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THE KILLING 2.01 ‘Reflections’ and 2.02 ‘My Lucky Day’

The second season premiere reveals the fate of Darren Richmond and a conspiracy at work behind Rosie Larsen's murder.

Episode Titles: ‘Reflections’ and ‘My Lucky Day’

Writers: Veena Sud (‘Reflections’), Dawn Preswtich & Nicole Yorkin (‘My Lucky Day’)

Directors: Agnieszka Holland (‘Reflections’), Daniel Attias (‘My Lucky Day’)

Previously on “The Killing”:

Episode 1.13: ‘Orpheus Descending’

For the first season of “The Killing” we kept cutting between the Rosie Larsen murder investigation and the political machinations behind Darren Richmond’s (Billy Campbell) mayoral campaign. We hadn’t seen a more obvious red herring since “A Pup Named Scooby Doo,” and at last Veena Sud’s serialized mystery made good on that dangling plot thread: Darren Richmond was arrested, thanks to a remarkably distinct photograph and a newly-discredited alibi, courtesy of his jilted lover and campaign adviser Gwen Eaton (Kristin Lehman).

Detective Sarah Linden had finally boarded the plane to California to try to repair her tattered relationship with her fiancé Rick Felder (Callum Keith Rennie) when she got the call that the photograph must have been doctored, since there were no cameras operating on the bridge in question that night. Detective Stephen Holder, having finally earned Linden’s respect in Episode 1.11, ‘Missing,’ turned out to be complicit in the falsified evidence, working with or possibly for an unseen individual. Meanwhile, the mother of the deceased, Mitch (Michelle Forbes), has disappeared, leaving her husband Stan (Brent Sexton), who himself is facing assault charges, to care for their two children with her sister Terry (Jamie Anne Allman), whom we now know involved Rosie in an internet call girl service. Stan remains none the wiser.

And of course, poor Belko (Brendan Sexton III), walked up to Darren Richmond in front of the crowd and shot him, because the season was ending and “maybe he didn’t do it” was a pretty weak cliffhanger on its own. So the internet got pissed for some reason. Maybe they forgot “The Killing” was actually planning to continue and not a really long mini-series.

Story:

There’s an awful lot to cover with two episodes airing at once, so let’s keep this limited to the major bullet points.

Detective Sarah Linden gets off the plane, again, and decides she’s staying for good this time. Finally. (Can you imagine spreading that “will she or won’t she” out for two seasons? Sounds like hell.) She knows that the photograph must have been doctored, and confronts Lt. Oakes (Garry Chalk) with the information. He’s skeptical, and when the Sheriff’s department gives her conflicting information she knows a conspiracy is afoot, and that Lt. Oakes must be involved, since nobody else knew she was suspicious. She takes her son Jack (Liam James) into hiding, without actually telling him what’s going on.

As for Darren Richmond, he spends most of the first episode in critical condition. Gwen and Jamie Wright (Eric Laden) spend the night by his side, until Gwen reveals that she’s the reason he was implicated in the first place. Furious, Jamie remains by Richmond’s side, dealing with heavy emotional sh*t when he learns that his candidate and friend will be paralyzed from the waste down, and have a colostomy bag for the rest of his life. He also has trouble getting a hold of Richmond’s sister, as yet unrevealed, who apparently doesn’t care enough to show up.

Meanwhile, a distraught Gwen imparts more information to Linden, who traces Richmond’s steps to a crab fisherman who – surprise! – fished the crabby Darren Richmond out of the drink on that fateful night. Linden confronts Richmond, who explains that a suicide attempt would have ruined his campaign. Linden gets the District Attorney to exonerate him without spilling the details.

This, obviously, messes with Holder’s plans. It turns out his accomplice is none other than this AA sponsor, Glen, who has Holder convinced that they simply took a shortcut to convict the guilty party. He’s also in cahoots with the Mayor’s security adviser, although not necessarily the actual mayor. When new evidence shows up on the Larsen’s doorstep, in the form of Rosie’s blood-soaked backpack (still wet, somehow), Oakes tells Holder to give it to a different crime lab. Suspecting something is wrong, he gives the crime lab his own backpack, which comes back positive for fingerprints. Holder confronts Glen, aware of a conspiracy, and is told that he’s just a patsy and needs to stay in his place, which shatters his ego.

At the Larsen household, Mitch is still missing, and Stan has to deal with Belko, now in jail for shooting Richmond and murdering his skeevy Mom. Belko, having clearly snapped, kills himself, so now Stan has that to deal with, in addition to the knowledge that the murderer is still loose, and that his daughter was a prostitute. Terry moves in with the family, making unusual note of a piece of fine China she owns (Plot Point!), but leaving her involvement with Rosie’s call girling out of the conversation. Stan ends the two-part episode by going back to his mob ties, seeking mob justice.

Linden puts the pieces together with Holder and Glen, and discovers a new bit of evidence: a reflection of a tattoo in the footage of Rosie Larsen uncovered in season one. It’s of a comic book character, but neither she nor Holder recognized whom, which could be a valuable clue. On the other hand, Jack was seen reading manga in the original Japanese (!), so he’ll probably earn his keep in an episode or two by figuring that out. In the end, Holder, in the process of flipping out, tracks Linden down and tries to explain, but it comes across as angry ranting. Linden doesn’t even open the door for him, and in a melodramatic display, he leaves his newly acquired detective’s badge by her door.

Breakdown:

The two-part season premiere of “The Killing” isn’t so much a two-parter as two episodes played back-to-back. It makes little difference in a series as serialized as “The Killing,” however, in which practically every episode bleeds fairly seamlessly into the next one. While the opening of season two returns the series to its less sensational roots, it also provides a clear picture of where we’re going for the next 13 episodes. And we’re going to Conspiracy Town.

It’s not that Darren Richmond didn’t do it. There’s more reasonable doubt than actual evidence to support his innocence. He never admitted his motivation for attempted suicide, and could very well have tried to kill Rosie Larsen and then tried to jump off a bridge, which certainly makes sense. It’s also important to remember that the timeline in question doesn’t quite add up: he still had ample time to kill Rosie Larsen before he jumped, and he’s still the creepy guy that frightens prostitutes with his obsession with drowning. We don’t know that he’s innocent, we just know that someone tried to make sure Linden thought he was guilty. Either way, props to Veena Sud for resisting the urge to keep him in a coma all season, only to wake up in the finale with all the convenient answers.

Linden, who for all her chops has a tendency to call the case solved before the evidence is confirmed (and repeatedly jump the gun in telling the victim’s family), no longer knows whom to trust. We haven’t quite entered full-blown “Prison Break” territory, and the series’ overall tone will probably prevent that from happening (mercifully), so instead we get a series of sidelong glances at patrolling cop cars and her sudden, understandable distrust of Holder, whom we now understand is a hapless pawn and not some kind of criminal mastermind. It’s easy to predict redemption for Holder, but his career is likely doomed. He’s pissed off the wrong people, and is stupid enough – even in his grief – to leave a real police badge on the floor where anyone could find it and use it to impersonate an officer, no doubt to commit horrible, horrible crimes. Way to go, Holder.

Where the conspiracy stands now: Holder’s AA sponsor is clearly involved, along with Mayor Lesley Adams’ security officer. Mayor Adams doesn’t appear at first glance to be behind it, having stated that he didn’t want to win like this, but he was speaking specifically in reference to Richmond’s shooting. Adams still may have been perfectly willing to get him accused of murder, or at the very least have implicitly allowed his staff free reign to put this plan into action, Henry II-style. It’s also clear that Lt. Oakes had a part in this grand plan, at least after the fact, although his dismissal might have nothing whatsoever to do with it, since the case was clearly a clusterf*ck to anyone paying even the slightest bit of attention. His replacement was ambiguously introduced, and clearly intentionally so. He may have been kind of a dick to Linden but “The Killing” could eventually reveal that he’s just kind of a dick, with no direct relationship to the conspiracy afoot.

As for the backpack, yes, it obviously means the killer is at large. Less obviously, it probably isn’t a message from the killer, since “Hey, here’s some evidence” isn’t much of a threat. It’s more likely a present from someone trying to unravel the conspiracy from the inside, who knows that the police can’t be trusted to find the real killer. By giving the evidence to the Larsens, they could be assuring that someone, at least, knows to keep looking, even if they go through illegal channels. Oh Stan, when will you learn that gang justice is, at best, stupid justice? We’re taking bets that they end up whacking the wrong guy again, and the odds are 60-40.

The time has come to take stock of just how bungled the Rosie Larsen murder case really is. We all want to get behind Detective Linden, since she’s all cool and moody and ironically diminutive, but she’s botched this sucker up on several occasions. Perhaps she was just trying to wrap it up quick so she could get back to her Cylon fiancé, and granted the game was rigged in the conspiracy’s favor, but every time she tries to finger someone it ends up going about as well as every time I try to finger someone. Apologies are in order, relationships are ruined, and while guilt should prevent anyone from getting fingered again soon, you know it’s both inevitable and inevitably going to end up the same way. In the end, she can blame personal distractions, departmental pressure, red herrings, conspiracies and insufferable casino owners all she likes, but she’s not the TV homicide detective I’d want on my case. Oh, McNulty, how I miss you.

That said, I’m not getting on “The Killing’s” case just yet. The series doesn’t work in big bangs, but rather steady states. All the parts keep moving forward, which is at it should be, and all the flaws are attributable to flawed characters making decisions consistent with their personalities. That said, it’s more than a little disappointing that “The Killing” has retreated into a more conventional Fox-type conspiracy thriller, at least in premise, than the original season’s more contemplative examination into its characters private lives using a murder investigation as little more than a MacGuffin. The showrunners doubtless knew that maintaining audience interest over a two-season murder mystery would be tricky, and are throwing a new wrinkle in to entice audiences who might simply be impatient to find out who killed Rosie Larsen.

Alas, the setup is just too vague right now to be an adequate substitute for the A-plot, which was working just fine as it was. “The Killing” has sacrificed actual momentum for the illusion of momentum, and might suffer for it if this doesn’t start paying off soon, and without veering into cliché. Will the gambit pay off? Maybe we’ll find out next week.

 

Photo Credit: Carole Segal/AMC