The Killing: “Stonewalled”

Posted on May 17, 2011

Good God, this show is depressing.

Not a complaint; just an observation. After all, we’d be idiots to whine that a show called “The Killing” isn’t a laff-a-minute romp, but after Holder’s depressing NA meeting confession, coupled with Linden slowly blowing up her personal life, then followed by Mitch almost killing her two remaining children, and topped off with Richmond attending the parole hearing for his wife’s killer, we were ready to slit our wrists and call it a day.

This felt like a housekeeping episode; a chance to move the players around the board in order to establish some character motivations while only moving the plot forward an inch or so. We’re no closer to discovering who the killer is and there were no new suspects thrown at us this episode (for which we were grateful). What we did get was some much-needed character work on Linden and Holder. It seems to us that one of the weaker parts of the series so far is the lack of focus on these characters, who really should be at the center of things.  Holder’s revelation didn’t actually feel like one, however. If there’s one overriding theme here it’s “Things are not what they seem,” and we never really believed the slightly sinister undertones of his character. He’s far too eager for Linden’s approval (even if he’d rather die than admit it) for us to have considered him anything to worry about. Famous last words. Now that we’ve written that, he’ll turn out to be the killer.

We were much happier to get a little more insight into Linden. One thing you never, ever see on television dramas is a woman who is a protagonist and someone to root for, but who is also a really shitty mother.  Just about the worst thing you can say about a woman in our culture is that she’s a bad mother, so any portrayals of women who (to put it kindly) don’t have a talent for it tend to portray her in a villainous light. Linden is a far more nuanced character and a rarity in American television: a complicated woman. There are dozens of Don Draper types littering the landscapes; men we root for who are, to put it succinctly, shits. Not that we’d call Linden a shit (or even a bad person), but we’re enjoying the fact that the more they reveal of this character, the harder she is to pin down. She’s been treating Holder like crap (granted, he’s hard to like sometimes), treating her fiance like crap, and now, treating her son like crap. She should have never had those crime scene photos anywhere where he could have found them. It was the height of irresponsibility on her part and it speaks to how she casts aside her personal life when she gets obsessed with a case. When she found out Jack was responsible for getting them leaked to the press, she gave a half-hearted response and then abandoned him to go off with her partner. We should be at the very least annoyed with her but it’s a credit to the acting and the writing that we just want to know more about her.

But to be perfectly honest, Linden, and to a lesser extent, Holder, are the only characters we can say that about. More and more, the Larsen family just seem to be an excuse for the writers to have someone to punish. It’s misery porn and we’re not fans of misery porn. We still think Michelle Forbes is doing an amazing acting job, but more and more, the word “tedious” comes to mind whenever we check in on that family. They can’t just mourn a dead daughter, they have to be subjected to intense embarrassments. Mitch can’t just be a grieving wife and mother; she has to almost kill her two remaining children as she wallows in her grief. It’s all too much and we threw our hands up in the air when Stan started packing up Rosie’s bedroom less than a week after her funeral. That simply didn’t ring true at all.

And the Richmond campaign continues to fail to scintillate. The mayor had an affair with an intern and there’s all this hand-wringing over whether to use it? What planet is this supposed to take place on? Because there’s not a politician alive on THIS planet who would take more than ten seconds to decide to use such information.

As for the terrorism angle, we’re not feeling it. At least not yet. We think it’s going to turn out to have not much to do with Rosie’s murder, however. Just as we’re thinking that Bennet will probably have nothing to do with it as well. In fact, we’re increasingly getting the feeling that the murderer may in fact be someone we either haven’t met yet (which would be super lame) or someone who was suspicious early on, but the show seems to have forgotten about, like those kids in the high school (who just disappeared from the tale) or the rich guy who Mitch’s sister seems to have a thing for. Although if we really have to make predictions, we’re sticking to our guns that the answer to the riddle lies somewhere in the vicinity of the Richmond campaign.

The problem is, we’re finding it harder and harder to care. What started off as a moody, engrossing mystery story has become something of a slog to get through. The only thing that’s keeping us in the game are the two cops assigned to the case.  More episodes focussing on these two, and their burgeoning respect for each other, would keep us satisfied, but endless misery porn scenes are making it harder and harder to stay engaged. Thankfully, it’ll all be over fairly soon. But that’s a disappointing thing to have to say about a show that started off so great.

[Picture credit: AMC TV]

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  • ShivaDiva

    Pretty much agree all the way round.  I have a sneaking suspicion that the ending will be a disappointing, last-minute exercise in finger pointing that doesn’t reward the viewer for trying to put the pieces together.  If these “leads” all just turn out to be red herrings designed to kill time until the real solution shows itself, I’ll be pretty disappointed.  

  • Nevermind

    Because it takes place one day at a time, to the writers that means grief lingers, Linden lingers, the rain lingers. If they had a more talented team in place it wouldn’t be such an obvious slog from one episode to the next. And now the FBI is involved spreading “we’re in charge” hubris and clumsily contaminating crime scenes? More cliched tedium.

    It’s like watching a never ending NCIS episode.I’m in it until the end, but it’s mainly because nothing better is on Sunday night in that time slot. Besides, I really like Holder.

  • casualobserver

    I didn’t find Stan packing up Rosie’s room to be offputting.  He packs and moves people for a living.  He did it as a way to feel like he had a little control of a situation that is completely unbearable.  Remember, he couldn’t even make a sandwich for the boys earlier in the day so is feeling incompetent and wants to do something he knows he can do well.
    BTW, I think the killer is Richmond’s slimey little aid.  The guy next to Bennett’s house saw somebody small go into the house the evening of Rosie’s death.  Didn’t have to be a female.

    • Jennifer Jacobsen-Wood

       Good point about the packing up.  My initial reaction is “it’s only been a WEEK!” but I think your insight is good.
      I don’t think that the happenings at the Ahmed house had anything to do with Rosie’s death, though.     

      • Anonymous

        Actually, that hit a chord with me; when my six-year-old sister died ( from cancer, so it wasn’t unexpected like a murder ) my mother packed up her room THAT DAY.  As a ten year old I thought it was weird, but it was all so confusing anyway.  Watching the show, I really identify with those two little boys; my parents clung to me and neglected me in turns. 

        Otherwise I agree with TLo on the progress of the story.  I’m feeling worn out.

  • Gotta love the *our-TV-is-on-in-the-empty-house-and-just-happened-to-be-saying-something-relevant-to-the-plot-when-I-walked-in* type contrivances…

  • They’re probably not even terrorists anyway, they’re probably just trying to smuggle Somalians over here for a better life or something equally treacly. So I’m not putting much stock in the terrorism angle at all. So far the show hasn’t been as groundbreaking as they kept saying it was going to be, but it’s still a fairly enjoyable crime drama with a great cast. And something tells me it’s going to be much more enjoyable when I rewatch the whole thing all at once later. 

    •  Actually, based on that room they found, maybe they’re even bringing over young girls who don’t want to be married off to 50 year old men or have female genital mutilation performed on them, and Rosie was helping out by donating some clothes for them to wear.

    • That was my guess about Bennet.  I don’t think he’s a terrorist.  I’m guessing he’s the Arabic version of a coyote.

      • MilaXX

        I don’t even think he’s a coyote. I think despite his somewhat questionable choice in a wife he’s probably helping illegals get here. Not for shady purposes but maybe for the “live the American dream” type of thing.

  • Anonymous

    If this show were a book I would have put it aside for awhile and read something else and then come back to it because I wanted to know if the author could pull it together or not.

  • Nevermind

    Just about the only bit of procedural angst missing is the deranged serial killer who has marked one of the detectives as his next victim. Of course, I may be speaking too soon…..

  • Anonymous

     Not sure if you guys watched The Wire, but I think this show is going for 24 meets The Wire and that’s why you’re reacting the way you are. It’s tough to do this kind of show where it’s all built off the one murder we’re waiting to see be solved, but the real story is what’s happening independent of the murder case with all the characters and their lives/struggles. Rosie’s just a conduit to bring about the change in all of them we’ve been waiting to see. I personally love the show. I think the acting is excellent and the writing is very good. If this was just about solving a murder mystery, it would be 6 episodes and out, but they are reaching for something larger here. Linden’s character is fascinating to me because you don’t see bad Mom’s who get consumed by work on TV. It’s a major step for a female heroine/lead and I’m loving it. The political stuff is the weakest part of the show, but I think we’re seeing how a decent man becomes a shark in order to succeed. Not sure how that will pertain to the murder in the end, but this show works for me. 

    • MilaXX

       I understand the comparison to The Wire, but even amidst that there was more joy than we see here. Whether it Bubs joking with Kima, Cutty opening a gym in the middle of “Hamsterdam”, there was joy. This show is as bleak and depressing as the weather  in Seattle. I’m not feeling quite as depressed as T and Lo are, but I didn’t buy Stan packing up Rosie’s room either. Even as a knee jerk reaction to Mitch nearly killing the boys it just didn’t ring true for a grieving parent.

      •  The Wire was infinitely more interesting than this show.

        • MilaXX

          No doubt.

  • Anonymous

    Oh well … I, too, no longer have that aw-gee-I’ve got-to-wait-another-week feeling that’s a hallmark of my favorite episodic shows.  I’m only in it for Joel Kinnaman now – which is enough to sustain me for the duration.  But a word about Mitch & Stan:  If postpartem depression/psychosis after childbirth is a thing, surely it happens after the death of a child — so I don’t have a big problem with Mitch’s behavior.  And Stan breaking down Rosie’s room?  Completely understandable for a guy who’s not willing or able to examine his feelings – or his wife’s – certainly not a week after losing their daughter so suddenly and brutally.  Ham-fistedness makes perfect sense for this character, if not for you and me (though after such an event, we could easily behave this way, too … ya know?).       

  • Ksagun13

     MIsery porn is exactly right.  I agree with Lilak, I still want to know how it ends but I’m not counting the days until the next episode.  The bleakness of the entire thing is starting to get to me.  Even Twin Peaks had moments of levity, like the Log Lady and some of the random weirdness.

  • Michelle Argento

    I’m still holding out on this.

  • Anonymous

    I just cant stand the amount of rain…

  • Anonymous

    I had a friend of the family who was viciously murdered when she was 14. I’m not joking or over exaggerating when I say that this family is reacting much like a family in that kind of grief would. One person is strong and takes care of the pieces, albeit internalizing everything irrationally. The other falls apart, piece by piece, often to the dismay of the other. That’s why the statistics of parents who lose a child and wind up in divorce is an almost insurmountable number… As for the constant embarrassment, I think it rings true. How much did Holloway’s mother go through when she had to hear about her daughter’s case every 2 minutes on CNN for years? What about watching the potential killer pop up, go away, come back, live his life (now in some South American prison) etc? My friend’s family watched in horror as her daughter’s crime scene photos were posted all over the web and leaked to the media… it’s a sad, cruel world that seeks out this kind of gruesome horror for show.   

    So, for all those reasons, and more, I’m holding out on this show because the darkness does ring true to me, even if it is a bit fictionalized . As for the killer, I’m still holding out that it was a female, a rich one, or one with access to a ton of money. 

  • Lattis

     I loved Sunday’s ep. Loved seeing more about Holder, Linden, and even Richmond. The pay-off at the end of this show, the solving of the murder and wrapping up of the campaign etc., will either make me feel like the pace and length of this show were worth it . . . or will make me regret having spent so many Sunday evenings with it. So I’m hoping that they’ll wrap it up with a bang. It doesn’t have to be a high speed auto chase or Linden and Holder parkour-ing around Seattle after the killer . . . but I want there to be a satisfying emotional bang at the end of this. 

    I thought the part with the Larsons was (well, yeah, sad) interesting because they both said out loud what they blamed each other for. “Permissiveness,” is what Mitch blames Stan for and “being too strict” (controlling?) is what Stan blames Mitch for. And Mitch blames Stan for letting Rosie stay home the weekend she was murdered. I actually like the fact that they are showing the complicated emotional territory people have to wade through after such a catastrophic event. 

    Something that really strikes me about “The Killing,” is that it *shows* the grief. Mostly, tv gives us a facile version of a character’s  emotional life. I’m not advocating for all tv shows to begin mirroring therapy sessions, but the people I know in real life have complex psyches and problems that hang on unresolved. In general, my observation is that people more closely resemble Thomas Hardy characters than most tv writers give their characters credit for.

  • Girly Drink Drunk

    yeah… I’m sticking around for some more Holder.

    Here is a yummy JK pic from another project.

  • vmcdanie

    Pretty much what you said only less well said by me. The Richmond campaign is a yawn consistently. And I live in a town where there aren’t that many high profile murders but would a murder suspect (one of many) be so publicly dragged through the mud like Bennett? An after school program shut down because he volunteers there? I’m having trouble buying it to the point where it is killing that piece of the story .

    I really don’t care who the mayor is banging. I don’t know if I buy Mitch almost killing the kids. I definitely don’t buy Stan boxing up her room a few days later. I hate to say it but Stan banging his sister-in-law like they hinted might be the only thing that can jazz up that sagging storyline. The creators said they made a conscious decision not to focus on Rosie but as a result as a viewer, I’m having trouble caring much about Rosie.

    Do you think Linden really treated her fiance shittily? I hate the fiance but maybe that’s just because his presence grinds the story to a halt.
    At any rate, LInden and Holder are the only two interesting characters unless the Mitch’s sister gets all slutty. I still watch this the same night it airs but it definitely feels like a wobbly experiment at times.

    •  I don’t understand why she can’t just send her son on ahead to Sonoma without her?  Maybe that way he could get started at his new school and whatnot instead of being constantly  jerked around by her.

  • Anonymous

    I appreciate you two slogging through it. I stopped watching a few weeks ago and I really liked it at first! When it had been over a week since I had watched a new episode, then I knew it was time to give it up. Thanks for the recaps!

  • Ramona Boersma

    Yeah, I stopped watching last week 🙁 Too depressing, too little pay-off.

  • Lattis

     Somehow my comment was lost in the ether – if this is a duplicate . . . sorry.

    I liked this episode a lot. I liked following the Holder, Linden stories and even the Richmond campaign story. I liked Richmond seeing his face through the spider web of the mirror he just smashed, and seeing blood on his wedding ring.  I appreciate their effort to create a visual metaphor for Richmond’s decline into the muck. Will he be caught in a web of his own making? da da dum

    And I still think that showing the Larsons plough through their grief is a valuable story line. It offsets the casual way murder and loss has been treated in the zillions of cozy mysteries I’ve watched throughout my life.  

  • I think the passports, and information about transporting young women will prove to be more important.  Can’t believe linden didn’t catch that detail and run with it!  Maybe Rosie found out about a sex slave trade….

  • Annegret

    This whole series has sort of gone off the rails for me, especially this last episode, which was chock full of contrivance. But the opening theme music made me remember a better show from several years ago: “Touching Evil” (the American version, though I hear the original British version was very good too). It only lasted one season before being [wrongfully] cancelled. I was inspired to watch old episodes on YouTube all this week. So I have to give props to “The Killing” for making me recall that show, at least. I’ll stick with “The Killing”, but man, it has serious room for improvement.

  •  Yeah, this show has been really disappointing after such a promising start. After watching the first four episodes, I caved and watched all of Forbrydelsen (The Danish version of The Killing), and it is much MUCH better. It’s quite dark too, but not quite so depressing and there are a good few subtly humorous moments scattered throughout, although understandably less and less as it reached it’s conclusion. There were 20 episodes of the original Danish series which I flew through compared to only 13 of these that I am seriously struggling to watch now. Not such if I can be bothered watching the next one now, I think I’ve ruined it for myself.

    • Anonymous

       where can you get the danish version?