‘The Killing’ Review: “Six Minutes”
With the serial killer behind bars, the action in this week's episode of 'The Killing' turns to the race to save Ray Seward from the gallows and uncover the truth about the night his wife was murdered. But it's not going to be easy for anyone, especially Seward himself.
It almost seems redundant to say that "Six Minutes" is an emotionally wrenching, engaging hour of television, given how consistently intense this entire season of 'The Killing' has been. And it bears repeating that constraining showrunner Veena Sud and her writers to a single season for a single story seems to have pushed 'The Killing' from an occasionally poignant an suspenseful drama to one that has been only occasionally faulty (thinking particularly of the horrible prison guard's personal life, which we can tell isn't so great just by his interactions with Seward; no expounding necessary).
But "Six Minutes" dials down the horror and ups the drama, showing that suspenseful action goes both ways. It's a showcase for the acting talents of Mireille Enos, Peter Sarsgaard, and (even though his role is minimized a bit this week) Joel Kinnaman. Sarsgaard's performance as Seward has been compelling, haunting stuff, with Seward's guilt coloring everything he says and does. This is a man who postures himself as the monster that deserves to be on death row for murder, even if it's a crime he didn't commit, and tonight we finally get some answers about what led him to that prison cell.
The entire episode stays contained at the prison, as Linden works to get a stay of execution, having found Seward's wife's wedding ring in Joe Mills' box of murder trophies, while Seward's son anxiously waits to meet his father. Becker does everything in his power to try and prevent Seward from getting a single moment of relief, interfering with Linden's visit, and finally exercising his authority right as Seward is going to finally talk to his son -- it's an incredibly difficult moment to watch in an episode filled with intense and disturbing moments. And again, 'The Killing' is incredibly good at showing its audience that horror is so much more than serial killers and blood-letting, by creating a Venn diagram that overlaps deeply-affecting character studies and procedural drama. Horror can be found in killers and games of cat and mouse, but it can also be found in the quiet personal stories of those affected by these crimes, whoever they may be.
In the end, Seward dies the way he lived: struggling, gasping for air, twitching and convulsing, crying and scared. The final sequences of scenes are somehow more intense and unsettling than the entire hour that precedes them: Linden and Seward talking about a tree outside his childhood home, Holder helping Seward's son prepare to meet his father and say hello and goodbye all at once, Becker coming in and taking away the only thing Seward had left -- his one last sliver of hope and optimism before he's forced to march down that hall to meet his death. And finally, of course, the actual execution scene, which is played out with disturbing beauty, milking every agonizing and bleak second until we feel as Seward and Linden must feel in those final minutes, that feel both like an eternity and mere seconds at the same time.
Becker is a man who is granted the ability to play God with the life of these death row inmates -- he's given the tools to kill them when their time comes, and up until their final moments, their lives are in his hands when he's on the clock, and he can make them miserable if he so chooses. And of course he does with Seward, but why? Why else do people seek to manipulate and exert some omnipotent authority if not for petty reasons -- which makes his part in this all the more upsetting when we realize that Seward's son can hear his father threatening to kill the guards for taking him away to die before he can see his boy. But all Seward has to do is look out his window and see the trees, see Linden and his son, and know they are there, know there is some peace and understanding beyond his sight, which has been so limited by his years in prison.
What we're left with at episode's end is guilt -- Linden over Seward and the relationship with her own son; the guards, who realize as they watch Seward shake and cry that there is no joy to be had in taking someone's life, even when you feel as though they deserve it; and Holder, who can't drink his guilt over Bullet's death away, but he can use that guilt to try a little harder every single day.