Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Killing: “Donnie Or Marie”

Illustration for article titled The Killing: “Donnie Or Marie”

You can tell a lot about an episode of The Killing from its car chats. Railroad warning lights presage a scuzzy, propulsive adventure, a shadowy silence yields no answers, and greenish haze suggests impressions. This week, Linden and Holder are crystal clear in that magnificent front seat landscape. It's exciting to see the detectives so lucid. The camera can't sit still, but it sticks to the subjects, waiting for a direction. Linden and Holder might just crack the Rosie Larsen case.

Linden achieves this liberation through a last-ditch ultimatum with Mayor Adams: Call off her arrest and give her latitude to solve the Larsen case, or Linden will spill about the faked photo Adams planted to incriminate Richmond. It helps that Linden emphasizes that Adams is not a suspect. Picking up where "Bulldog" left off, the wild opening shots of "Donnie Or Marie" finally settle on a wide shot of Adams' office, Linden wheeling and dealing as the city lights reflect over them. With that, the cops circling Linden and Holder vanish, and the stakes suddenly downshift. Even the elusive refrigerator artist leaves Linden alone this week. In exchange, The Killing gets to play procedural again, which is always a double-edged sword. Police work is finally getting done, but what took so long?

Linden and Holder spend 45 minutes cross-examining Councilwoman Yitanes and checking records and intimidating the Wapi Eagle's chief of security—she of the broken fingers—to realize what anyone could have told them after the suspect list whittles down to Jamie or Gwen, the titular "Donnie Or Marie." Why Richmond's off the list is a mystery best left to people who remember what happened on this show before it got good. Personally, I could have used a refresher about why his unwitnessed suicide attempt is such an airtight alibi, but nothing short of Richmond lobbying AMC on a space opera could convince me that guy's all good.

Anyway, if the killer is either Jamie or Gwen, then it's obviously Jamie. Gwen went out of her way last week, not just physically but emotionally, to call in a favor to help solve the Larsen case. She claims her keycard, found bloody at the alleged scene of the crime, went missing from her purse, which is awfully confrontational language for "I lost it," but the story is plausible. The dangling thread is a suddenly canceled meeting with Yitanes on the night of the killing. Gwen claims she was worried about Richmond and wanted to see him, which also makes more sense than anything anyone else has ever said on this show, so from where I sit, Gwen's in the clear. If only Richmond had her facility with a soap opera pause. I did the sleepy version of a stand-up fist-pump when Gwen dismisses Holder: "And if you continue to harass me or anyone else involved in this campaign I will have you shoveling reindeer shit at the Christmas parade. Do I make myself clear?"

On the other hand, does it make sense for Jamie to have killed Rosie Larsen? Duh-doy. Hell, I even joked last week about how in-character it would be for fanatical Jamie to assassinate a rival candidate to help Darren accede to power, though I'm not convinced his motives are so clear. The scene where the detectives confront Jamie at the office presents him as a formidable figure, the camera angling so that it appears Jamie is crowding Linden out of the frame without even moving. If that score is any indication, the composer for The Killing, Frans Bak, thinks Jamie definitely murdered Rosie, but he's lied to us before. What "Donnie Or Marie" confirms is that Rosie Larsen went up to the tenth floor of the Wapi Eagle Casino on the night of  her murder, followed by Chief Jackson, Michael Ames, and Jamie in short succession. Of the three of them, The Killing has revealed Ames and Jackson to be violent and Jamie to be just shifty. Eventually, Rosie wound up in the trunk of a campaign car driven earlier that night by Gwen. Who's to say who killed Rosie? Maybe Jamie lost the keycard, and it got bloody later, in the totally unrelated Rosie Larsen murder.

However all of this wraps up (and I suspect the plot will make less sense than ever in next week's finale), "Donnis Or Marie" delivers a suspenseful cliffhanger using the exact same cross-cutting technique as seen in "Bulldog." The difference is that last week cut between an absorbing dramatic scene and an energetic detective scene while "Donny Or Marie" cuts between two thrilling mysteries surfing each other's wakes. Instead of falling through the dramatic pauses, the momentum carries all the way through the finale. While Linden and Holder watch the security camera footage, making sure to give the audience time to read the label on the DVD, Richmond is dealing with a mysterious phone call. "Who is this?" he growls in profile. The party background is blurry, the sound an unfocused din. When he looks over his shoulder, he sees Donnie and Marie toasting to their perfect murder, or something, as the frame dissects a black-and-white campaign portrait of Darren smiling like a killer. The reverse shot is even better, a staffer clad in black darkening up the left while the councilman sits just so he's doubled in a mirror. Perhaps his Mr. Hyde is resurfacing? The delicately deployed establishing shots this season are essential, and the final act of "Donnie Or Marie" opens with a dark, moody push on a nearby island. Richmond shows up at the house of Ted Wright, who is surprisingly two-legged for a guy whom Richmond claims lost a leg. Suddenly, Jamie barges in, dutifully obeying absurd blocking that requires him to be surprised by the sight of a man who is right in front of him.


A close-up of Jamie from the security camera provides the haunting final image of "Donny Or Marie." The angle of the camera positions him awkwardly, and the lighting turns his brow into cliffs. By obscuring his expression, the pixilated low definition suggests he's hiding something. The frame shaves his head, further differentiating the Jamie we think we know from the Jamie who definitely killed Rosie Larsen (but who is actually the prestigious Final Red Herring). As the camera pushes in on the security camera footage, Jamie's head moving just barely enough to confirm it's video, you can practically hear a local news announcer gravely intoning about looking into the eyes of a killer. We'll see.                                 

Stray observations:

  • Mitch's subplot is a wash. Her scenes with the kids are touching, her scene with Terry is ridiculous, and her scenes with Stan start great and fall apart. The conversation where Mitch and Stan sad-smile at each other about the new house is heart-witheringly beautiful for a second. Then it devolves into the expected Lifetime argument.
  • Everyone in Seattle is obsessed with the waterfront deal, but Janek's murder gets an "in other news" on the radio.
  • Yitanes is such a spitfire she enlivens even the Rosie Larsen case. Holder mispronouncing her name alone makes up for any plot holes.
  • The Wapi Eagle Casino has more in common with The Shining than the Native American graveyard and the prohibited rooms. The walls are bedecked with old photos, including one of Gwen and her father at the casino's grand opening.
  • Speaking of horror films, I may be a big Gwen fan now, but when she tells Richmond, "I tried so hard for you," the score from The Omen blared through my head.
  • Michael Ames' new business, Nereus, is named after a Greek titan associated with the sea. Oh, joy.
  • Nice, self-conscious joke when Holder floats the idea that Chief Jackson and her security chief are more than co-workers. Linden just smiles, "Did you just figure that out?"
  • More meta, this time courtesy of Jamie: "Do you tell your lieutenant every time you have a hunch that could lead to nowhere?"