—wait for it—a support group meeting for recovered drug addicts (I’m guessing Narcotics Anonymous, but who really knows). She watches from the hallway as Holder talks about his desperate junkie past and we learn that, at his lowest point, Holder stole an antique coin from his 7-year-old nephew. There was a staginess to the scene that felt a bit hokey, but still, the revelation was welcome.
For one thing, the endless hints about Holder’s past drug use were getting pretty tedious. More importantly, the discovery hastens the truce between Linden and Holder. He stops by Regi’s boat and tells Linden that he’s put a wiretap on Bennet’s phone. The show could desperately use at least one functional relationship (I’m using the word in its platonic sense) to help counteract all the misanthropy. Holder and Linden seem like an odd match, which in the world of cop shows, means they are destined for each other. When they manage to cooperate, they actually make a pretty good team. And dammit if Holder’s offer to drive didn’t make me smile just a bit--which is officially the first time that has happened to me while watching The Killing.
Before I go, I should acknowledge that, more than usual, the grade for this week’s episode feels extremely arbitrary. Sometimes a grade makes sense on an almost elemental level; other times it feels like a inadequate way to quantify the aesthetic accomplishments (and shortcomings) of an episode of TV. Tonight is one of those times. So, my rationale here is that, while “Stonewalled” had its share of C- moments, there were flashes of A potential in there, too. I’ve been giving The Killing lots of Bs and B-s, and it’s beginning to make me feel like the most wishy-washy critic of all time, but I like to think it’s really because the show isn’t bad, it’s also not particularly memorable. Watching the show doesn’t feel like an event, and I don’t get that instant, slightly depressed feeling once it's over. With The Killing, it’s more akin to, “Yeah, sure, I’ll watch that now.”
This week’s guilt-o-meter:
Guilty: Jake (he leaked the pictures in an elaborate attempt to foil the investigation into the murder)
Guiltier: Darren (that mirror-breaking thing was cheesy, but also sort of ominous)
Guiltiest: Belko (sure, we didn’t see him this week. But didn’t that make you wonder what he was doing?!)
- I liked the weird, disorienting opening scene even if the bedroom hidden in the meat freezer was a bizarre twist.
- I'm actually beginning to appreciate the fact that Linden's kind of a negligent mother. Her scene with Jack in the car tonight--where she basically sneers at his suggestion that he go live with his dad--seemed realistic to me. Sad, but realistic.
- Notice how, now that Bennet has been linked to suspected terrorists, the newscasters pronounce his last name “AHCKmed.”
- Possibly the most cringe-worthy moment of this episode was the scene with Jamie and Drexler at the cage match. Everything about it was overcooked and silly. (““I hate when they grapple like a bunch of bitches in heat.”)
- Or maybe it was the final moment, when we hear Bennet speaking on the phone in a foreign language (Arabic? Somali?) then—for our convenience—shouting something about passports in English. (Cut to the opening of next week’s episode, when we see Bennet dropping off his parents to the airport, and apologizing for the mix-up on the phone the night before.)
- I know that Mitch, constantly decked out in her galoshes and raincoat, is supposed to look depressed and dumpy, but to me she looks like a slightly unkempt L.L. Bean model.