‘The Killing’ – ‘Super 8’: Bits ‘n pieces

Senior Television Writer
04.24.11 148 Comments

A review of tonight’s “The Killing” coming up just as soon as I’ve had enough of the Tickle-Me Elmo…

“It gets better.” -Richmond

On one level, “Super 8” alleviated some of the fears I’d started to develop about the show last week. On another, I’m actually more concerned than I was before.

First, fair is fair: the episode didn’t dismiss Bennet Ahmed as a suspect within the first 10 minutes, then close with yet another character being presented as the new prime suspect. Linden and Holder spent most of the hour working on Bennet, and are clearly going to continue with him next week. That’s the way this show should work: not with the various suspects being laid out in a straight line, with one being eliminated at a time, but with the investigation, and the show, keeping an eye on a lot of possibilities at once.

So that was good, and I hear what some of you were saying last week about how Kris and Jasper could very well have done something bad, given how concerned they were until they found out exactly what evidence the cops had. And I appreciated that where last week’s episode felt like a plot sandwich – all the major story points were placed at the beginning and end, with a lot of smaller character stuff in the middle – “Super 8” felt more evenly-distributed. (Though Linden’s discover that Rosie may have been the victim of a serial killer was a relatively big development saved for close to the end.)

All that having been said, though, “Super 8” is the first time in this young season where I’ve seriously found my interest flagging throughout most of the hour.

The political storyline has always been a problem, and remains one. They started tying it back to the investigation a bit, with Gwen trying to push Richmond at Mitch Larsen, and Darren secretly resisting that push – and also with Bennet appearing arm-in-arm with Richmond in the commercial – but it still largely feels like part of an entirely different, less compelling show. I barely even remembered who Nathan was(*), so revealing him to be the mole mattered not a whit to me, particularly since we’re still meant to distrust Gwen on some level. I like Eric Ladin, who plays Jamie, but I don’t need to see him vomit in extreme close-up, and the rest of his “date” with Mayor Adams didn’t feel necessary, unless Adams turns out to be a suspect in a future episode and his working-class backstory and showy, obnoxious persona will be important to understand at that point.

(*) Given that it’s a thriller cliche for the mole himself to be put in charge of the mole hunt (“24” did that several times), I suppose I should have paid closer attention to Nathan. But I keep having higher expectations for this show – that even though it has to contort itself a bit to keep the plot going for 13 episodes, it won’t have to fall back on the cheaper and more obvious devices to do so – because most of AMC’s output until now has managed to avoid this stuff. Of course, most of AMC’s output until now hasn’t been this plot-driven (and “Rubicon” tended to stumble most when it focused on plot).

But it wasn’t just Richmond’s corner of the show that struggled to keep me caring this week.

I continue to enjoy Mireille Enos’ performance as Linden while not particularly liking the way Linden is being written. The idea that she gets sucked in by her cases and obsesses about the victims is a pretty familiar one – albeit with a gender-bent twist, as it’s usually the wife or girlfriend complaining to the male detective about it. I don’t object to the show hitting familiar beats – how many new cop stories are there to tell at this point? – but I want to feel like there’s more new life in them than what the show has presented so far. I can predict most of what Callum Keith Rennie’s going to say before he says it, and that’s not good.(**)

(**) Also, I’m glad that at least Rick understands the show well enough by now to know that Sarah’s not going to be in Sonoma in time for the party. This is getting silly, folks. We all knows she’s in it for the duration, so just stop having her pretend otherwise.

And after a few episodes of acting more competent and clever than he initially seemed, Holder has gone back to being the impatient, cartoonishly ill-mannered thug he was back in the pilot. (Albeit a thug with some secrets, like the envelope of cash he leaves for what I’m assuming are his estranged wife and kids.) I see where Veena Sud and company are trying to go with this, but he’s just so over-the-top with it that I can’t see Linden putting up with this. She has no future in this department (or so she thinks), and therefore no need to worry about burning bridges; this guy would have sent even a reserved cop like her to the captain already to request a more seasoned, politically-astute detective be put on things.

And for the first time of the season, I can relate a bit to the complaints I’ve been seeing from some of you going back to the premiere double-feature, about how much you want to watch of the Larsens imploding from grief. I watched Stan lose it in the gas station bathroom, and my brain kept toggling between two different reactions: “Wow, Brent Sexton is just leaving it all out there, isn’t he?” and “I don’t know how much more of this I need to see.” There was a point to it, ultimately: to show just how much Stan is struggling with this, and to give him an impetus to start running his own shadow investigation that will inevitably cause all sorts of trouble for himself, Linden, Holder and whichever red herring suspect he gets his hands on.

Fortunately, the show does indeed seem to be pulling both Stan and Mitch out of their catatonia, and with any luck the other lethargic parts of this week’s episode will be livened up when we get to next week’s outing. But this was definitely the series’ weakest outing to date.

Finally, let me remind you again that any discussion of the plot of the Danish series from after the events depicted in this episode is off-limits. Anything that so much as hints at stuff that happened later in “Forbrydelsen” will be deleted.

What did everybody else think?

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