About ten minutes into last night’s episode, we were saying things like “They’re not going to spend the whole hour on Linden’s missing kid, are they?” About 30 minutes into the episode, we were saying things like, “They’re not actually going to kill off her kid, are they?” About 45 minutes into the episode, we were saying things like, “They’re not going to tie her missing kid into the murder investigation somehow, are they?” Well, shut our mouths. The show has been so relentlessly formulaic that we couldn’t even conceive of the idea behind this episode: an hour-long exploration of Holder and Linden; their backgrounds, what motivates them, and how they relate to each other, with almost no movement at all on the investigative front. Not that the latter is all that surprising, since there’s barely been any real movement on the case in many episodes, but we have to give the creators credit for throwing us a curveball.
Despite our fears as to where the episode was heading and confusion at the abrupt change in direction, we found ourselves enjoying the hour immensely. There are too many secrets on this show and for the most part, we have no idea who any of these characters are except at the most banal level. That’s one of the many reasons why the show has turned into such a slog. It’s hard to remain engaged with a story when practically everyone in it is a cipher. We appreciated the blanks being filled in on Linden and while it may play into some stereotypes about people who grow up in the foster care system, that reveal did go a long way to explain why she’s so horrible at personal relationships, especially of the family variety. What made it interesting was that while she was inadvertently revealing to Holder the whys of her poor people skills, she was also revealing the hows as she treated him dismissively, angrily, or as if he didn’t even exist, all the while belittling him when it was quite obvious, even to her, that he gave up doing something else that day just to be a friend to her when she needed it.
But for once, it wasn’t all doom and gloom (even as both characters feared the worst). Over the course of the episode, they both developed a real rapport with each other and their scene in the fast food joint especially was crackling with chemistry (not of the romantic variety) and a growing mutual respect.
Actually, that last part may be a bit misleading. It seems to us that Holder has always respected Linden and in fact, is a bit intimidated by her. There’s an endearing puppy-dog quality when he tries to get her to compliment him on doing something right. If we want to psychoanalyze it, we’d say Linden is a stand-in for Holder’s sister, who he’s disappointed one time too many and whose good graces he desperately craves above all else. The scene on the phone where he tries to explain to her why he can’t make it while realizing it sounds EXACTLY like a junkie’s excuse was heartbreaking.
As for the Rose Larsen case, we did actually get a breakthrough and it was due to real honest-to-god good police work on Linden’s part. We thought the ATM runaround was a brilliant idea on her part. We seriously hope they’re not going to go off on a tangent about Native American tribal rights. Not that it isn’t a topic worthy of discussion but they blew their wad on the racism angle with the Muslim subplot and that was enough of a diversion for one season.
We’ve spent most of this season complaining about unnecessary diversions and red herrings and here we are praising an episode that was nothing but one hour-long diversion from the storyline. The irony is not lost on us. But we’d never call this episode unnecessary; quite the opposite, in fact. We absolutely needed these two characters to have a conversation and move forward in their professional relationship (and possible friendship). As viewers, we need to be given something to hold on to as we go forward and it looks to us like this episode will pay off down the line as the story reaches its climax.
And it hasn’t escaped our notice that the first really good and enjoyable episode in a long time was completely devoid of Larsen family misery porn or Richmond campaign scheming. If anything, this episode served to point out how weak the show’s format is. Sure, the idea of a television show exploring the rippling outward effects of one girl’s murder is interesting on paper, but when you’re stuck with one day= one episode, it means the story is slowed down considerably and the only thing you can do with the family is watch them be miserable. If there is a season two, we hope they ditch that format and let the story unfold naturally, letting the writers explore what they want and who they want without having to check in with every character every day of the investigation. Because when you do that, you give the characters a chance to breathe, and when they’re in the hands of – and this doesn’t get mentioned enough – a very talented cast of actors, the results can be fantastic.
[Picture credit: AMC TV]