I haven’t bothered with spoiler warnings thus far in these The Killing episode recaps, but seeing as how this is the last episode of season one, I just want to issue a warning:
SPOILERS. THERE ARE SPOILERS BELOW.
Now. Normally, at the end of these recaps I’ll lay out a little suspect list. I’ve been sold on Gwen being the culprit for the past several weeks, and as we’ve gotten closer to the end of the season, I’ve been asking Kris who she thinks is the killer. She’s been pretty noncommittal, thinking the killer wouldn’t be revealed in the first season and imagining the mystery would spill over into season two. I just couldn’t believe that: how could a single-season murder mystery show not lay all its cards on the table at the end of the season? “Who Killed Rosie Larsen?” was the question posed to us, and surely, while every plot thread might not be addressed in the finale, they must at least answer that question.
Well, Kris was right: though the finale shows the detectives finally making an arrest, another last-minute twist springs itself on us, and it looks like we’re going to have to sit here and wait for season two to find out what really happened.
What we’re led to believe at the end of the previous episode, and all the way up until the closing moments of this final episode, is that Richmond did it. Linden’s accusatory e-mails to “Orpheus”, the john who apparently threatened an escort with drowning, arrive at Richmond’s computer where Linden finds them. Disturbed, she leaves with a new suspect, the earnest though now scary mayor-to-be.
Linden and Holder set out to nail him properly. Holder amusingly (to us and to Linden) starts doing math, trying to calculate how much gas the campaign car would have had after a trip to the casino and back, and where the driver would need to refill the tank. This leads them to a gas station near the lake where Rosie and the car were found, and to a gas station attendant who heard a girl screaming and saw the car peeling out (the driver unseen), but didn’t bother to tell anyone.
Meanwhile, Gwen, my main suspect, is acting jealous and fishy all night. After finding out Richmond is still apparently nailing yet another brunette behind her back, she spills some details to Linden: on the night of the murder, Richmond was gone until morning, coming back soaking wet, “like he’d been in water.” She also gives Linden proof that Richmond knew Rosie: the videotape of a rally where they are seen talking to each other. So, Gwen, apparently, comes up clean. Apparently. More on this later.
Also along the campaign car’s projected route is a toll booth, and after Holder requests footage from its camera, a picture surfaces, showing Richmond driving the car early the morning of the murder. That’s all the detectives need to arrest Richmond in the middle of one of his press events, always a bad idea on cop shows, because if you’re wrong, which the detectives have been several times already, you could completely destroy the reputation of the person you’re arresting.
But hey! How could they possibly be wrong this time? As far as the cops are concerned, this wraps up the investigation. Richmond knew Rosie and lied about it, was in the car all night and lied about it, and came back wet. Wet with water. As for motive, who the hell knows? But it’s done! Over! He’s super-guilty, which is the worst kind of guilty.
However, we’re left with a couple cliffhangers. Linden, finally on the plane with her stupid kid to go live with her stupid fiancee, gets a call from the highway patrol telling her that the camera at the toll booth has been out of order for months, meaning it could not have taken the picture of Richmond that Holder produced. We also see Holder getting into a car, driven by an unseen person, to whom he states, “The photo worked,” meaning the damning image of Richmond driving the campaign car in the middle of the night on the evening Rosie was killed was not on the up-and-up.
This seems to indicate Holder is framing Richmond, which is pretty unnecessary, given all the other evidence against him. It’s also stupid: if the case went to court, there’s no way faked photos would hold up and Holder would be committing career suicide. After all his careful notepad calculations, why undo the entire investigation with a fake picture? If he was involved in a frame against Richmond, it must be a new development, because at the end of the previous episode he seemed genuinely alarmed to find out Richmond was Orpheus.
Even worse, Belko, mourning the destruction of his surrogate family, picks up a gun and prepares to kill Richmond during his perpwalk. Did he pull the trigger? We don’t know; that’s where the show ends. We’re left again with something potentially terrible happening to someone who may have not killed Rosie, just as how the moment Bennet turned out to be innocent he got his head smashed by Stan.
Did Holder doctor the photo himself? If not, who gave it to him, and why did Holder use it? Was it from The Evil Mayor, hoping to finally win the all-important, all-consuming mayoral election that only 20% of the populace will even participate in? Linden and Holder’s boss, under pressure from The Evil Mayor to solve the crime already? The rich jerk who have Richmond five million basketball dollars?
We don’t know. We won’t know, until next season.
I’m not sure how I feel about all this. On the one hand, inter-season cliffhangers are an acceptable bit of business in TV, and I don’t feel like I should criticize The Killing simply for trying to keep us on the hook until season two. On the other hand, it totally sucks that we’re on the hook until season two. I would have watched anyway: while The Killing had a lot of problems, I was interested enough to keep watching even without being jerked around by the last two minutes of season one. But, if anything, the final plot twist annoyed me and made me want to watch season two a little less, just out of annoyance.
As far as the entire first season itself, what did the show get right? I thought there were great performances throughout (though also a few clunky ones, like the rich jerk), and it did a good job with the overall atmosphere, mood, and pace. Most importantly, it showed something we don’t often see on TV: the disintegration of a family as the result of a murder. Most shows only depict the murder victim’s family in fleeting glimpses, but The Killing lingered, showing Stan and Mitch struggling to pick up the pieces after Rosie’s murder.
This turned a bit sour toward the end, where the grieving Mitch became completely unsympathetic as she first sent Stan to kill Bennet, then criticized him for doing it. In the finale, she leaves him altogether. Uh, what? He’s out on bail and will most certainly go to prison for years for almost murdering Bennet. Which you told him to do. And you still have two other kids. Where the hell are you going, exactly, and what are you going to do? Let your prostitute sister to somehow raise your two kids alone?
As for what the show got wrong, the list is a little longer. Who the hell was Rosie? I had no real impression of her throughout the series. I guess she was a hooker, though. Um, thanks? The police work was pretty shoddy throughout: Holder and Linden did some decent investigating, but it was always too little, too late. They waited almost to the end of the season to even dig into Rosie’s movements the night she vanished and they didn’t bother chasing down simple leads until the plot demanded it. Holder’s subplot about dealing with his addiction was okay, but Linden’s constant side-tracking to deal with her kid and fiance were just sort of annoying and frustrating. Plus, Linden wasn’t much of a cop, making tons of blunders, and while I’m okay with Holder being dirty, the revelation at the end makes him look dirty and stupid, which kind of sucks.
The entire political plot was a disaster. Politics can be downright fascinating when done right, and I have to call back, once again, to how engrossing the mayoral election was on The Wire. The Killing didn’t have an interesting political story to tell. What were the stakes? What were the issues? What does it mean for Seattle to have one mayor over another? I couldn’t really tell you after thirteen weeks. A delayed construction project, some accusations of illicit affairs, and the opening of some basketball courts try to pose as important, savvy political maneuvers and fail terribly. I think the political plot existed solely so Richmond could be arrested at the end of the show.
I also think Bennet’s story could have been handled better. The show was preoccupied with trying to make us believe that Bennet was guilty, which I doubt most of us really believed, and so I think they missed a real opportunity. They could have shown us what life is like for someone falsely accused: if the cops had suspected him initially, and then cleared him, we could have seen how rumors and suspicion don’t just vanish overnight. Show us Bennet struggling to retain his job and his friends and his reputation when we know for sure he’s innocent and we might have developed some sympathy for him. As it was, when Bennet was having his head caved in I didn’t feel for him at all. I felt for Stan, a seemingly good guy making a terrible mistake.
Ah, well. Now, we wait for season two. I hope this season one business will all be wrapped up immediately in the first episode. I hope it won’t drag on and on, giving us more twists and turns. I hope the next murder will show up quickly, and not be tied into this mess. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.
Whoops, accidentally drove onto the set of The Shawshank Redemption. Anyway. I suppose my odds-on suspect, Gwen, could still be guilty. The same jealously that led her to murder Rosie could have led her to lie about Richmond being gone all night and showing up wet. After realizing he was still making time with his former flames, she could have decided to let him hang for the murder of Rosie.
She could still be the killer! Frustratingly, we just won’t know for another year, and by then, I’m not sure I’ll be all that interested in speculating.