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The Killing – Eminent Domain Review: Exemplary Acting and Some Necessary Plot Advancement

I’ve got to begin this week with some much-deserved props for Amy Steinmetz. I’ve said in previous reviews that she does the detached, indifferent parent with ablomb, and I stand by that assessment. But this week’s episode really gives her the chance to stretch her acting muscles, and stretch she does. She might paint a near perfect picture of a woman thrown into parenthood against her will, but wow, she nails unhinged and deranged, too. (Of course we have to throw some cold water on this acknowledgement by pointing out the inconsistent writing of Steinmetz’s character, Danette, but more on that later.)

The KillingI complained in last week’s review that “Scared and Running” didn’t feature a lot of action; I was right. Last week’s episode was an hour of rather pointless meandering. Tonight’s episode, “Eminent Domain” is an improvement on several fronts. The main storyline gets some actual forward momentum, we’re introduced to yet another red herring (i.e. suspect), and we’re treated to some actual, honest to goodness storyline progression when it comes to our favorite death row inmate, Ray Seward.

 

Let’s start with Danette, though. Steinmetz really brings it this week, but I can’t thoroughly enjoy her performance. Why? Because the writers spent a month writing her into a corner. Danette was, from the very beginning, thoroughly unlikeable and unsympathetic, and I actually rather appreciated the show’s willingness to allow her to be awful. But that made this week’s rapid transformation awfully difficult to believe (though Steinmetz is fantastic). If we had been given even the smallest hint that Danette loves her daughter, if Danette hadn’t confirmed to Kallie that her daughter messed up her life by being born, if she hadn’t blithely referred to Kallie’s prostitution as a “phase,” if she hadn’t ignored Kallie’s desperate call for a place to stay in order to spend time with creepy Joe, well, I might buy this sudden concern. If the writers had given us an inkling that Danette cared about Kallie at all, I might not find this so hard to swallow. But they didn’t. And now Danette is driving all over town, having barely escaped from Joe, who’s now missing (thanks Killing, for not making us endure a protracted chase/torture scene), and man, she is obsessed with the search for Kallie. She’s grilling Linden, sharing treasured childhood memories, and loitering by the river with Bullet. Okay, we get a (small) glimpse into Danette’s thought process, when she tells Linden that Kallie’s run off before, but she always comes home. So maybe (maybe) that’s why she hasn’t been concerned until now. No, on second thought, that’s just not enough. We have two more months together, show. Give me more to chew on or I’m going to assume you rewrote the character halfway through – which is really, really lazy.

The KillingBut Linden isn’t too concerned with Danette’s disapproval, because she’s not other things on her mind – namely, Angie, the prostitute and would-be victim whom she and Holder rescued in the veterinarian’s office last week. Physically, she appears to be recovering, though her memory is spotty. She remembers some key details, like the fact that the killer wanted to save her, but as for identifying details, including whether or not the killer is Joe Mills, she’s useless. Holder, bless him, understands, treating her compassionately, but Linden, not so much. By now we’re all used to Linden’s brusque, businesslike manner, but in the first scene, in which she and Holder question Angie, Linden is downright demanding and rude. Are we supposed to assume she’s going through something in private? Or is it the demands of the case, and the realization that she put the wrong guy away for Tricia Seward’s murder, leaving a deranged murderer on the loose? (Wait a second – prostitutes have been disappearing from Seattle for years, right? Why are the police just not investigating them? I know these girls are considered “throwaways,” but a few of them must have parents or friends or someone, right?) Anyway, Linden’s also in hot water personally. Neither Reddick nor Skinner is particularly happy to find out that she went to visit Adrian Seward, and at school no less, and Adrian’s foster parents are particularly apoplectic. Their son, they explain, is back to sleeping in the closet, he’s so frightened.

 

And just when we think this episode is going to be a lost cause for Linden, she has a moment that reminds us of why she’s such a good police officer (even if she’s not always a terrific person). Adrian used to sleep in a closet when he lived with his mother, and a quick trip to the Sewards’ apartment reveals that there’s no closet in the bedroom, but there is one (including glow in the dark stars) in the living room – which means Adrian probably saw his mother’s killer. Which means – fanfare please – he must know if the killer was his father or not. Finally! I’ve been trying to figure this out for weeks. So either Adrian knows that his father killed his mother and forgives him, or he knows Ray didn’t kill Tricia, and still loves him. I’m betting on the latter and so is Linden, although her plan to go see Adrian yet again seems unlikely. Skinner forbids her from contacting the boy, and he isn’t too happy to see her questioning their police work from five years before. What a great moment for Mireille Enos. She plays Linden so close to the vest, buttoned up and closed off, and it’s wonderful to see her genuinely emotional, as she tries to convince her boss to let her reopen the Seward case. Bravo.

The KillingMoving on to – at last! – a plotline for Ray Seward. He’s been languishing in that damn prison for weeks, exchanging sarcastic asides with prison guard Becker and platitudes with fellow inmate Alton (who, we learned last week, killed his own parents but earned forgiveness from his siblings). Alton features prominently in this episode, but before I can write his obituary, I have to yet again beg this show’s director to quit making the lighting so freaking dark. It’s at the worst times, too – during the most poignant, critical scenes (or at least I think they are), all of Seattle is plunged into darkness. But here’s what I get from this scene. Alton and Ray are discussing the upcoming bed check and then Alton’s first night in prison many years before, but Ray seems upset about something. He appears to be attempting to talk Alton out of something, then switches to encouragement. By the morning, Alton is hanging in his cell. Apparently Becker was supposed to be on that shift (or so says Henderson when he shows up late), but the cell was unmonitored, so Alton’s a goner. I’m guessing that we’re supposed to take the following from this scene: Ray Seward, who probably isn’t a murderer but is a jackass, cared about Alton enough to let him go, which is why he’s able to offer Alton encouragement even through tears. Sarsgaard really nails this scene, and the one after, during which Henderson asks, “Why didn’t you help him?” and Ray responds flatly, “I did.” Also, is this the worst guarded death row ever? Seriously, these are violent, high-risk prisoners, and no one was supervising them at all for hours? Who runs this prison, anyway? I had gotten a bit attached to Alton and his redemptive arc, and I’m sad to see him go. But I’m particularly thrilled to see Sarsgaard get some meaty material he can sink his teeth into. Ray isn’t quite so magnanimous with Linden, who shows up needing to see Adrian. He doesn’t seem moved by her admission that he’s innocent of Tricia’s murder (though I’m not sure how she made that leap from the revelation about Adrian’s closet, unless it was that combined with the similar MO of the current killer), and he is not interested in helping her. Um, assuming he’s innocent, I can’t really blame him. He’s also none too endeared to his father, a fellow inmate, whom he agrees to meet for some unspecified reason. Dear old Dad drank a lot, stole, and then left Ray and his mother to starve. Sounds like a real winner. Dad (whatever his name is) wants his due. He made Ray into a man, of course. He’s even proud of his son, who tells him through gritted teeth that dying in a jumpsuit doesn’t make a person a man. Well played. That said, I hope that scene doesn’t serve only to flesh out Ray’s character. I want to know more about this father, and I hope he ties into the main storyline.

 

And because it wouldn’t be The Killing without some hackneyed police work, Holder takes Angie’s tidbits about the killer’s movies, waxes poetic about a shepherd and his flock, and then concludes that the pastor who runs the homeless shelter must be the killer they’re looking for. Um…what? Now, I’ll be honest – I’ve suspected the pastor for awhile, and the array of photos he has pinned to the wall in his office really look like a display of victims’ photos. But this seems like a staggeringly large leap of logic for our dear Holder. I’ve got to assume he’s got some other evidence; we’ll hear about it later, right? Yes, the pastor is a bit creepy and territorial, and yes, the teens all seemed to have slept in his shelter, but I’ve gotten the distinct impression that this is the only shelter in town (yeah, right), and if the killer is picking off homeless prostitutes, well, of course they’re run into the Pastor; that connection doesn’t make him a murderer. And let’s face it – this is The Killing. This is probably another red herring. After all, we still have half a season to go. Personally, I’m betting on Joe Mills, who’s on the run and in possession of Kallie’s cell phone. (Don’t quote me on that.)

The KillingNotes & Quotes

— Angie on her missing ring finger: “He got the left one. What if someone wants to marry me? Do you think it matters?” Wow, that’s heartbreaking.

— Reddick refers to Angie as “four-fifths of a hand job.” What an ass. Holder is not amused, so at least there’s that.

— “You have no idea what it’s like to have a kid and be alone and have everything riding on you.” Actually, Danette, Linden does understand that feeling.

— “Thinking is all I do. Thinking is all I got left. I been thinking, Ray.” RIP, Alton.

— Holder: “So when you said the Seward file was in storage, you meant your backseat. Hey, don’t get handsy. I got a girlfriend.” Touche, Holder.

— Skinner: This is what I want. I want you out on the street, acting like you’re an actual murder cop. Yeah, I want you down there, looking around, creeping around, doing whatever shady thing it is that you do, and seeing for once if someone can put an actual eyeball on this Joe Mills scumbag. That’s what I want.” I don’t think Skinner likes Holder much. Jealousy about Linden?

— Skinner: “This is job is not for human beings. It eats your life.” Way to sum up two and a half seasons.

— Clunkiest exchange of the episode goes like this. Bullet: “She’ll be all right.” Danette: “Yeah.” Wow, thanks for clearing that up. (And by the way, we don’t have enough Bex Taylor-Klaus in this episode. Seeing her receive a kiss from confused Lyric doesn’t count.)

— Prostitute Angie has disappeared from the hospital. Crack police work here. Seriously, folks. She’s a recently rescued kidnapping victim whose would-be killer is on the loose. No reason to station an officer outside her room or anything. Nope.

Rating
6.8

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