The Killing: “Undertow”

Posted on May 23, 2011

Who was Rosie Larsen anyway?

That was the question the occurred to us after last night’s episode. We’re nine hours into this thing and we know way more about the machinery of Seattle politics than we do about the girl who is supposed to be at the center of this story. We get, and support in theory, the basic premise of this show, which is that an event like a murder ripples outward, affecting numerous people along the way. We say “in theory” here because we think the execution of that premise has been severely lacking and instead of getting drawn into the story more and more each week, it’s become a bigger struggle just to care about it. We apologize for the repetitiveness of our reviews but that’s because the problems we had with the show 4 weeks ago have only gotten worse with each new installment. We don’t care about Darren Richmond and his ridiculously badly managed mayoral campaign. These losers can’t even use a pregnant intern scandal effectively. We don’t care about Bennet and Mohammed and their heroic attempts to upend the very racial stereotyping the show happily wallowed in (Brown people! Murderers? Pedophiles? Terrorists? No, heroes!). And now, they’ve managed to get us to the point where we don’t even care about the uber-grieving Larsen family (Whoops! Sorry you had to see your daughter’s autopsy photos! Whoops! Sorry your daughter’s crime scene photos were leaked to the press! Whoops! Sorry we didn’t arrest that suspect LIKE WE PROMISED WE WOULD, IN FULL DEFIANCE OF EVERY SINGLE RULE ABOUT POLICE INVESTIGATIONS!) and whatever their secrets are (Stan’s dangerous! No, Mitch is! No, Stan is!). They’ve piled so much crap on this family and wallowed so much in their grief (when a little economy in the writing would have gone a long way), that watching a scene like Stan and creepy-as-hell Belko bashing in Bennet’s head should have been horrifying but instead felt strangely by-the-numbers to us.

Which gets us back to our opening question. Had the show made that question the focus instead of piling on everything from dead wives, to political machinations, to anti-Muslim hysteria (with its requisite terrorism and female genital mutilation angles), it would have been so easy for us to stay engaged. If we’re going to spend so much time watching Mitch Larsen cry in tubs, beds, cars, and supermarkets, it sure would be nice to get some idea of the person she’s crying about. Sure, we know intellectually why she’s grieving; almost any mother would be ripped apart by a child’s murder. But that’s kind of the point. Mitch Larsen (and practically everyone else in the cast) is generic. She’s any mother grieving any child. There have been more than enough hints that the Larsens have skeletons in their closet but aside from that they’re just The Family. Mourning The Victim. Beating up The Suspect. Angry with The Cop. They’re almost all paper dolls and it all starts with Rosie, the flimsiest paper doll of them all. And because we know practically nothing about Rosie, we have absolutely no idea, nine hours into the story, why anyone would kill her. Not a clue. What happened to all those mysterious school friends from early on? What happened with that mysterious movie she shot? Linden made a big deal out of Holder not telling her that Stan had organized crime ties – and then never followed up on it. So now that we’ve gotten the terrorist and female circumcision storylines out of the way, along with the “teacher having an affair with a student” red herring, and the “Linden is conflicted about her life plans” and “Holder is sinister” subplots, can we please get back to who Rosie was and what she was doing zig-zagging all over Seattle the night of her murder?

We’re still with the show, because we hate to not finish one of these things once we’ve started, but we’re only here because of the promise of the first couple of hours of the story and because there are only a handful of hours left. We wish we could say we’re breathless with anticipation each week, but it hasn’t been that way for a while. How did a show with such a moody, haunting first couple of hours devolve so quickly into a fairly boring police procedural with “ripped from the headlines” cheap plotting?

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  • vmcdanie

    Dude wtf happened to this show? I can’t believe we are 9 episodes in and poor Rosie is just a barely remembered cypher. You could almost forget she existed with all of the Richmond campaign hijinks (lame-o) and the Muslim shenanigans.  And that’s the worst thing of all. The murder victim isn’t even a real person to us. Why did we need a subplot on fucking female genital mutilation?

    I don’t buy that a mere person of interest in a murder investigation would be used as a political chess piece in a mayoral race. I don’t buy that his presence in a disadvantaged youth organization would cause the whole program to be shut down.  I don’t buy that someone could flub that (pedestrian) sex scandal that badly. I don’t buy that Linden, who a few weeks ago chastised Holder just for telling the parents they would catch who did it, would tell the mother who they are arresting and when while at that moment all they had was a possibly illegal wiretap and no warrant. And Linden’s kid being the leak? At least we didn’t see him or the fiance this week.

    I’m with you. I have to finish this out (and I hear it might have gotten renewed?) but what a dreary implausible affair it’s turned out to be.

  • Anonymous

    This Seattleite doesn’t watch the show which is filmed in Canada.  Given the location, the dead woman was actually wandering around the streets of Vancouver the night she died.  Maybe that’s why the Seattle police can’t solve it.  

    And if the show really was about city politics, the plot would center on bicycles and a waterfront tunnel right now.  Yeah, we’re that interesting.      

    • Anonymous

      As a former Seattleite, I admit I’m still watching for the view of Smith Tower from Richmond’s office. But I’ve gotta ask: Why is Green Lake Mosque in Rainier Valley? 

  • Lori B

    Everything you said.

    My low point in an hour of low points  was the students walking out on Bennett Ahmed en masse with the word “Killer” on the board.  As if a class of high school kids could ever agree on anything, let alone that their beloved teacher is a murderer, with no credible evidence, no arrest. 

    My high point was when Holder drove.  He drove, yay!  Finally Holder’s in the driver’s seat.  So subtle! (But I still love Joel Kinnamon and I think I always will.)

    • Anonymous

      Yeah, what you guys said, and what Lori B said.  Especially the part about Holder….love him.

      • Jennifer Jacobsen-Wood

        Holder is also a major draw for my continuing to watch the show.  And I agree about the teenagers.  I have two of them, they would NEVER have walked out of the classroom.   A few bold kids might, but most of the kids would stay, either out of fear of getting in trouble (not from Bennet, but for missing class) or, honestly, to have something to gossip about with their peers.

    • Anonymous

      Yeah, what you guys said, and what Lori B said.  Especially the part about Holder….love him.

  • This articulates my feelings about the last few episodes perfectly.  Thank you!  My boiling point – the point at which I just stopped trying to stay engaged and got angry at the writers – was when Mich came into the police department and woefully accused the cop, again, of wronging her.  I went from feeling such empathy and pain for this character to becoming tired of her, and like I was watching the same episode I’ve seen for the past three weeks.  

    About Rosie:  The writers have dropped little hints as to who she was and what was going on in her life — the plans to go away for college, the unstable best friend, the rich and cruel ex-boyfriend, the homemade videos (taken by someone else still unidentified?), the shoes she couldn’t have afforded on her own, the apparent recent interest in Islam — but have failed to weave those in at the right times or make anything of them.  Each episode completely abandons things that seemed to be important in the last.  And some things that need to be explained to allow the viewer to continue suspending their disbelief, well, aren’t.  Like all the blood in the “cage.”  WTF was the explanation for that?  The friend’s nosebleeds?  Who could possibly have a nosebleed that bad?!!  Things like that just make me angry at the writers.

    I am probably going to keep watching to see if the pace will pick up and the writing resolve some of these issues, but if next week is as bad or worse, I’d rather not waste my time and just read about the finale on your blog.

  • Wow. Just wow.

    The Larsens have become insufferable, particularly Mitch. We get it; you’re sad and want someone to pay for your daughter’s death. That doesn’t mean every episode you get to tell the police they’re not doing their job because of your inability to comprehend the difference between person of interest/suspect and the actual culprit.

    So now we are no closer to finding Rosie’s killer, or even why anyone would want to kill her. In fact, we don’t know much about Rosie at all, just that she was a good kid/student, and now she’s dead.

    What happened, AMC? 

  • Anonymous

    Word to the entire post. I was also annoyed by the scene in the classroom – if the kids were so disgusted, why show up for Bennett’s class at all?

    I kind of wish I had waited until the end of the season to watch all of the eps on DVR on a rainy Saturday. As it stands I hate waiting a week for more nothingness.

  • This episode was so bad. I laughed out loud when the students left the class room, especially at that girl who glared right at Bennett. And the whole genital mutilation story was so overdone in that after school special way. Let’s take a moment from our murder investigation to learn a valuable lesson! I just want this show to wrap up so I can get on with my life!

    • Jennifer Jacobsen-Wood

      I agree about the “after-school special” aspect.  I hate that and it’s one of my main complaints with Law & Order, SVU.   I think it doesn’t give credit to the mature audience when the writers have to spell crap out (oh, really?  FGM still occurs?  And it’s a bad thing?) rather than relying on subtlety.   

  • Anonymous

    I have not been watching the show–like you I grew increasingly bored.  However, I am really curious as to how this series, which just won a BAFTA award in the UK, went so wrong.  There is a good blog ( detailing the differences between the Danish and American versions without being spoilerish, and here are some of the highlights I have learned:

    In Forbrydelsen (the Danish version) —

    -Rosie is 19, not 16.

    -The remaining Larson kids are not neglected (no trips to the market in pajamas, etc.) and in fact hardly in the show at all.

    -Holder has a wife and an ulcer (no drug addiction)

    -Linden has a mother and an ex-husband who are in the show.

    -Linden’s son does NOT get hold of crime scene photos and release them.

    -There are connections between the political plot and Rosie that have been cut from the American version. (apparently the blogger says revealing more about this would give away spoliers).

    Sooooo….what I want to know is why you would cut important plot points out of the story and yet add extraneous scenes and plotlines that don’t add anything? 

  • I was almost right about Bennett.  When I saw that the meat locker was set up to house young girls, I thought he might be smuggling girls into the US from Somalia to help them escape FGM.  Almost.  He was smuggling the girl to Canada to get her away from her parents, who wanted to slice and dice her.

    Then again, I really thought that the shirt Linden found was Rosie’s, but that it would turn out to be something she had donated to her teacher’s cause.

  • There are so many things wrong with this show, it’s almost a travesty. At least we didn’t have to put up with any wedding talk this episode. I can’t wait for it to be over (which is a dumb reason to tune in.) I’m really disappointed in AMC. They canceled brilliant Rubicon and served up this cliched mess instead.They botched the renewal of Mad Men. I can only hope they don’t ruin Breaking Bad, which starts up again in July.

    • Ksagun13

      I thought Rubicon was brilliant, I was so angry that they canceled it.  I had such high hopes for this show and it’s going nowhere fast.  

  • mola mola

     Ugh, totally with you. Last night I was thinking that the real theme of the show isn’t “Who killed Rosie Larsen?” but something more along the lines of “Nobody’s perfect!” or “People are complicated!” or “People suck!” 

    None of those ideas are terribly compelling. I’m having a harder and harder time tuning in each week. This might become like PR where I stop watching and just read your recaps.

    • Jennifer Jacobsen-Wood

      I agree.  Why name a show “Who Killed Rosie Larsen?” and not deal with either Rosie Larsen OR make any substantial progress towards finding her killer?   I can come up with the conclusion that “People suck!” watching my evening news, I really don’t want to watch a tv show with that as a basis!

  • Jennifer Coleman

     Man, o man am I with you on this show devolving into a snoozefest. Everything presented last night could’ve been rolled into a previous episode. The bloat is totally pissing me off. We’ve seen too many repetitive confrontations with Bennet/Stan, d-bag billionaire/Richmond, Holder&Linden/mean boss that could’ve been consolidated for tighter pacing. I might’ve been a little less irritated if they had decided to have Mitch & Stan sue the Seattle Police Dept for crappy handling of their daughter’s case.

    This show seems to be heading in the opposite direction than AMC’s ‘Rubicon’ which started off slow, but tightened up considerable at the end. I’m sorry that one was cancelled.

  • Anonymous

    I think the slowness of the show is part of its point. I only hope we’ll be rewarded with our patience. It becomes increasingly unlikely that the loose ends will tie together in some meaningful way. Then again, many loose ends never do get tied in life, so again, there may be a point to introducing storylines that just trail off.

    • Jennifer Jacobsen-Wood

      I don’t mind the slowness of the show, either.   It harkens back to classic books which often had a lot more back story and character build-up than modern TV shows.  I just wish the writers were keeping up the caliber of writing during the recent episodes as they had in the early ones.

  • MilaXX

    What I like at first was that it was supposed to be the anti L & O and now it’s  pretty a L & O mini-series. I’m still with the show, but I am disappointed that it hasn’t lived up to its promise.

    On a side note, I had no idea the actress who plays Linden is married to Alan Shuck, akak Ferris Bueller’s best friend Cameron.

    • Polly Mellen

      I think you meant Alan Ruck.

  • Anonymous

    What in bloody hell is wrong with me?!? I love this show! I look forward to Sunday nights at 9:00. I plan my day so that watching “The Killing” will be a well-deserved reward. There’s something subtle and oblique and quietly compelling about it that apparently speaks only to me. Doesn’t bode well for another season (however they would even do that anyway), but at least I’ll get to see this one,  although if it were on broadcast the terrible reviews would likely have had it yanked off the air by now.

  • I’ve dozed through the last few episodes, but fell fast asleep 20 minutes into this one.

    Does anyone know where we can watch the Danish version? 

  • I totally agree. The most compelling part of most murder mysteries (for me) is finding out who the victim was and what happened to her, and that’s been totally left in the dust in the show. Plus there is only so far you can take the red herrings every week without it getting super repetitive. They’re not even investigating what Rosie was up to anymore they’re so focused on taking Ahmed down! Even though it doesn’t add up!

  • Corey Ferguson

    See season one of Veronica Mars for a show that does right by the dead girl.

  • Anonymous

    I quit watching this show two weeks ago but thanks for boring your poor selves and summarizing the rest of it.  I’m mildly curious as to how it turns out.  However, I will live if I never know.  I’m so-o sorry but AMC seems to have come up with a dud for once.

  • Lauren Davies

    Seattleite who smelled the dung from episode 1.  Vomitous grief walloment slathered over self-righteous moooooving lefty atonement plot shards.  With a silent, TALENTED, quietly HAUNTING lady detective who KNOWWWWwwwwWWWWwwws how to do her job just right and doth besmirch mine eyes with her constantly concerned brow and over stuffed Northface/Patagonia drag.  *NO*  T Lo, I kind of like your reviews, because they’re funny. But really, it’s OK–JUST STOP NOW!!!

  • Anonymous

    Ok….my husband and I have a roommate….the 3 of us tore the show apart tonight after reading your post – trying to DREAM UP a possible angle to what has been going on (2 of the 3 of us are pretty much bored stiff with the show).  All we can come up with as being interesting enough to provide the final AHA moment is this: the show isn’t about Rosie….it never was….it’s about WHO killed her….and the WHO is LINDEN!!!  That’s the only plot twist (after initially considering it was the mother) that would  provide a large enough pay-off to make this sheer drudgery worthwhile.  We could then go over all the subtle missed clues that have been there all along and think how ingenius the whole show was….that she was right under our nose the entire time.  SHE is the focus of the show because she did it…not because she is trying to solve the crime.  She might even be a serial killer (her mother referencing how she got obsessed with some other case)! Farfetched? Yep!! …..but that’s all we could come up with that could possibly explain away all this freakin boredom……

    • That would be so awesome I wouldn’t know what to do.

      • Anonymous


  • Lattis

    Shoot, T Lo – when you’re right, you’re right.

  • I am holding out the slim, slim hope that somehow near the end there will be a revelation that not only makes logical sense, but ties everything together. Lord, I hope it does. 

    Also, whatever happened to her best frenemy? Did she literally only have one friend? Yet was sort of popular (I’m guessing?) I was kind of hoping for a few flashbacks featuring the actress who played Rosie, considering her face is now all over the country on billboards all with “Who Killed Rosie Larsen?” emblazoned on it. Right now she’s no more (maybe even less) profiled as a character than a victim in Law and Order. People cared about Who Shot JR cause they knew who he was. 

  • Anonymous

    C’mon, now!  There was one nice thing about this episode: No Rain!
    This series has to be looked at as unintentional satire.  Remember when Linden and Holder start looking for Mohammed in the market?  Linden looks around for awhile, then we see her eyes grow big as she has this major epiphany:  There’s a SECOND STORY to the market!!!  Now, that’s some good police work right there.
    And, speaking directly to the “Who is Rosie” problem with series, how about the interrogation scene?  They finally get Mohammed to talk, and he goes on for some time until it hits Linden that they’re talking about the wrong girl.  “Wait a minute!  Is this the girl you’re talking about?”  “Oh, the girl from the papers?  Yeah, she stopped by to drop off some books, so what?”  Then Linden and Holder end the interrogation without asking any follow-up questions, like, oh I don’t know, what TIME did Rosie come by.  But Noooo, they proceed to investigate the wrong crime.
    I’ll watch the last 3-4 episodes because, unlike the writers of this show, I’m actually still interested in who killed Rosie.  I presume they’ll at least give us a name to mollify the masses..

  • MilaXX

    oops, you’re right

  • paula.pertile

    I think the sister did it. Just because she’s the only one they haven’t focused on yet. 
    I will watch to the end because now I HAVE to know how it turns out.

    • Jennifer Jacobsen-Wood

      The sister is a reasonable guess, but what do you think her motivation would be?   

      Stan’s creepy assistant is maybe TOO creepy to be the do-er.   He also seems weirdly protective of the family.  I also wonder what was up with the scene where the sister totally bitch-slaps him, saying something like “You AREN’T a member of THIS family.”  

  • Guest

    At this point, I’m about 3/4 convinced the murderer is going to turn out to be Mitch. If only because she’s annoying the shit out of me. I will politely disagree about the Bennet storyline. I didn’t see that resolution coming and thought they did a pretty good job of it. When you think about it there aren’t a whole lot of legitimate reasons for a married teacher to be spending off-hours time with teenage girls. helping one thru a crisis would be one of the few. Plus – dead ends and theories that don’t pan out are a real part of any investigation….police or even scientific research. So taking us on a few detours along the way keeps it realistic.

  • Anonymous

    I am over this show.  It’s so boring but I really do want to know what happened so I am going to stick it out.

  • Anonymous

    I am over this show.  It’s so boring but I really do want to know what happened so I am going to stick it out.

  • Jennifer Jacobsen-Wood

    I really, really want to like this show. It started out with such good promise, has such a good cast and has the potential to be really great.  That’s probably what is most disappointing, the unrealized potential (yeah, kind of like me and high school physics, LOL.)

    You are right about the knowledge about Rosie being lacking.  They should be giving us glimpses of her life, particularly at the end.  

    I’m still watching, so I suppose that says SOMETHING.   I do want to know where the show is going, however, not out of undying suspense or because I’m suspicious about a character and want to find out if I’m right, but more in a hope that the tide will turn and it will get better.

  • Anonymous

    I finally got around to watching this episode last nite, nothing else recorded, so that shows how much it has fallen from the first week when I couldn’t wait to see what happened. You guys are 100% correct, how could a show that looked so good initially be so horrible? I guess we are so used to AMC having such great television that we all can’t believe what a stinker this one is! I will watch to the end to see who done it, but I hate everyone on the political angle, and who thought a show could make you dislike grieiving parents so much?

  • Anonymous

    I love this show so much.  Just gets better to me.  I think short attention spans are what’s making many of you lose interest.  It just gets better and better the deeper it peels the skin.  My only negative is that I HATE Holder’s Swedish accent peeking through! Just awful!