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‘The Killing’ Review: “Try”

The Killing Try
AMC

The Killing‘ returns with another new episode tonight, in which Linden goes for a lengthy car ride, Bullet betrays Holder’s trust, and Seward still holds out for hope that he can prove himself innocent before his march to the gallows. “Try” is yet another in a series of strong episodes for season 3 of the show, but despite the title, the episode seems effortless in its effectiveness.

When ‘The Killing’ is at its best, it calls to mind the work of David Fincher. Long, quiet scenes between two characters, with the dark and dreary atmosphere upping the tension to its breaking point. Watching Linden and Pastor Mike as he holds her hostage and makes her drive down into an abandoned and dank parking garage, for instance, is the kind of stuff that puts you on the edge of your seat. The first half of the episode is dedicated entirely to this long sequence, as the detectives back at the station slowly realize that Linden has her radio on and they can hear the conversation between her and her captor. And if the driving around wasn’t tense enough, Mike finds out about Linden’s radio and makes her drive out onto a pier, where it seems he might kill her, or himself.

That entire first 20 minutes or so is beautifully shot, the score (reminiscent of Cliff Martinez’s work for ‘Drive’ and ‘Contagion,’ with a patient ticking that seems to count down to something we can’t foresee) dialed down to let the visuals and dialogue do most of the heavy-lifting, and it all leads to that intense sequence on the pier, the dust kicking up in clouds as thick as the Seattle fog as the cavalry rolls in just in time to arrest the pastor.

But of course Pastor Mike is (mostly) innocent; his crime in Tempe was only trying to help detox a teenage girl who asked for his assistance before the addict in her took over and turned on him; his interaction with Angie was only to take her to the vet clinic for a late-night, life-saving surgery, and the blood in his car was hers, too. Mike just wants to save these wayward kids, these kids no one else cares about, and for that he’s always blamed. His only crime is his kindness. It’s all a bit pitiful, but I can forgive ‘The Killing’ for baiting us with another red herring for a couple of reasons: one, the first half of the episode, which is fascinating and artfully contained, proving that this show does know the meaning of restraint and can keep the plot threads to a thankful minimum. And two, where previous seasons felt as though the show was trying too hard to make someone look guilty, resulting in redundant reveals of innocence that eventually bordered on laughable and exasperated the viewer, the stuff with Mike has a natural progression to it, and his character has real depth and poignancy. His conversations with Linden about hopelessness and children are dark and disquieting, and the reveal that he’s innocent doesn’t feel like some moment where the writers yelled “gotcha!”

I also loved the scene after the arrest, with Holder pacing back and forth around a frazzled Linden before settling beside her like a gentle guard dog. But that guard dog went on the attack when he found out Bullet fed him some false info to speed up the arrest of Mike. She’s hardly at fault — she thought Mike was the guy, Lyric did go over to his house suspiciously, and then the girl disappeared and left Bullet afraid for her safety. In the end, Bullet is left alone, alienated by Holder, who knows just which verbal knives to twist in order to hurt her the most, and left behind by Lyric, who has gone back to her jerk boyfriend yet again — a guy who treats her badly but gosh, he sure is pretty and he has a bed she can sleep in.

But Bullet isn’t going to be tossed aside so easily, and there’s something in her — something like Holder, who constantly feels the need to prove himself to the people that care about him most, the people he let down and yet they took him back to his astonishment, the people who have forgiven him, and yet he continues to try and prove that he’ll never let them down again. He sees himself in Bullet, and their connection and his genuine concern for her push her into dangerous territory, buying heroin from a dealer to give to poor Angie as a bribe for info on the killer. With that info, Bullet tries to call Holder and tell him what she knows, as a mysterious man sits outside the diner she’s in and watches her.

Going on this show’s history alone, I find it hard to believe we’ve met the killer, but with only four episodes left, it’s not out of the realm of possibility. ‘The Killing’ was never a whodunit show, and always sold itself more about the path to the conclusion rather than the final destination itself, but it lost viewers when it paved that path way too far over two seasons. Here, the ride, like Linden’s with Mike, is tense and atmospheric, and whether we’ve met the killer of not is less important than the moments we spend on the way to meet him.

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