At this point, the status quo of the series has been established: the murder investigation is the strongest of the three plot threads;the Larsen family brings pretty strong acting, while the political plot flounders aimlessly without purpose. “Vengeance” does little to change this, and introduces some potentially controversial elements that could represent an unforced error on the part of the writers.
The opening scenes again highlight the exceptionally high level of acting on the part of entire cast. The standout in my mind was Brandon Jay McLaren, who plays Bennet Ahmed. The terror his body language communicated was palpable. Equally remarkable was Brent Sexton, who continues to be the standout. His decision to take Bennet out to the docks was one borne out of rage and loss, and his words about the relationship he had with his daughter were remarkably powerful. Again and again, the show demonstrates the power of words when used in moderation. Too many modern shows are consumed with filling every moment on air with words. But the writers of “The Killing” understand the power of silence and non-verbal communication.
The investigation takes some serious steps forward. This unfortunately is where the show potentially makes an unforced error. The investigation turns as Linden and Holder discover that Bennet isn’t protecting his wife, but rather his mysterious Koran-studying buddy helpfully named Mohammed. As the two detectives quickly find out, that does not make things any better. But continually we are seeing signs that the Rosie Larsen murder is not just an isolated incident. The missing girl from the mosque seems to me too coincidental a detail, particularly given the rather odd plot twist at the end of the episode, but it is clear that whatever Bennet Ahmed got involved in was significant. But the potential error comes from even linking Bennet to his apparently recently discovered Muslim faith.
My opposition is admittedly tentative, and not for any particular belief in the controversies related to Muslims in America, but that the inclusion of this, especially in light of the twist, would bring unnecessary political baggage to the show. The writers have done a decent job of it so far, but this subject is extremely delicate, and I just don’t know that it can be handled in an intelligent way. I have no background on the Danish series, so no idea if this is part of the original series, but in my mind without serious tap dancing this is an unforced error on the part of the writers.
I might have more faith if the writers showed they had any handle on the campaign plot, which is clearly becoming the most disappointing aspect of the show. While Linden, the Larsen’s, and to a lesser extent, Holder are fully formed characters with their own motivations and issues. Richmond, Gwen, Jamie, and Mayor Adams on the other hand have no defined characteristics. The writers want to put Richmond in the role of plucky underdog who stands up to those dirty career politicians, but they’ve already given him sufficient deviousness to deal with Yitanes, and Gwen and Jamie serve no purpose other than to put Richmond in the position he needs to so he can oppose Adams. It just doesn’t make any sense.
So despite the plot intrigues with the investigation and the high quality of acting, the unforced inclusion of controversial material and the degrading quality of the campaign plot and characters and its continued centrality in the plot are beginning to drag down what should be an excellent show.