S4E11: Of course, after I spend the past four weeks chastising The Killing — and seriously, I did, and did — of COURSE, this week’s would be a terrific episode. But, I must say that last night’s “Missing” — which was perhaps the best episode of the series so far — took a completely different approach to the show’s typical multi-narrative style of storytelling and just focused on Holder and Linden as they searched for Jack. This allowed some space for us to get to know Holder and Linden on a deeper level, and it finally revealed some much needed information about their pasts. The added depth made the characters suddenly feel real, rather than just like caricatures, as they have for most of the season. Will it stay this way? Well, I doubt it, especially since this episode didn’t necessarily reveal much regarding the Larsen murder-case, the election and the Larsen family, but it was still nice to see the show take a moment to explore the relationships it’s trying to get us to care for. Maybe, if the show is renewed for a second season, we’ll have more episodes like this, and less stuff like every scene that featured Ahmed Bennet.
“Did I say that Rosie Larsen was here on Friday?” -Linden
Linden starts the episode off by following up on her discovery from last week: Rosie went to the casino. She talks with the casino owners, but doesn’t have much luck. They’re very standoffish, which isn’t surprising considering everybody’s first reaction to anything or anyone else in The Killing is to be a huge dickhead. Seriously, what’s the deal with this mindset? Do people in Seattle hate the police that much? It seems like every time Linden interviews somebody for the first time, they’re ready to throw down and challenge her to a duel or something. Perhaps that speaks more to Linden’s interviewing techniques, but still, damn. The reality is that this falls back on one of The Killing’s bad storytelling habits: trying to force drama that doesn’t exist. When somebody is standoffish, it makes them look a lot more guilty than if they are welcoming and understanding of the police just doing their jobs. The show loves to stand up, point and say, “Hey! Look here! Drama! Drama!!!” But, alas. I won’t focus too heavily on this poor device, considering this episode was very good overall, but it needs to be noted.
Anyway, Linden asks for tapes from the casino, they refuse (and erase the tapes after 24 hours), so she has a very smart idea to check the ATM security camera tapes. She puts in the request for the warrant (which will take a day or so), and returns back to her motel to discover that Jack’s cell phone is there, but there is no Jack — and that’s where the episode really begins. Holder sees her concern and drives Linden around as they check different places for her son.
“No wonder you ain’t a pro at being a moms.” -Holder
They continue to search, and this journey was wonderful. Despite the poor circumstances, it was really fun to see Holder and Linden’s relationship develop over the course of the episode. I wouldn’t call it a “bottle episode” (mainly because we ventured all over Seattle), but it was a bottle episode in the sense that we just focused on the relationship between Holder and Linden, nothing else. And as bottle episodes go, here’s the typical structure: the characters start out in a fight or conflict, are forced together (or in this case, choose to be together), and out of that time, they eventually grow to have some greater understanding of one another. (For a great example, see Mad Men’s “The Suitcase.”) That’s what happened this week. After their initial (and typical) annoyances, the two began to take comfort in one another and reveal secrets about their pasts — secrets to both one another, and secrets to just the audience. Holder tells Linden about his addiction to meth. Linden tells Holder that she was a foster child. The audience learns about Holder’s home life, his kid, his ex, and how he blows them off for Linden.
It was very interesting, mainly because we hadn’t learned anything else about these characters so far this season. We needed this so badly because the show kept asking us to care about Holder and Linden, but didn’t really give us much of a reason to care outside of feeling sorry for their wet, rain-soaked clothes. But as far as real character drama? There wasn’t any. So, even though “Missing” didn’t necessarily press the season’s overarching plot forward in an obvious way, it by no means felt stagnant. In fact, I’d argue now that this episode made me more curious about the rest of the show because now, I have some emotional investment.
I realize I’m not addressing too many specifics about what exactly happened in the episode, but that’s because, honestly, there wasn’t really much that actually happened. But, that’s not what “Missing” was for. Yes, we did have the scene where Linden thought Jack was murdered, but that was the climax of an episode full of worry, urgency and, perhaps, regret. The characters’ emotions were what drove the episode, not the plot. We weren’t concerned about the murder of Rosie Larsen per se, but we were concerned about what the murder had done to these characters and we finally understood why they all cared so much. If The Killing had a few more episodes like this, and a few less scenes of Bennet standing in the rain, we might be a little more concerned about the rest of the show’s characters. But, for now, I can genuinely say that for the first time since about week three, I’m genuinely interested to see what happens next.