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All right, Killing. You and I have had some ups and downs over the years, wouldn’t you agree? I fell in love with you right away, looking forward to your dreary-sepia-toned episodes every Sunday. I tried to care about Rosie Larsen, even though she disappeared before I really got to know her. I was pretty pissed when you resorted to that cheap red herring at the end of season 1, but I tuned in for season 2, hoping for a reasonable resolution to the Larsen case. I wasn’t thrilled to see Terry as the murderer, but I was willing to overlook the plot holes, the useless Indian reservation scenes, and the mayoral politics that we had to wade through to get to the end. I was unreasonably happy to see you get a surprise reprieve for season 3, if for no other reason than the opportunity to see Kinnaman and Enos together again. And I’ve enjoyed this new season for the most part. The mystery is bigger and more engaging, and you’ve done the hard work of cutting solid cast members who simply aren’t needed anymore. But we have a lot of work to do regarding the repair of our relationship after this week, Killing. I don’t want things to end on this note, but if you don’t quit making Peter freaking Sarsgaard lie around spouting useless platitudes, I’m not sure I can handle this anymore. I can forgive a lot (see Darren Richmond’s campaign staff), but wasting an actor of Sarsgaard’s caliber? This I cannot abide.
This is the point in my review during which I’m supposed to begin some exposition about the events of the most recent episode, “Scared and Running,” but that’s going to be a difficult task tonight. Why? Primarily because not much happened during this episode. That happens sometimes, of course. Sometimes we spend an episode fleshing out characters and setting up future events. But honestly, I’m not even sure we did that during this episode. This episode didn’t feel like filler so much as pointless meandering. I’m still feeling pretty confident about this season, but we really need to step up the action in the coming weeks or I’m going to start worrying that we’re not actually going to wrap up the prostitute killer storyline by the end of the season. (We are going to do that, right? You promised.)
One of the most frequent complaints about The Killing’s first season was how little we were able to get to know Rosie Larsen, which felt awfully important seeing as how the entire show’s plotline centered around her murder. Some of this feeling, that Rosie was a sort of vessel for all lost teenage girls, was sort of understandable, because, after all, Rosie was dead during the first scenes of season 1. There really was no (non-gimmicky) way to get to know her with that plot conceit firmly established. Still, it made the whole police investigation feel rather stilted, and a bit impersonal, though I did appreciate the show’s attempts to introduce us to Rosie via her friend, Sterling, her teacher, Bennet, her parents, and her little brothers. In that respect, season 3 vastly outstrips the first two seasons, even though we’re dealing with a serial killer, which, theoretically, should make us less connected to the victims, simply because there are more of them. And we didn’t get to see much of Kallie before she disappeared, that’s true, but her mother and Bullet are doing admirable jobs of fleshing out her character even in absentia. During a few of this episode’s moments, I worried that Kallie might already be dead, and it really made me sad. Credit to the great actors on this show and the improving writers for making me care about a girl I barely know.
Most of the action – what little there is – during this episode focuses on the search for Kallie, with the plight of the homeless teens dovetailing nicely with Kallie’s nebulous fate, but before I can discuss the relatively decent points of this episode, I have to quell my rage long enough to talk about the totally unnecessary and infuriating prison scenes. So Ray Seward, possible wife murderer and certain asshole, is awaiting his execution date in two weeks. I can’t remember exactly how long it’s been since Linden worked the original Seward case and required hospitalization, but maybe five years? That seems like an awfully short period of time in which to arrest, try, and sentence Seward, and then exhaust his appeals. That said, I suppose I should be grateful to the writers for not making me slog through three seasons of Seward in prison. At least I know this will be over soon. What’s up with the Pacific Northwest’s prison population, you ask? Well, Seward exercises, the prison guards discuss the upcoming execution (Becker needs six volunteers to man the hanging station, and Henderson does not look too pleased at the prospect), Seward visits with the priest from last week, who wants to know if Seward loved Tricia (Ray doesn’t answer the question, but the way he describes his late wife, as wild and a whore, leads me to believe the answer is no), and Alton confesses his crimes to Ray, after he’s asked his victims for forgiveness. This scene is clever, at least. Alton describes what sounds like a home invasion gone wrong – involving a safe, a man in his pajamas, and then a wife who happens upon the scene – revealing later that the couple in question was his parents. Luckily, his siblings are willing to forgive him, which means Alton can die an absolved man. I’m not sure what this had to do with Seward, who hasn’t confessed to any crime, and I’m not buying that Alton and Ray have an abiding friendship. Little JJ’s acting is top-notch, so at least there’s that. His voice, while describing his crime, is appropriately haunted and pained. But seriously, tie Seward (genuinely) into the main story, or drop it. I can’t take another week of Peter Sarsgaard meditating on prison life. I was glad to see some (a very small amount, mind you) of plot progression with the arrival of little Adrian’s foster mother, who wants to allow the boy to visit his father, and then wishes to adopt him once Seward is dead. Ray’s son has forgiven him, which means…he saw his father murder his mother and is over it? He didn’t see anything but believes his father is guilty? We can’t be sure. Hey, Is said it was minor plot progression.
That said, the main plot this week features some solid acting and memorable lines, even if the plot isn’t spectacular. We found out last week that Joe Dobbs, Danette’s new boyfriend, is “the voice” on the porn tape featuring poor Kallie, and the erstwhile producer of lots of other sleazy porn tapes. Danette doesn’t appear to be privy to this information, at least not until Linden and Holder swing by to inform her. Joe isn’t there, and idiot Danette claims that Joe couldn’t possibly be a pornographer, and he sure wouldn’t do anything to Kallie. Danette explains that Kallie called her the night before (no message, though), which means she must be okay. Let’s take a few moments for a side note about Danette’s actions during this episode. I praised Amy Steinmetz’s acting last week, and I stand by those kudos. Danette is a petty, selfish character, and Steinmetz does a genuinely fantastic job of letting Danette’s conflicting feelings of self-absorption and guilt flicker across her expressive face. However, this week features a total 180, and although Steinmetz’s acting is excellent as usual, I find the character shift rather startling. You see, Danette is feeling really worried about Kallie. Oh, sure, she couldn’t have cared less about Kallie’s whereabouts when her 15-year-old daughter came to her in need of shelter, nor when nobody had seen her in days, nor when Linden informed her that Kallie was starring, albeit reluctantly, in a porn movie. But now, for some unforeseen reason, she’s desperately worried about Kallie, driving around looking for her and calling Kallie’s phone dozens of times. New boyfriend Joe is unsurprisingly unsympathetic, assuring Danette that Kallie is fine (very comforting), because a 15-year-old girl on the streets alone isn’t concerning at all. Of course Joe’s hollow platitudes seem understandably thin when Danette tries Kallie’s phone yet again, and it rings inside Joe’s bag. As revelations go, this one isn’t the least bit surprising. It’s probably necessary, because I’m fairly convinced Joe is a murderer or in league with a murderer, but it’s not the best television-watching experience when I can predict a scene so perfectly. But in all seriousness, why does Danette care about Kallie all of a sudden? This makes no sense at all. We’ve never gotten the impression that Danette cares about Kallie in the slightest; if the writers want to redeem her character, they should do it gradually.
Speaking of Kallie, the episode opens with a young girl, cut up and bleeding, nearly hit by a car. I can’t tell if it’s Kallie or not, mainly because the scene is so dark. I get it – it’s about atmosphere, but we need to see, people! There’s no point in setting up a particularly compelling scene if no one can see it. Linden and Holder locate a severed finger and surmise that it belongs to Kallie. A tip from Bullet leads to a group of homeless grifters who are none too pleased to see Holder, who’s back in “street” persona. But one of the teens, who appears to be mentally ill, gives Holder a decent tip, and he has the good sense to leave Bullet in the car while he and Linden explore some drainage pipes, one of which is smeared with blood. Holder and Linden agree that Kallie’s captor likely killed her off; Bullet does not take this news well, though she later agrees that Kallie is probably dead. Seriously, how good is Bex Taylor-Klaus in this episode? She is truly the jewel of this season. It would’ve been so easy to play Bullet as a stereotypical “tough girl,” which is what I feared after the first episode, but Taylor-Klaus gives the character so many layers of anger and vulnerability. I loved the scenes between her and Linden in the car; these two make such a great pair. They’re both irrevocably damaged but in need of human contact. Bullet really reaches out to Linden, showing a softer side of herself. I know it sounds crazy, given Linden’s own track record with parenthood, but I’d love to see Bullet as Linden’s foster child. I think Linden’s own tough exterior is just the thing to break through Bullet’s own façade.
And that girl from the opening scene? I’m still not sure about the details of that scene, but I know she isn’t Kallie. She’s also not dead. Linden and Holder locate her in a house containing lots of dog crates and a makeshift hospital exam room. The house’s lone resident claims ignorance, and the girl, though she’s seriously injured, is rescued safely. What should we assume about this girl? Is she another would-be victim of the killer, one who got away? Does the killer keep more than one girl at once? Is she another member of our homeless teen posse? Does she have a stupid name? (Seriously, Lyric, Twitch, and Bullet?) The episode ends with Danette’s realization about Joe’s possible involvement in Kallie’s disappearance, and before she can bolt, Joe catches her snooping. I want Danette to live for two reasons: I love me some Amy Stienmetz, and I’m hoping Danette’s able to help find Kallie – alive. After seeing how attached Bullet is to Kallie (she may be in love with Lyric, but Kallie is her soulmate), I want to see the girl make it. I also want better lighting and a storyline for Peter Sarsgaard, but we can’t have everything, can we?
Notes & Quotes
— The great Grace Zabriskie is back. It turns out that Marjorie Dibbs’s address was used on Joe’s Medicaid forms. She claims to have no knowledge of this individual, but Holder isn’t having it, telling her, “and see, I’ve been doin’ this for a spell, Mama. And see, we’re at the point that I tell whoever’s wearin’ orange that now’s the time to be truly selfish. ‘Cause you need to know that whoever you’re protectin’ is damn sure gonna be selfish once you and him are wearin’ matchin’ outfits.” This is a great mix of the old Holder and the responsible police officer Holder.
— Apparently, Joe is Marjorie’s son, and she’s compelled to defend him, explaining, “You don’t know him. Nobody else knows him like I do. You see, he’s a young soul. That’s why all those kids love, and they love bin’ around him. They know he wouldn’t hurt ‘em. He’s a good boy.” Yeah, the kids love him. That’s not creepy at all.
— The dynamic duo is off to investigate a Kallie-related tip. Linden: “Give me the keys.” Holder: “Just like old times.” The two trade barbs about Linden’s attitude with Danette and Holder’s recovery. I think these two are still (re)feeling each other out, and I don’t mind the uneasiness, but I’m hoping we get back to the camaraderie of the first few seasons soon.
— Seward is unconcerned with obtaining absolution, saying, “God’s keeping score, is that it? You’re just paving your way to the sweet by and by?” What a hokey line.
— Bullet says she’ll take Linden and Holder to where an injured Kallie would go. She insists on coming along because “you need supervision.” She totally gets Holder, and I think I love Bullet.
— Bullet: “Bugs is pretty lame, but he grows on you. You gotta respect that.” I think Bullet gets the best lines these days.
— Bullet: “I’m starting to think that all the memories I got of Kallie are gonna be the only ones I’ll ever have. She’s probably dead, isn’t she?” Okay, that was heartbreaking.
— Seward: “So how’d it go, meeting your victim’s family? They yell at you or break down cryin’? You tell ‘em your sob story?” I can’t get a read on Seward’s personality He sounds mocking, but Alton ‘fesses up immediately, so maybe he was being genuine.
— Holder reveals that he’s been talking to Jack again, and that the kid is very happy in Chicago. Linden agrees, a fake smile on her face, and I’m betting she has no idea if her son is happy for not. Holder’s personal life isn’t faring much better. His girlfriend, Carolyn, is happy to meet Linden at last, but her happiness is short-lived when she realizes Stephen (how weird to hear him called that, even if it is his name) has forgotten Valentine’s Day, and she really looks unhappy when he and Linden bolt to work on the case. Holder and Linden really work best when their personal lives are in shambles. Sad but true.