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Wednesday, 22 of September of 2021

The Killing – “Stonewalled”

Yes, she's a cypher--get over it.

I have a rather daring claim to make in my support for The Killing–do you think, perhaps, that the identity of Rosie’s murderer is sort of beside the point?  Yes, I know it is being marketed as a whodunnit (search online in Rosie’s room for clues!), but I am not sure that I care about who is the killer.  I can see why this claim should necessitate a huge critique against the program–shouldn’t they be making me care about the central plot point?  But I’m too busy being fascinated by excellent acting and deliberate storytelling.

In a podcast that should be going up very soon, the Monsters crew complained quite a bit about Game of Thrones, but we spent less time complaining about The Killing. To be honest, I don’t want to complain about The Killing. Despite my theory that HBO’s recent series seem to specialize in being a whole lotta fuss about nothing much (sorry, but Boardwalk Empire was super slow, with few characters I cared about (at all) until about half way through the season), similar claims could be made about The Killing. Yet for me, while I may not quite get HBO, but I sure as heck “get” AMC.

I love AMC’s version of “slow TV,” perhaps for all the reasons I kinda don’t love HBO’s. Somehow, AMC seems less pretentious (despite all of Matthew Weiner’s personal pretention). Its actors are usually lesser know but super talented people that you want to see succeed (Jon Hamm, James Badge Dale, Mireille Enos). And while its shows do tend to be quite contemplative and carefully paced (sometimes to a fault), they somehow manage to intoxicate me. I use that word, “intoxicate,” on purpose, because when I watched a show like the cruelly short-lived Rubicon, I fell so deeply in to the world of the series that I sort of lost track of the present. HBO Keeps me at a distance, but somehow, AMC seems to invite me in, enveloping me as viewer in a cloak of mood, terrific acting, and intentionality.

At the heart of The Killing is Mireille Enos as Detective Sarah Linden, the lady who is planning to leave town after solving this one last case. I saw a promo for AMC’s showing of The Matrix featuring Enos the other day. Her hair was all blown out and she wore a bunch of makeup—she looked different, older, less ethereal and less fragile. I prefer her fragile. Even while her police detective has grit, she is also somehow a bit lost and vulnerable. So far, she has been rather sparing in her conversation—with her son, with her new partner, and with her now rather peeved fiancé. Part of me wants her to snap out of the reverie and…you know…be a person. But the other, larger part of me can’t get enough of her inability to express herself fully. It would also be great if she would wear a different sweater some time.

Her partner, Holder, portrayed by Joel Kinnaman, is similarly, and more visibly, troubled. Both are haunted by past obsessions (she with a former, unnamed case, and he with drugs). Both seem to have something to prove. And now that they are on the same page, perhaps we can see a partnership based on respect develop. Detective Holder’s tactics are not always above board, but he can get results. Working with him more closely, Linden may finally start to define what kind of cop she wants to be.

There has been much praise for the grieving parents, portrayed by Michelle Forbes and Brent Saxton, and boy do they deserve the praise. I can see how Mitch Larsen’s deep despair may get annoying, but as she reminded her husband tonight, it has only been a week since they learned their daughter was dead. Since this show is unrolling over the course of months instead of days, the viewer’s timeline is drastically different than the characters.  This seems an important point to counter the frustrations.

Perhaps this is where some impatience for the series is coming from. On Twitter and in some reviews of the series recent episodes, critics seem to be disappointed that the reveals about the murder are not coming fast enough, that the characters are not being developed enough, that the pacing just isn’t quite right. Yet I haven’t reached this level of disappointment yet. With a 13-episode season, it will be difficult to waste my time. Sure, I’d like each episode to deliver a part of the puzzle, and I’d love to learn more about the other case that made Linden so crazy she almost lost her kid. And yes, the story with the politician is only barely connected to the murder—a more resonant thematic tie could take this series to the next level. But so far, I’m content to simply spend time in this world, where pain is acute, compassion is fleeting, and rage is always lurking beneath the surface.

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