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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