by Alex Greenberger
“The Killing” has always had a problem with the middle. It’s a show that’s great with starting and finishing episodes and seasons, but it’s the middle that trips up the writers. This all leads me to “Donnie and Marie’s” biggest issue–it’s an episode that’s 90% middle. Despite its placement at the tail end of the season, “Donnie and Marie” was set up for failure here, especially considering it is the penultimate episode for the second season, and probably the series, too, but hey, sometimes even the worst shows get renewed (case in point, “Whitney”).
It shouldn’t come as a shock, then, that, minus the first and last five minutes, “Donnie and Marie” was a mediocre hour in what seemed to be an upward trend in quality. Or maybe it was simply because the season finale of “Mad Men” was set to air afterwards, and considering my whole weekend was leading up to that episode, I was really just trying to get through “The Killing” in hopes that “Mad Men” would be astronomically better. (And it was.) Whatever the case may be, “Donnie or Marie” wanders aimlessly for a good portion of the episode as the writers stumble on just about every front.
For starters, Mitch is back. She’s still self-absorbed, so vain that she is offended when she realizes her children now prefer Terry’s grilled cheese sandwiches to hers. I think it’s hard enough to feel sorry for Mitch when she didn’t realize that children prefer sandwiches sans crusts, but to make matters worse, she continues to spend most of her time sparring with Stan about forgetting Rosie’s death. I get it already, I really do. Mitch can’t get over Rosie and Stan can. Now, please, can we move on?
Then, for the remainder of the episode, we get a lot of people on the Richmond campaign doing potentially incriminating things and Linden and Holden running around attempting to find them doing incriminating things. I reiterate, can we please move on?
But no, “The Killing” would never have it my way, not with Mitch, not ever, and especially considering the killer still hasn’t been revealed yet. If ever there was a time to do it in this series, “Donnie and Marie” was the one to finally answer, “Who killed Rosie Larsen?” Was it Jamie? Was it Gwen? Was it Jamie and Gwen? By the end of this episode, the writers have still failed to answer, although it definitely seems to be one of those two shadowy figures. The trouble is not that I don’t really care anymore, although that is certainly a part of the matters at hand. Instead, the problem is that with a plot point that big, there needs to be some falling action and definitely some closure for the season (and potentially series). “The Killing” has gotten so caught up in piling on the red herrings that it has forgotten about typical narrative structure, why we as an audience need it, and why it makes for good television. Sometimes, it’s best to stay within the traditional confines, for that is what sometimes makes for a great middle.
Since I have verbally beaten “Donnie and Marie” to a pulp, and by extension, “The Killing,” I’ll tell you what I wish happened in this episode. “Donnie and Marie” marks Day 25 of the Larsen investigation. Holder and Linden should have solved the case and just told us that Jamie and Gwen murdered Rosie Larsen. Simultaneously, Richmond would win the campaign, though he would be in the middle of some sinister deal, of course, and Mitch and Stan would split for good. And then the thirteenth episode, the finale, should have been Day 0, a 50-minute flashback detailing precisely what happened on the day of Rosie’s death. The finale would be what “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me” is to “Twin Peaks,” in my mind, though hopefully it would be better.
But I’m going to be honest with myself, the finale of “The Killing” isn’t going to be good. It’s set us all up for a real letdown, if “Donnie or Marie” is any indication. Here’s to hoping I’m wrong.
Alex Greenberger is a staff writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.