by Alex Greenberger
“The Killing” is a peculiar show in that if each episode was a standalone film, it would be applauded for its restrained pace and reliance on neo-noir tropes. But unfortunately, “The Killing” is a series, and that stylization just does not appear to be working for this show. It’s a real shame, and I was really hoping for a change, considering this week’s episode, “Numb,” was directed by Brad Anderson, the filmmaker who helmed such twisty Hitchcockian thrillers as “The Machinist” and “Transsiberian.”
“Numb” is neither Hitchcockian nor all that twisty—it’s more of a series of intense but unnecessarily blunt character studies than a mystery that hangs together. The episode’s character-based elements are immediately introduced in the episode’s opening, which functions as the first introduction to Mitch this season. Mitch has become something of a disturbed, haggard mess in light of her separation with Stan. Everywhere she goes, she transposes Rosie’s appearance onto other girls of a similar stature. She’s also sleeping with men she meets at bars now. Thankfully, she’s not crying as much as she used to in the first season—maybe all her tears were used up in the show’s first 13 episodes. I quite like what’s happened to Mitch. It’s a logical track for her character to follow, and it seems to me that it’s unfortunately only downhill from here for her.
In speaking of going downhill, there’s Linden, who is by far the worst television mom I’ve ever seen, other than Nancy Botwin from “Weeds.” I wrote, in my review of the season’s premiere, that Veena Sud’s characters on the show are still just as annoying as they were, and that maybe that’s a good thing. I’m going to revise that now and say that it’s simply a move in the wrong direction. What ever happened to likeable protagonists? Surely there are still some good post-modern protagonists, right?
Wrong. At least on “The Killing” anyhow. Linden continues to neglect her son—there’s a good scene in which Linden begins making dinner for her son, takes a call, forgets the boiling pasta, and leaves her son to do the rest. He gets up without any qualms and stirs the pot; she stares back at him with a quarter-smile. It’s a perfect encapsulation of their relationship and her devotion to her work. But I can’t say that I particularly care about Linden at all. I grow tired of her unkempt hair and the pursed lips that she has when she views surveillance tapes and uncovers corruption in her own police department.
Even worse is Holden’s character. Holden has descended into the stereotypical good cop/bad cop noir device with his addiction/repulsion towards narcotics in “Numb.” The whole thing just fails to tick at all. A stale sex scene involving Holden and a fellow Narcotics Anonymous member didn’t help either.
This all brings us to what’s always been the show’s weakest part–the Richmond campaign. Richmond shares a strangely romantic moment with a nurse as she takes out his catheter, an action that he can’t feel because he’s still paralyzed from the waist down. There, I just saved you 10 minutes of pointless development.
Still, the last five minutes or so of each episode—you know, the sequences with the thudding soundtrack music—remain interesting. I like that, unlike the other parts of this show, the twists are revealed without dialogue. I like that it takes a little work to discover that Beau Soleil is accidentally connected to Stan. And I like that the final shot of this episode, where Linden is given Rosie’s real backpack, is somewhat ambiguous. These sequences are always strangely visceral, unlike the rest of each episode, which seems so determined to smother all thinking with overly simplified character development.
Alex Greenberger is a staff writer. Email him at email@example.com.