‘The Killing’ 3.01 & 3.02 Recaps: “I Break Things”

Sunday sure was a pessimistic downer when it came to TV. Over on HBO, ‘Game of Thrones’ reminded us that there’s nothing that show won’t do and no storytelling convention it won’t break. A few channels down the Comcast menu, AMC aired the two-hour premiere of the shortly-canceled-then-revived ‘The Killing’, which was just as sullen an affair as the instantly-infamous ‘The Rains of Castamere‘.

A depressing rain of a different sort fell as the pale-faced Linden and the smolder-faced Holder slowly lurched back into action in an impossibly rain-drenched Seattle. (Anyone want to venture a guess at the show’s water budget?) Holder has switched to suits, obviously taking his job a little more seriously. Maybe someone higher up told him that hoodies made him look more like a junkie than a cop. Linden soon digs out her trusted Goodwill-reject knit sweaters, but not until the premiere’s second half.

After the show’s instantly disheartening theme music (seriously, that music has a Pavlovian effect on my depression receptors), we’re soon thrust into the grimy world of the Lost Children of the Northwest. Apparently, Seattle has a burgeoning homeless teenager problem. Scruffy faces, unwashed hair and terrible life decisions become a quick focal point of the series. Most of them walk the streets as dirty, underage prostitutes – just in case you thought that ‘The Killing’ would try to shine a light on a sunnier subject.

My reasons for tuning into the third season of a show that essentially erased its own writing on the wall are two-fold, and both boil down to morbid curiosity. First, can show-runner Veena Sud come up with a storyline that’s less aggravating and more satisfying than the first two seasons, which concluded with the show’s brief cancelation? Second, will Linden and Holder finally give into their obvious sexual tension that hangs over every scene like a thick Northwest fog?

As the premiere began, however, I soon found other unexpected aspects to hold my attention. Going in, the only thing I knew about the upcoming season was that there would be one. I didn’t keep up to date with casting news, plot teases or Sud updates. So, the first time I saw Peter Sarsgaard sitting there looking like a young Hannibal Lecter, I let out an audible “Ohhh!” Now that’s something I can get behind. You wouldn’t expect that a show fighting its way back from cancelation could land a recognizable star like Sarsgaard, but there he is. And he’s frighteningly effective at putting a face on Linden’s old nemesis Tom Seward. He doesn’t think twice about repeatedly bashing the head of a prison chaplain into the bars of his cell. The one thing that’s lament-worthy about this whole situation is that there’s a very strong possibility that Sarsgaard will spend the entirety of the season confined to an eight-foot-by-five-foot cell. For some reason, I don’t see ‘The Killing’ plotting an elaborate death row prison escape anytime soon – unless of course it’s staged during a sufficiently soggy Seattle afternoon and is one of the most uneventful and unexciting prison escapes ever conceived for entertainment purposes.

The first half of the two-parter reintroduces us to our cast of dour characters. This time around, the perpetually-frowny Larsen family has been replaced by equally miserable street orphans, a few of which are being picked off one by one, throats slit. The M.O. is remarkably similar to Seward’s. Did Linden put away the wrong man all those years ago?

The premiere slowly builds to a couple of teasing cliffhangers. That’s what ‘The Killing’ does. We spend 40 minutes watching Holder and Linden smoke and shuffle around in the rain, then as the last five minutes roll around, the creepy music starts playing and we get a few shots that tease the next episode – or in the case of the premiere, the entirety of this season.

The ending, though, reminds me of my love/hate feelings for this show. It tries not to be like all the other cop shows out there on TV. Sometimes it succeeds, except when it needs to tease the audience. Then it reverts back to the same old dramatic conventions we’ve seen in more formulaic series. I’m not really sure that I understand it, either. As the fog lifts and Linden sees the dastardly truth, one wonders how these dozens of hastily-disposed bodies, wrapped in red tarps, hadn’t been found before now. The scene gives the show a foothold to explore in Season 3, but is it really all that believable in the first place?


  1. The show was never really about the “killing” anyway, it’s about the relationship between Holder and Linden, and my first thoughts watching the 2-hour opener was “boy, did I miss these guys.” They’re kind of like Mulder and Scully, minus the aliens.

    I’m wondering if the plot is going to be similar to “The Happening,” where the guy in prison is either giving instructions to or motivating someone outside the prison to kill. Regardless, the idea that someone is on the loose (that’s for you Mike A.! – inside joke) that may – and probably already has – killed again makes this season already more interesting than the last two. Before, we were trying to solve just one death…this time it looks like we have a serial killer on our hands.

  2. I thought these two episodes were pretty good, though I’m not really sold on the need for the show to rasie the stakes by having them hunt a serial killer. The intimate nature of the previous case was one of its strengths. One girl’s death could have profound implications for many people.

    No, that case didn’t need to be dragged out to two seasons, and I hope the show has learned its lesson from that, but I feel like turning this into a serial killer hunt is a little generic.

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