Episode 11 of "The Killing": "Missing"

Slate's Culture Blog
June 6 2011 9:42 AM

Episode 11 of "The Killing": "Missing"

[Caution:  There are spoilers ahead!  So ifyou haven't yet watched "Missing," come back when you have and shareyour thoughts and theories. If you need a refresher, read our write-ups ofepisode  threefourfivesixseven , eight ,and nine .You can also check out AMC's  helpfulplot recaps .]

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Every relationship could use a little break sometimes. After abrief hiatus for the Memorial Day weekend, I came back after two weeks feelingmuch more charitable and patient toward TheKilling . And lo, the show reciprocatedwith a good faith effort to switch gears and shake up its bad habits. Despite abig misgiving or two, I thought the strategy worked. More detours next season, please.

Very little time was spent on the Larsen investigation lastnight. We open on Linden at the Wapi Eagle Casino, destination of the Adelaferry. Something fishy is going on : The manager is unctuously uncooperative and her security chief is stonewalling, but the latter seems to slip up when she says thatshe was on the floor all Friday night and never saw Rosie despite the factthat Linden never mentioned that Friday was the night in question. The managersmoothly explains away the comment, saying that everyone at the casino has beenfollowing the news, but you can tell Linden is all, "Don't piss on my head andtell me it's raining" before she gets unceremoniously booted out of thefacility. Because the casino is on Indian land, she'll have to wait a week toget a federal warrant to search the place. The ATMs on the property, however,are a different story. (Side note: Wouldn't it be nice if the minorities onthis show had more to do than be shady and run these secretive enclaves thenice white detectives can't get access to?)

But after just a few minutes, the episode shifts itsattention when Linden learns that Jack isn't in school, and hasn't been for thepast three days. The rest of the hour is devoted to the Linden-and-Holder show, as the twodetectives try to track down the boy Linden alternately grim-faced and frantic,Holder doing his tweaky Buddha best to support her.

In a lot of ways, the show's narrative conceit thirteen episodescorresponding to the first thirteen days of a murder investigation hasn'talways served it well, as Meghan O'Rourke noted in her recent piece on the show's depictionof grieving . The Killing replacedmore conventional cop shows' repetitive case-of-the-week format with arepetitive suspect-of-the-day format, before spinning off into the less-than-satisfyingBennet Ahmed subplot for a few episodes. The investigation felt plodding, butit still sucked all the air out of the room, leaving little space for thecharacters to breathe and develop. By taking such a big step back from the maincase, we finally got a chance to really see Linden and Holder a huge plus for me, since Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman have always been myfavorite performers. (In the scene where they visit the playground she used totake Jack to, just watch Enos's face as it melts from a radiant smile to amask of pain.)

On a narrative level, it was good to get so much back storyon Linden. We learn that she was abandoned by her mother at age 5 and grew upin foster care; Regi was her social worker and has known Linden her whole life.Linden may bristle at Holder's implication that she's a less-than-stellar mom(or "moms," as he would say) because she didn't have a "blueprint" growingup, but it certainly puts her distrust, her edginess, and her commitment to hercases in a new context. Part of me wishes it had come earlier in the season,when we could have used an emotional hook into the character, but I enjoyed theelement of late-breaking surprise; it makes me want to go back and rewatch theprevious episodes. (Sort of.) And I liked the way the news came out over thecourse of the episode it felt way more satisfying than the stagy data dump wegot on Holder a few weeks back, when weall eavesdropped on his N.A. meeting .

Likewise, I was glad to finally see the two detectives relaxin each others' presence and explore their jittery, on-again-off-again rapport. Thescene in the fast food restaurant was exactly the kind of extended interaction I've beenwaiting for all season. Still, Holder's big emotional choice felt ungrounded tome. Yes, his partner is clearly going through a traumatic moment. But with allthe buildup we've gotten about his desire to re-establish contact with hisfamily, does it really seem plausible that he would completely blow off thiscrucial-seeming meeting to keep Linden company? Linden, who hasn'texactly been the warmest or steadiest of friends? Even if you buy the idea, it'san annoyingly overdetermined bit a case of gilding the melodramatic lily, as itwere.

Finally speaking of melodrama let's talk about the crimescene at the end. I thought it was effective as a kind of mythic moment: Linden'sultimate punishment for being a bad moms would be finding her son dead, a grisly, Greek echo of all the murder victims she'sabandoned him for over the years. Watching Linden unleash all her fear and ragewas as cathartic for me as a viewer as it was for Linden. And I'll admit, I wasclutching the remote as the reveal crept closer and closer. At the same time, I felt totallymanipulated, and uneasy about any of the concluding options. If it was Jack, that would certainly pushLinden to some extreme new place, which would be interesting for us as viewers.(If it didn't send her into a catatonic state of grief, which is, of course, entirelyplausible.) But it would also be ghoulish to suggest that there was some linkbetween Linden's shortcomings as a parent a parent who clearly loved her son and her son'sdeath. But what did we get instead? A young, essentially anonymous boy killed asan emotional prop. That makes me queasy, too. I'm curious to hear how the rest of you responded.

Two more episodes to go. How will Jack's not-so-long-lost dad factor in? Whatwas Rosie doing all dolled up at the casino? And when are we finally going to learnwhat's going on between Terry and Jasper's dad ?Current crackpot theory: Michael Ames was involved with something underhandedat the casino (perhaps something having to do with the"suspicious website" Rosie was connected to ) and Terry was helping him ...until her niece got in the way. Dun-dun-DUN! Leave your best 11th-hour theoriesin the comments.

Photograph of Mireille Enos as Sarah Linden courtesy of Carole Segal/AMC.

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