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Oh, no. No. No. No. No. NO. You got that? NO.
Aside from the usual suspects, I’ve gotten attached to exactly one character this season. One. All I wanted was for this season to end with this individual alive. It would’ve represented the triumph of decency over darkness. But of course, here I am disappointed. This latest episode, “Reckoning,” is heart-shattering in about 17,394 different ways, but one particular plot twist really devastates me.
RIP, Rachel Olmstead, aka Bullet. I really wanted you to make it.
Sigh. More on that later. So we’ve got two episodes left in The Killing’s third season, and this, the third to the last, really ups the ante. I have to give the writers props for being gutsy and courageous, even if I didn’t like their choices. They’re not going to take the easy way out this season, which I appreciate.
Two big things happen this episode. First of all, we lose Bullet, which I still can’t believe. Secondly, the major case of this season is solved…and then unsolved. Rest assured, Killing fans. This isn’t the type of lame red herring we saw in season 1 (thank goodness). It doesn’t feel nearly as cheap as, say, “Richmond is the killer! No, wait, I just talked to the Department of Transportation. No, he isn’t!” Instead, we suffer through the return of Joe Mills (and it is vomit-inducing, consider yourself warned as of right now) and find out that he’s the killer. And okay, folks. In my defense (and I realize I’ve been convinced by more than one red herring this season), the writers really set up Joe as the killer. Let’s review the evidence. Joe’s a child pornographer, and he shows no remorse whatsoever. In fact, he seems to believe he’s doing these girls a favor. He had Kallie’s cell phone in his bag…after she was already missing. His storage unit was a veritable gold mine for the cops, containing trophies for each dead girl. Oh, and Bullet’s body was found in the trunk of his cab. Seems pretty slam dunk, right?
Except…Linden is finally allowed to question Adrian, who tells her he saw the man who hurt his mom, and he identifies the man as Joe Mills. So Joe is responsible for Tricia’s death as well. Glad we cleared that up. But wait a minute. Turns out Joe wasn’t in Seattle the night Tricia died. One of Danette’s aimless diatribes clears that up quickly. Which means Joe isn’t responsible for Tricia’s death. Now where do we go from here, viewers? Do we assume that Joe isn’t responsible for any of the deaths, somehow? After all, we’ve been working all season on the assumption that Tricia’s death is linked to those of the teenage prostitutes? But the evidence against Joe seems pretty damning. I find it hard to believe that he has nothing to do with, say, Bullet’s death, since her body was found in his car. So maybe Tricia’s death is only tangentially related. Maybe we’re dealing with two killers in cahoots. Maybe Tricia and/or Adrian stumbled on the dump site and paid for it, dearly. Yeah, yeah. I know I said Joe’s a red herring, and maybe he is, but I’m just not sure. It’d be pretty cool if The Killing found the main killer before the last episode, and then just spent the last two wrapping up other red herrings (i.e. Ray Seward). That’d be a refreshing change of pace for a crime show, wouldn’t it? Of course, with the way most crime dramas plot their mysteries, Joe is probably being framed for the crimes. (But if he is, why did he have Kallie’s phone? Why didn’t he notice the bag of trinkets in his storage unit?) While we’re discussing red herrings, what’s up with some of our other Seattle residents?
So Twitch, last seen being abused by his probation officer, somehow finds out what happened to Bullet. He actually seems pretty upset about it, even though he spent an awful lot of time insulting her. But he and girlfriend Lyric, who broke Bullet’s heart before she died, get over the loss pretty quickly. Lyric is on the list for government-subsidized housing, and she appears anxious to get Twitch off to L.A. for…cough…this modeling/acting career. But he has other ideas, and, in a surprise move, he pays the deposit on an apartment, and tells her it’s “theirs.” I’m not sure how to interpret this scene. Lyric doesn’t seem all that happy to be sharing the apartment with Twitch, although she acts like she is, and then there’s a very strange moment in which Lyric notices something on the ceiling, and her demeanor turns standoffish and frightened. Now I’m wondering if Twitch is involved in the murders (not Tricia Seward’s, because he’s too young, but let’s assume we’re working with at least two killers). How did he get the money for the deposit? (I know, I know, prostitution.) But how is he suddenly off probation, now that his P.O. has figured out a particularly cruel way of ensuring his compliance? This might sound far-fetched, but is he somehow in league with the killer? Could he be Joe’s apprentice? (Hey, we’re near the end of this season. Now is the time for hare-brained guesses, right?)
And on death row, Ray Seward is frantically trying to get ahold of Linden, who he believes can save him. Now I have to admit: this seems a bit naïve of the otherwise streetwise Seward. Even if Linden is absolutely convinced of Seward’s innocence, and she says she is, how much can she really do? She can’t reopen the investigation by herself, she can’t obtain a stay of execution by herself, and she can’t gather new evidence on his behalf by herself (especially in the span of a day). I know that Seward is near death and clinging to any chance of salvation. I get that. But let’s be realistic. He’s got one day to live, and a whole one cop on his side. Things don’t look good. Meanwhile, at the prison, a particularly sadistic inmate delights in tormenting Ray, for no reason except that he can, and prison guard Becker taunts the condemned man before learning that his son has killed a man – Becker’s wife’s lover. Ouch. Trouble at home. Are we supposed to assume Becker is a suspect? Because I’ve got to say, he sure seems like one. He spends long hours away from home and work, doing God knows what, he’s tightly wound and easy to provoke, and he’s got a nasty cruel streak. My bet is he’s either (a) the killer or the next red herring.
Peter Sarsgaard killed it (pardon the pun) this episode. Seriously. The scene in which he breaks down begging for another phone call to Linden, and then resorts to praying, desperate for some kind of absolution, only to find himself the object of ridicule, is heart-wrenching. I’m still not convinced Ray is a good guy, but I’m starting to feel sorry for him. Sarsgaard combines razor-sharp sarcasm with naked vulnerability, and it really works. I know I’ve spent a lot of this season complaining about the uselessness of Seward’s character – and the death row scenes in general – but this episode helps to make up for that, and I’m hopeful that the upcoming two will provide justification for the death row scenes as well.
Naturally, our dear Holder feels awfully guilty about Bullet’s death. After all, she was frantically trying to get in touch with him last week, to fill him in the killer’s identity (why didn’t she just tell him on the phone?), and he was too furious to answer her calls. So of course he’s worried that he missed the chance to save her. But let’s be honest here – even if she’d told him the killer’s name, he already had our favorite street urchin in his sights. It’s seems pretty unlikely that Holder would’ve been able to get to her in time. But since he’s Holder, he’s crushed. This pervasive feeling of guilt manifests in several ways. He has a nasty fight with his (I assume ex-) girlfriend, Carolyn, who implies that Bullet brought about her own death, an accusation that causes Holder to point out that he, too, is an addict, one whose life is worth something. Then he seeks comfort with Linden, who rebuffs his attempt to kiss her and then tries to comfort him while he has a breakdown. Holder sobbing while Linden pats him woodenly on the back, repeating over and over again that Bullet’s death isn’t his fault is a true showcase for the talents of Enos and Kinnaman. She wants to reassuring and comforting, and she’s capable of that emotion, as we see in the scenes with Adrian, but Linden typically does not know how to connect with people on an emotional level, meaning her attempts seem hollow and cringe-worthy. And Holder wants desperately to connect with people, but he sabotages his relationships, content with a sarcastic, friendly relationship with his partner. Then he decides Reddick is to blame, since Bullet called the station and Reddick didn’t tell him. This causes Holder to jeopardize his career by beating up Reddick in front of his family. I hate Reddick, too, but…dammit, Holder.
So what’s left for the final two episodes? The Killing, minus a few missteps (I still don’t understand Danette’s sudden concern for Kallie, although I appreciate how Steinmetz nails the role) is firing on all cylinders right now. The writers have crafted a taut, atmospheric mystery with enough twists to stay interesting, but not so many that the viewers are frustrated (see season 2). I would guess that we’ll spend the last two episodes figuring out the Seward angle, and exploring the extracurricular activities of Twitch and Francis Becker. I’m betting those two are involved (although I’ve been continually wrong, so you shouldn’t listen to me.) An aside to The Killing’s writing staff: I’ll let you have Joe back if you give me Bullet. Honestly, pretend the whole thing was a dream. I don’t care. Just have Bex Taylor-Klaus back on my screen next week and all is forgiven. Deal?
Notes & Quotes
— Love love LOVE the scene in which Linden, having figured out that poor Bullet is the killer’s newest victim, rushes to prevent Holder from discovering her body. Partners, shmartners. These two really care about each other.
— Holder: “So how long is it gonna take for Dr. Spock to do his mind meld thing before we can see Picasso?” We can always count on Holder to introduce some levity into a tense situation.
— Seward: “I’m getting out, Francis. And when I do, maybe I’ll pay a little visit to you wife, have a go at her just like everyone else in here.” Why the spotlight on Becker’s wife? He must be involved somehow.
— I know we’re nine episodes into the season, but I have a hard time telling the difference between Reddick and Skinner.
— Holder: “She fought back, right?” Aw. He really did care about Bullet.
— Carolyn, Holder’s girlfriend: “I heard what happened. I’m sorry. But you know the reality, the danger these kids put themselves in every day.” Holder: “Yeah. It’s her choice to be out on the streets. It doesn’t really matter if she died. It’s just another statistic.” I knew this relationship wouldn’t last.
— Danette: “I talked to your mother. She told me, she told me what you did to those kids. She’s done protecting you. She said that you’re not her little boy anymore.” One of the few times I’ve liked Danette this season. She’s gutsy, I’ll give her that.
— Joe: “Those little girls, they came to me. It’s not wrong. Nature, can’t be helped. They look at me with that ache, that sweet, sweet ache. And they look at me with those little, sad eyes, and they’re like, ‘Please, mister. Please make it go away.’ I was gentle, and I took care of them, and I made it go away.” I’m duty bound to share that quote with you, because it was important to the episode. But now I need a bath.
— Danette: “No. I pick messed up guys, I know that. I know. But Joe, he was nice to me. He was nice to Kallie. He bought her these Christmas presents the first year we were together and I mean, they were late, but like, at least he tried. And he, he went off to Alaska and he was, like, saving up money to buy these things. I thought he was one of the good ones, you know?” This quote serves both to humanize Danette and to make her appear even more pathetic.