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‘The Killing’ Review: “Bulldog”

The Killing
AMC

The title of this week’s episode of ‘The Killing‘ takes its name from the new Larsen family pet, but it also represents the tenacity with which all of our players are operating. As we approach the conclusion of this season the show seems to be firing on (almost) all cylinders.

Still looking to gain access to the casino, Linden and Holder approach Gwen and ask her to use her dad to get them a federal warrant. Gwen uses what Mayor Adams gave her last week — that her father knew about their kiss when she was just 14 years old. We’ll come back to Mayor Adams and that kiss later. For now, let’s get the ol’ Larsen Family Drama Hour out of the way.

Janek asks Stan to kill his former associate that ratted to Holder in last week’s episode. Stan refuses, and Janek predictably puffs out his chest and threatens their family — again. In a moment at the park with the kids, Stan asks Terri to look after the boys. We’re meant to worry about Stan heading down a violent path again, but the scene is so under-written and contrived, and it reads like a generic moment thrown in out of formulaic obligation.

Stan goes to kill the guy, but instead uses his force to scare the him into running away, saving himself and his family from Janek’s wrath. There are some successful twists this episode, but this just isn’t one of them. That’s not a terribly harsh criticism considering that out of the handful of twisty plot devices, this is the only one that fails to stick the landing.

The family melodrama is, again, off this week. From week to week this plot thread has been — since at least the middle of the first season — hit and miss. Part of this is the aforementioned formulaic nature, and while showrunner Veena Sud has relied on this element to help separate ‘The Killing’ from a typical procedural, what she hasn’t done is successfully create a family dynamic that’s elevated above anything generic. It feels like she’s running down a checklist, and while she’s covering all the bases, it’s not new or engaging, or particularly resonant. I keep going back to the Lifetime movie of the week analogy, but the Larsen house feels like agitating static that flickers off and on your screen just when things are getting good.

Oh, and Stan comes home at the end of the episode to find Mitch has finally returned, but at this point, do we even care?

In a clever , albeit obvious move, the show makes us believe that the man holding a gun to Janek’s head later in the episode is Stan, but it’s Alexi, avenging his father’s death. Hopefully this brings an end to the burdensome Janek plot. Even his inclusion in the shady waterfront/casino plot that’s likely the reason Rosie was killed feels half-baked and a desperate maneuver to bring some closure to a dangling thread no one cares about.

Mayor Adams threatens to let loose the info about where Darren was the night of Rosie’s death, which, as we know, was the night Darren tried to kill himself. Darren almost throws in the towel on the whole race, but instead decides to reveal the information to a crowd of supporters on the eve of election day. It’s a smart move, playing on the empathy of the public before Adams can use the information to show them how Darren is weak and unstable.

Linden and Holder go a little rogue this week, as Linden finds the bloody city hall key card, but pretends the search came up empty. She flaunts the key card to the security camera in the elevator, infuriating Chief Jackson, who is becoming more and more of a cartoon villain as the episodes progress.

And here’s where this season finally pays off. We’ve watched for weeks as our main players delicately tread the fine web in which they’ve been cast, but we haven’t seen these connections for what they are until now. Linden and Holder try to use the key card on Adams’ office, but it doesn’t work. It does, however, open another door — the door to Darren Richmond’s office. This scene elegantly plays against Darren’s speech to his supporters, and just as our detectives gain entry, we watch as Jamie and Gwen look on, satisfied with this good man who will save their city.

It’s a moment that asks you to reflect on everything that’s led us to now. We question the use of perspective and how easily we were duped into believing Adams is a bad man. Earlier I said we’d come back to that kiss with 14 year old Gwen; the writers needed something Gwen could do to help Linden and Holder obtain the federal warrant, something to make Adams look worse, and something that could be used against her father. The device is logical, but I wonder if we shouldn’t have seen this coming. In hindsight, it makes Adams’ innocence so frustratingly obvious that I almost feel as though the show has weakened my own logical capability.

Still, the reveal that Richmond might be somehow responsible for Rosie’s death after all, after all that’s been done to show how good and right he is, is sort of brilliant. Who could see it coming? And yet the show should also be praised for using perspective to let us draw our own conclusions about Adams, without outright portraying him as bad. We’ve known Jamie and Gwen to be manipulative and deceptive, but ‘The Killing’ has done such excellent work relying on our own stigmas in regards to politics that we merely accept it as part of their righteous crusade. We’ve believed in Darren Richmond all season, almost entirely forgetting his creepy run-in with Linden in his apartment last season.

‘The Killing’ has, for once, succeeded in what it’s been trying to do all this time — by making an investigation so much more compelling than its end result could ever be.

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