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Confession time: I never found Pastor Mike even remotely creepy until this week’s episode. I’d like to say I sussed out his (supposedly) true nature in advance, but honestly, I’m not very adept at solving mysteries. And let’s be fair here: Ben Cotton’s performance has been pretty bland; he’s played the character straight, without a hint of malice, until now. So I suppose I can’t really be blamed for my cluelessness. But like all crime shows, The Killing likes to introduce moments of malice when they identify a suspect. Seemingly innocuous comments take on a sinister cast. Such was the case with tonight’s episode, “Hope Kills,” which focuses on new suspect Pastor Mike, who, all of a sudden, appears like a straight-laced, milquetoast angel of death.
But we’ll talk more about Pastor “Mike” (not his real name) in a minute. Let’s get the prison scenes out of the way, because I’m bored with them (yes, again). I’m still loving Peter Sarsgaard something fierce, but why the writers are keeping him prone on a bed, exchanging platitudes with yet another death row inmate I’ll never know. But I have a theory about this week’s Seward scenes, and if I’m right, it’ll make his 15 minutes of screen time well worth it. But I’ll tantalize you with that for another moment while I fill you in on the (very little) death row action this week. Here’s the rub: hardened prison guard Becker is pissed at naïve coworker Henderson because the latter ratted him out for missing his shift and allowing a prisoner to, you know, die. Which seems like a big deal. But whatever. Becker takes out some of his anger (he’s also pretty ticked that his wife is running around on him yet again) on Seward, who, to be fair, taunted him first about his failing family. Becker is all too happy to remind Seward of his impending execution – requesting Ray’s last meal order and going into copious amounts of detail about how painful hanging can be. At this point, I’m not sure if Becker hates Seward for some unspecified personal reason or if he’s just an ass. But if I’m supposed to assume that working as a prison guard jades a person until he’s virtually soulless, like Becker, well, then…run, Henderson! While you still have a soul!
For his part, Seward finally seems to understand that he’s going to die. I know, I know – it seems like living on death row would be enough. After all, it’s the very nature of the place, reminding inmates every day that their time is ticking away on a specific schedule. But Ray, who’s normally so guarded and secretive – notice he listens to the other inmates make restitution, seek absolution, and discuss their crimes, but never does the same himself — has apparently finally reached the end of his tether. Seward’s taunting clearly gets to him, then another inmate reminds Ray that he can choose “how he goes out” (which isn’t true at all, since they’re already building a gallows), but then the inmate indicates he was talking about Alton’s method, and Henderson has to weigh Seward in order to counterweight the gallows. He’s genuinely trying to be nice about it, or as nice as a person can be when they’re planning your execution, but Ray seems to find no comfort in it, and we leave him screaming and pounding his head in his cell. So these scenes aren’t terribly interesting. I’ll cop to that. But they do serve an important purpose. They illustrate the real-world consequences of Linden and Holder’s police work, and how critical it is that they discover who’s killing Seattle’s homeless teens – and who killed Tricia Seward. They also indicate fairly persuasively that Seward did not kill his wife. Props to Sarsgaard for giving such a nuanced performance, even with such hackneyed dialogue, and I’m grateful that the writers aren’t going to make us watch him heal a mouse or something. Seward doesn’t seem like a very nice guy, but I don’t think he’s a murderer, either. Too often, crime shows shove their characters into one of two camps, with good people on one side and bad people on the other, and I appreciate The Killing’s willingness to traffic in shades of gray.
Speaking of the necessary police work, our favorite cops are on the job. Having decided last week that Pastor Mike is a little too close to the homeless teens who populate the Beacon Hill Shelter, Holder and Linden spend some time questioning him. But let’s back up for a second. Why, exactly, did Holder suspect Pastor Mike to begin with? Let’s be clear here – his suspicion was entirely justified, as it turns out, but I’m still confused as to his thought process. He realized that all of the missing teens stayed at the shelter. Okay, fine. Of course they stayed there. Pastor Mike runs the only freaking homeless shelter in the city. That seems like pretty thin reasoning. That said, it doesn’t really matter, because Pastor Mike proceeds to spend the entire episode saying seemingly benign things that nevertheless feel threatening given what we’re learning about the pastor. Officers Linden and Holder are still looking for missing teen Angie, who was found in the vet’s office a few episodes ago. Pastor Mike claims not to have seen her, and Linden politely requests pictures of the girls that’ve stayed there during a specific time frame. Pastor Mike explains that he has pictures of the girls because girls are more vulnerable and…just ick. Maybe it wouldn’t bother me if Pastor Mike were still an ordinary character, but he’s a suspect, so his little speech just feels wrong. Before this week, I found Ben Cotton’s acting to be unremarkable, but I realize now that his character was unremarkable. Cotton manages to infuse just the right combination of menace and harmlessness into this character this week.
So Holder? Maybe it’s not a good idea to fill Bullet in on every aspect of your police work. She’s awesome and all, but she is a kid and…sigh. Yeah, so Holder stops by to see Bullet and the other homeless teens, hoping to get more info on Pastor Mike. Bullet defends him immediately; it seems he’s the only adult any of them trusts. That…can’t end well. She’s the only teen willing to talk to him. Lyric flees when Holder shows up. I guess that makes sense. Every adult that comes into contact with these kids is looking to exploit them somehow. Lyric and Bullet have reached a new level in their relationship, which Twitch realizes when he arrives home to find them in bed together. Now, I’m not sure exactly what we’re supposed to infer from this scene. It looks like both women are fully clothed, though we saw them making out last week. But Twitch wastes no time, flinging accusations while claiming he doesn’t care (he totally does). He and Lyric have a loud, cringeworthy fight, and she and Bullet leave, with Bullet promising to protect her. Ah, jeez. We’ve seen what happens when Bullet tries to protect someone. So I’m back to disliking Twitch again. I still feel for him, having to trade sexual favors with his PO, but he’s awfully hard to like these days. He treats Lyric like crap, and he lashes out at anyone and everyone when he’s in a bad mood. I think I’m done with Twitch. Lyric and Bullet end up in a deep meaningful conversation. Bullet confesses she’s in love with Lyric, and Lyric says she had no idea. I don’t know…Lyric seems naïve enough not to have noticed. I don’t like this storyline. Lyric doesn’t mean to use Bullet; I think she’s a sweet girl, but it’s becoming glaringly obvious that she’s desperate for someone, anyone to love her. I don’t buy for a second that she genuinely loves Bullet, or even that she’s attracted to her. She’s just looking for a Twitch replacement, someone to rely on since she can’t take care of herself. I’m not accusing Lyric of anything malicious. We got some tidbits about her stepfather this week that help me to understand why she fled her home life. But I just don’t see this ending well for Bullet, who’s finally allowed herself to be vulnerable.
Anyway, I said before that Bullet doesn’t need to know every aspect of the Seattle PD, and I meant that. See, Bullet trusts Pastor Mike, and she has no reason not to. I get it. But it probably isn’t the best idea to clue him into the fact that Linden and Holder suspect him of having seen Angie, even though he denies it. She and Lyric have found themselves without accommodations for the night, so Pastor Mike allows them to stay with them. Again, any other week, I’d be saying, “What a nice gesture,” but this week, I’m clearing my throat uncomfortably. Of course Bullet is taking Holder’s advice (Bugs told her to protect Lyric, and she’s taking him seriously), so I can’t blame her for letting the news sip, but still. Speaking of letting things slip, why does Holder reveal to Pastor Mike that they suspect him? Even Linden thinks it’s a boneheaded move. Wouldn’t it have been a better idea to tail him silently, collecting evidence? After all, if he is a murderer, won’t be just turn tail and run? Which is….exactly what he does. After an uncomfortable conversation with poor Lyric, who’s naïve but not stupid, Linden and Holder appear with search warrants and find the house empty. They locate Father Mike’s car (his actual car, not the rental he’s been driving, on a tip from another homeless teen who tells Holder he saw Angie at Beacon Hill, and saw Pastor Mike chasing an injured Angie in his car), but, predictably, it’s empty.
And on the Linden’s personal life front (this is actually somewhat compelling), remember ex-boyfriend Cody? The guy we saw for 10 minutes in the premiere, before Linden came to her senses and stopped smiling? Well, he’s back, and none too happy about being dumped. But Linden does a badass job of dumping him yet again, and she isn’t all that nice about it. And that’s the last we see of Cody…until the end of the episode, when she gets in her car and finds someone with a gun, who tells her to drive. Now, I’ll be totally fair. I’m not sure it’s Cody in the backseat. The voice sounds like Ray’s, but considering he’s, um, on death row, I’m betting on Cody. Is he somehow involved with the kidnappings/murders? Or is he just a man scorned? Or maybe it’s Pastor Mike in the back seat. Damn show is doing that dark lighting thing again, so I can’t be sure. So here’s where we are. Linden is kidnapped. Joe Millis (pornographer and possible murderer) and Pastor Mike (whose name is really Mark Elwood, definite kidnapper and possible murder) are on the run, and Bullet is bereft at the loss of yet another woman she cares about. Sigh. Bullet, you’re breaking my heart.
Question of the week: Linden says that the previous victims (before Ashley Kwon) were killed five years earlier. This timeline includes Tricia Seward. Whoever the killer is, why did he take a five-year break? And assuming there is a connection, what is the connection between an adult, married prostitute with a child and a group of homeless, desparate teens? Should we assume Tricia Seward was some kind of exception? And if little Adrian Seward has been to the killer’s dump site (he’s been drawing it, after all), why is no one (ahem, Linden) questioning him about it?
Notes & Quotes
— Pastor Mike: “Girls like getting their picture taken. They’re just kids in so many ways. They’re more vulnerable than the boys.” Yeah, that’s not creepy at all.
— Twitch: “I just got done scamming some rich bitch. We’re talking old, like 40.” Stay classy, Twitch.
— Holder: “80% of our dead girls passed through Beacon Hill. Looking at these girls, day in, day out, it’s just too much for him. He creates this world around his hunger. Beacon Hill, the perfect set up. He gets to look at his victims all day.” I know we’ve only halfway through the season, but it’s hard to imagine Father “Mike” is going to end up off the hook here.
— Cody: “Is this how you were, that other life of yours? Is this the way you treated people? It’s no wonder you don’t have anyone in your life.” Linden: “You need to understand something, because it’s the best answer you’re going to get. I was pretending to be something that I wasn’t with you, and now it’s over. Let go of me, because you really don’t want me to tell you a third time how things are.” Should’ve listened to her, Cody.
— Holder: “Damn, are those pearly whites I just saw? I didn’t know you had teeth. I thought fangs maybe.” Bullet: “Ha ha, you’re funny, Bugs. Where’s your K-Mart suit?” Holder: “Being pressed by Versace since he fabricated it.” It wouldn’t be a season 3 episode without a Bullet/Holder exchange.
— Bullet on Pastor Mike: He’s, like, the only guy in Seattle who’s not a pedophile.” There’s a cheery thought.
— Danette, to Pastor Mike, upon finding that Kallie is not at the shelter: “Why’d she have to stay here? Couldn’t she go someplace else?” Um, you mean like her mother’s house?
— Holder: “Give me a Hawaiian, no ham, extra pineapple. Cold pineapple. Don’t be stingy with it, man.” Hee hee. Only Holder would ask for a Hawaiian pizza with no ham.
Henderson on the gallows: “Look, they get your weight right, your neck will break like it’s supposed to. You won’t feel any pain.” Somehow Seward doesn’t find this comforting.
— Pastor Mike to poor, doomed Lyric: “I know what it’s like to be alone. I’ve had nowhere to go before. Nowhere to turn. That’s no way to live. Sometimes you can’t even remember how you got there. It just happened. You don’t even look like yourself after awhile. You wonder if people notice. Then you realize people only see what they want to see anyway.” I can’t blame Lyric for looking terrified. Sheesh.
— Linden says they have a duty to stop Seward execution. Skinner is right when he points out that they have no way to do that, but he seems awfully content with the idea that an innocent man might be about to die. He tells Linden he believes her about Ray, but we’ll see if that translates into any action.
— The first two season of this show focused, as you know, on Rosie Larsen’s death, and the disintegration of her family in the aftermath of her murder. We spent a lot of time getting to know Rosie indirectly. This season’s mystery involves multiple victims, many of whom are not wanted by their families. This means we haven’t spent much time exploring other people’s reactions to their individual disappearances. Kudos to the writers and Bex Taylor-Klaus, who’s humanized Bullet and made me care for both Kallie and Lyric.