‘The Killing’ Recap: Undertow

Darren Richmond in The Killing attempting to be Don Draper from Mad MenS1E9: One of my major complaints about The Killing — which I outlined last week — has been that everything continues to happen JUST AT THE RIGHT TIME. Not only are the plot twists poorly written and predictable, but I just DON’T CARE about them. Why don’t I CARE? Oh, I don’t know, maybe it’s because the show focuses SO HARD on EVERY MOMENT, trying to make each moment feel like the MOST IMPORTANT MOMENT EVER but really it’s not the MOST IMPORTANT MOMENT EVER. For some reason, the writers think that great drama relies on TWISTS and TURNS — and although there is some obvious TRUTH to that — when we don’t care about the CHARACTERS, we don’t care about the TWISTS and TURNS. And we especially don’t care about the plot twists when there is a plot twist in EVERY scene. It’s like that boy who cried wolf. If we continue to get ASSAULTED with these twists that don’t pay off, then we will eventually become numb to ANY type of emotion that the show wants to pull from us — EVEN IF IT PUTS CREEPY MUSIC BEHIND THE MYSTERIOUS TWIST TO EMPHASIZE JUST HOW CREEPY IT IS. SEE, LOOK, CREEPY. AM I POINTING THESE PROBLEMS OUT IN A LOUD ENOUGH WAY FOR YOU?

Unfortunately, this type of storytelling continued in The Killing with “Undertow.” Even though the show has a few more episodes to perhaps save itself with, I just don’t see how it can. Beyond these problems, there’s just nothing compelling about the characters on the show. Everyone just feels like a cliche. You’ve got your cops, politicians and religious folks; and, well, there are no individual characters within those worlds that are very engrossing. Everyone is just exactly what you would expect a cop, politician or religious figure to be like — and that’s infuriating. Usually by a season’s 9th episode, we know a good amount about the emotional struggle the characters have gone through in the series — and it’s this emotional struggle that separates them from cliches — but The Killing hasn’t given us much outside of few lines from characters about family or past-problems here and there. Even with our lead character Linden, who we are, I guess, supposed to be seeing “lose it again” in the job, I honestly don’t care if she loses it because I don’t understand why that’s a big deal. Nor am I even seeing exactly just how she’s “losing it.” (Compare her to say, McNulty in The Wire. Now that’s a cop who loses his life in the job.) The result is just flat storytelling that doesn’t really give us anything that we are or want to be invested in.

“It’s over. They’re arresting the teacher.” -Mitch

Did ya hear that? Bennet is guilty! Okay, everybody? He’s guilty damnit! Don’t you remember last week at the end of the episode when he spoke in Arabic (and in English just long enough to evoke suspicion from us)? Apparently, he was talking to somebody about Rosie’s death — at least, that’s what we were supposed to believe. Oh but wait, actually, that’s not the truth. As we learn (for about the millionth time), Bennet didn’t kill Rosie — but not until The Killing does everything it can to make us think that even though we know that Bennet didn’t kill Rosie, maybe Bennet killed Rosie. “Undertow” spent its cop story this week with Holder and Linden trying to get an arrest warrant, failing (mainly so they could make that stupid joke about The Patriot Act), getting a tip from Bennet’s wife containing Muhammad’s number, chasing him down, catching him, only to have Muhammad reveal that they were actually trying to save a 12-year-old Somali girl named Aisha from a traditional marriage and ritual circumcision. Heroes!

Seriously though, what the fuck? So, if this is the case and Bennet and Muhammad are actually a dynamic duo of civil rights protection, why the hell are we just learning about this in episode 9? If you were being investigated for a girl’s murder — so much that you were banned from your job (that you love) and your marriage was on the rocks — wouldn’t you try and be as transparent as possible? I understand that they needed to be secretive about Aisha, and I don’t mean to downplay that part of the plot, but it just felt so strange that Bennet hadn’t even mentioned this to anyone. I’m not saying that he needed to go to the cops, but maybe his wife? Or, I don’t know, maybe Stan when he’s trying to kill him? It’s just silly and I don’t understand why the show wasted so much time with this terrorism crap for such a weak and predictable payoff.

“You both played the same games.” -Pastor

Meanwhile in the political realm, Darren is spending his days at bars, putting Nina Simone on the jukebox, drinking whiskey and apparently doing everything else he can to live out episodes of Mad Men. His smear campaign has backfired, as the mayor claims that he’s had a vasectomy and hasn’t been able to have children for years, so a love-child with an intern would be impossible. Immediately following his press conference, though, we learn that’s a blatant lie as he tells his assistant they need to “pay that girl double whatever they’re paying her now,” and I’m honestly kind of surprised that he didn’t laugh diabolically after that sentence. So what does Darren do? Well, after being associated with a criminal and then being accused of a smear-campaign, he does the logical thing and approaches Tom Drexler for $5 million because that guy is squeaky clean — you know, with his reputation for strippers, parties and such. Once again, I don’t really know what Darren is thinking — but hey, it’ll probably conveniently work out.

Drexler donating the money depends if Darren can make a basketball shot — because why don’t we bet a $5 million campaign donation on a basketball shot? — and we aren’t shown if he makes the shot or not (tune in next week!) but honestly, I don’t care one bit. Darren Richmond has become the most boring character on the show. He’s your standard politician — a good guy who wants to do some good but can’t because of all the other evil politicians in the world, so he stoops to their level and, oh my gosh, it backfires! This is just another plot that we’ve seen time and time again, and nothing about it in The Killing makes it fresh.

“You promised.” -Mitch

So that brings us to Mitch and Stan, who are still grieving terribly (which is understandable, especially considering this is still only 9 days after the murder). But, even the parents — who started out as one of the best parts of the show — have become tiresome and one-dimensional. Mitch is just… horrible. I’m sorry, but I just can’t stand her scenes anymore. She reminds me of Jack’s heavy breathing in the latter seasons of Lost. Seriously, TV actors: heavy breathing does not equal acting.

Can someone else please tell me why we haven’t really learned anything about the relationship between Mitch and Stan? Or what’s up with her weird sister? The family moments are some of the least interesting aspects of the show, when in fact, they should be the most interesting. If the writers wanted us to care about Rosie’s murder, they’d show us more of her life. They’d show us the impact it’s had on the Larsens’ marriage (more than just Mitch being mad Stan didn’t kill Bennet). We’d learn where Stan and Mitch were that weekend. We’d see them interact more with their other children. Frankly, we’d see them just do anything that’d give us a sense of their relationship. Instead, we have corny scenes where Stan puts together a bike for another little girl and sends her on her way, or we have Mitch showing up for two seconds at the police station to say something like, “Hey, you promised you’d get Bennet! You meanies!”

At this point, especially with the last scene that featured Stan beating the shit out of Bennet (presumably killing him even though he’s not the murderer, but then again, for now the trillionth time, maybe Bennet is the murderer) and Belko beating up on something else (a rock?), it’s pretty freaking obvious that Belko is  Rosie’s murderer. Now, if we only didn’t have to watch the next four episodes of The Killing to learn that.