‘The Killing’ recap: Everybody’s totally messed up

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Just so we’re all clear, Jasper and Kris didn’t kill Rosie, right?

Sure, as this latest hour of “The Killing” ends, it sure SEEMS as if they did, what with the video footage of the two of them having rough (and possibly non-consensual) sex with a pink-bewigged girl they keep calling “Rosie,” right there in the basement room where all of that blood was found last week. But check how we never see that girl’s face. And check how convenient it is that the teacher just happens to have confiscated the phone on the very day that video is sent to it. All of this seems a little too easy, a little too pat. (Then again, I still kind of think the teacher did it. Doesn’t he seem like someone who’d be politically active and would know Richmond’s campaign didn’t keep a good eye on their unlocked campaign cars?)

Of course, there’s also the fact that we’re only three episodes into the season, and we’re not going to find out who the culprit is this early on. What would happen then? We’d watch the rest of the season be about Sarah planning her dream wedding, while staring moodily at cake toppers as the score rose ethereally on the soundtrack? No.

One of the perils of a show like “The Killing” is that we pretty much know when the killer is going to be revealed. If we don’t find out who killed Rosie in the season finale, we’re going to find out the week before that in the penultimate episode, with the finale given over to Sarah either catching on or trying to get the killer before he or she slips the country or something. This means that the entirety of the season is going to be filled with red herrings, and even if we’re all pretty sure a certain character is guilty in episode nine or 10, that character probably won’t be. It’s just the nature of the genre, and every mystery on earth has this problem.


The trick, then, is to make sure that the show has the maximum number of intriguing possibilities on the suspect front. Obviously, the most famous example of this kind of mystery storytelling on TV is “Twin Peaks” (a series this show shares a few key elements of DNA with), where literally every character was a suspect, and the weirder the show got, the more it seemed as if anyone could be implicated in the death of Laura Palmer.

But this show is also reminding me of “Murder One,” a short-lived mid-'90s TV series that followed one murder trial over the course of a full season of television. “Murder One” set up a large number of suspects, and it was very good at making viewers think one person was guilty for the crime at its center before veering in another direction entirely. It’s also one of the few murder mystery shows I can think of where the writers set up one character to be the bad guy, seemingly exonerated him, then brought him BACK as the bad guy in the ultimate reveal.

So the test for “The Killing” is going to be how well it keeps us thinking that maybe it really WAS Jasper and Kris, even as it goes out of its way to say it wasn’t them. I mean, yeah, it’s probably not (just because having it be Rosie’s rich jerk boyfriend and his pal in the end would probably be unsatisfying), but the show is doing a good job of having its cake and eating it too. How is it doing so? Well, it’s figured out a really good way to make everybody even tangentially involved with the case really, really creepy, even when they’re doing something utterly innocuous, like telling their students about grief counseling. (I’m telling you! It’s the teacher!)

This may be one of the places where the show has the most in common with “Twin Peaks,” despite the overall lack of weirdness in “The Killing.” There’s a suggestion in “The Killing” that when you get right down to it, everybody’s kind of a twisted person deep down.

Even our two cops aren’t exactly all there. Sarah’s clearly unable to just give up this job in order to go join her fiancé in her new, perfect life, and you can see just how much she’s holding in in the scene where she talks to her neighbor (who’s been watching over her son and preparing minestrone). And Holder, well, Holder’s a mess all over the place, constantly trying to entice the kids into talking by dangling the possibility of drugs -- even if they aren’t technically drugs –- in front of them. There’s something “off” about everybody in the world of “The Killing,” and that makes it hard to know just who you can trust (probably no one).

But we’ve still got the Richmond campaign and the Larsens to keep us grounded. Tonight, Darren fires one of his two most trusted confidantes when he learns that Jamie was the guy leaking secrets to the press (though, honestly, I kind of agree with Jamie that he was framed by Gwen). The mole stuff is fine, but I’m really intrigued by the way that Darren, realizing his campaign could be sunk by the fact that Rosie’s body was discovered in one of his cars, sinks his teeth into trying to get back in the game, playing the kind of political hardball he might not have seemed capable of a week ago. Also, we get a hint that SOMEthing happened to his wife that we don’t know about yet. Hmmmm …

Finally, over in the Larsen household, Stan’s trying to pull things back toward a kind of normal for his two sons, preparing them chocolate chip pancakes and giving his wife some space (though the way he mechanically makes chocolate chip pancakes for two straight suppers suggests he’s grieving by going through the motions).

Mitch, on the other hand, draws herself a bath, and then, in a terrifying moment, seems like she’s going to drown herself in its depths, just like her daughter died. (Sarah’s lie to the two parents about how their daughter was unconscious when she drowned was just one of the episode’s most quietly powerful moments.) And then she bursts from the depths, breathing in a deep gulp of air, somehow still alive where her daughter is not. But for the first time, it almost seems like she can see a road forward.

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-- Todd VanDerWerff (follow me on Twitter at @tvoti)