'The Killing': Death of Another Innocent

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A grieving father takes matters into his own hands

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The Killing concluded two major plot arcs this week and raised two unsettling concerns bound to haunt the rest of the season. First, the detectives come to realize that Bennet Ahmed, Rosie's high school teacher and prime suspect in her murder, was almost certainly not the one who killed her on the night of the dance. The suspicion surrounding Bennet had only grown since the audience learned the two shared tender letters and amplified significantly based on his strange answers to detectives and his call last week about passports, reassurances that the cops wouldn't find out anything.

But naturally, because this is The Killing and because several episodes remain, Bennet Ahmed seems to be innocent and is officially cleared as a suspect.

Linden and Holder tracked down his mosque study partner Muhammed, and during interrogation, learn that he and Bennet were not responsible for anything more than giving Rosie back her schoolbook on the weekend she died. They were helping one of the mosque's young girls, who, in the Somali tradition, was slated to be married and experience female circumcision. Bennet and Muhammed played an admirable role, arranging to smuggle her to Canada to avoid such a fate.

The detectives now have a troubling new concern: Who really killed Rosie Larsen? Linden and Holder are back to square one after spending episodes chasing a false lead.

But by the time the detectives discover Bennet's innocence, it's too late. Bennet is likely dead or close to it after Stan Larsen and his helper and family friend Belko beat him repeatedly in a field at the conclusion of this week's episode. Bennet pleaded, tried to explain why he could never properly explain to the cops his whereabouts that night in order to protect the young girl. Stan had stopped listening—like an animal, he and Belko smashed their fists and kicked the desperate teacher, who initially tried to flee after they pulled him from their vehicle's trunk. The entire scene unfolded with creepy, disturbing brutality, from the number of Stan's blows to the shadow punching of Belko in the background. Despite the dramatically inconvenient timing—the detectives learning Bennet's innocence just as Stan takes matters into his own hands—the killing is powerful, sad, and completely fitting in the wicked logic of the show's bleak narrative.

These damning moments create what will surely be one of the lasting new plot arcs: What will happen to Stan Larsen? The man may end up behind bars, rightly, for killing a man. Surely the cops will investigate Bennet's murder as well (and even if he somehow survived that endless pulverizing assault, there will still be questions from the police).

No character on The Killing inspires as much pathos as Stan Larsen, the blue-collar moving man and loving father of the murdered teen Rosie Larsen. Emotion rolls with ease through his big frame, played with expert nuance and pain by Brent Sexton. In many ways, the first season has introduced him as the perfect father, a man who dotes on his two sons, his wife, and formerly on Rosie. He even bought them a new house in secret because he wanted the kids to have a backyard.

These fine qualities make his violent side all the more tragic, especially considering that such violence once was encoded in his past, when Stan was part of a local mob group. The show revealed early on that Stan once killed people, that he had a gambling problem, but also that—touchingly authentic to the character—he never felt the need to be that person after meeting Mitch and becoming a father. But his wife, initially sure of Rosie's killer, was the one who chastised him for letting Bennet go and inspired him to kidnap and beat the teacher bloody and raw.

What made the unflinching conclusion of this week's episode so heartbreaking was the paired set of tender scenes earlier: Bennet's unfortunate, failed attempt to return to his high school teaching job and Stan's gentle, playful dialogue with the small girl with the broken bike. They reminded the audience that these characters have many dimensions and successfully placed viewers into their eyes and into their struggles.

But Stan Larsen embodied his fate this week in a way entirely fitting with the man the show has created. His calm, touching friendliness always contrasted sharply with his dark background and intense emotions, visible on the day of the funeral as he lifted heavy boxes, in a restroom as he collapsed. He held back from killing Bennet after Rosie's funeral—he should have remembered that restraint again.

Questions of the Week: What leads will the homicide detectives return to after clearing Bennet—Sterling, Jasper, the Larsens? How will Mitch react to news of Stan's violent actions? Will the show continue to explore the Green Light Mosque's plight through Richmond now that Bennet's innocence emerges?

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John Hendel is a writer based in Washington, DC, and a former producer at The Atlantic.

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