“The Killing” continues with another strong episode, bringing the focus back to the investigation of Rosie’s murder and the consequences of Stan’s attack on Bennet, moving away from the political campaign and bringing it back into at least a tangential relevance to the investigation. But with only three episodes left, one begins to feel like this season was a bit of a wasted opportunity.
One of the central and largely unspoken themes of the series has been the cost of murder. The damage to Rosie’s parents’ marriage, the family, the community, the city; the killing of Rosie Larsen has had a dramatic impact on just about everything in the city of Seattle. This hits home again with the consequences of Belko and Stan’s ill-considered rage beating of Bennet. Now Stan is likely to go to prison for a long time, has left his family broke and with nothing to stand on. Bennet, entirely innocent of any wrongdoing as far as the Larsen murder is concerned, is now likely to either die or be unable to care for his wife and his new child. Linden is destroying her relationship with her fiancé (again, apparently) and her son. Bennet’s time as a suspect ruined the reputation of the successful after school program and greatly damaged Richmond’s mayoral candidacy.
The feeling of loss, of things that might have been better was everywhere in this episode. The writing was taut and focused on moving forward. Belko has been hanging around the edges of the story since the beginning, and he hasn’t always felt right, like he didn’t belong, and boy do we find out why that is the case. The scene with his mother combined with the interrogation scene was pretty gruesome, in a good way. The show didn’t shy away from the unpleasant aspects of the scenes, and it really helped flesh out Belko as a character, and made him far more sympathetic than most of the other characters we’ve seen so far.
Having the investigation and the family portions of the story, together with the advancement of the Richmond plot and his meeting with Rosie finally brought the campaign arc closer to the murder, and the subtle characterization of Richmond, it finally dawned on me that the problem with this series is that the writers were trying to be too clever. Unlike other shows I could mention (*cough*TheEvent*cough*) the problem isn’t that things weren’t planned or that the show wasn’t thought through. There have been far too many inconsequential details that have turned out to be important or at least been resolved or mentioned for that to be the case. Rather, the writers fell into the trap of being too clever.
As a result, they played with the emotions of the audience far too much. The pattern was to establish a suspect and then disprove them, moving along quickly. As a result, we knew that Bennet Ahmed was probably not the killer. The evidence was far too circumstantial, nothing was sufficiently concrete. It wouldn’t have been so bad, but the problem was that the Bennet diversion wasn’t sufficiently interesting until the last episode, and Richmond wasn’t strong enough to pick up the slack. The revelation about his wife helps explain it, but it should have been revealed earlier. To hint at so much that has gone on with these characters, without actually defining them even slightly has not helped the show at all.
It’s a shame, because as episodes like this one demonstrate, there is a great deal of potential in this kind of show.