'The Killing': Expect the Unexpected

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This week's episode ends with a stunning cliffhanger

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AMC


Detectives Sarah Linden and Stephen Holder hoped to lock down a new suspect in the Rosie Larsen murder case this week: Bennet Ahmed's religious study partner, a man known, so far, only as Mohammed. During the hunt, they found themselves in an eerie building full of meat hooks and more than a few locked doors, which Holder felt at full liberty to break.

"Don't," Linden tells her partner at the first lock. "Probable cause—as in we have none."

"Somebody's yelling help inside," Holder replies casually, hearing nothing and as charmingly charmless as ever, "so I got my probable cause." The moment is a nice reminder that the two detectives, played skillfully by Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman, continue to deliver banter as entertaining as in the show's initial episodes. He kicks the door in, and they enter discreetly.

After a few minutes among the hooks and linoleum, the officers find themselves thrown to the ground amid shouts of "FBI! FBI!" Agents rush forward and place cuffs on both Holder and Linden, with no explanation offered whatsoever. Cue the credits. Have any concluding moments of The Killing been so completely unexpected and intriguing? The final scene, coming seemingly out of nowhere, caps another strong episode that demonstrates AMC's deft manipulation of audience expectations about plot and character.

What stands out now in The Killing is the remarkable range of flaws in the characters, from Holder's casual disregard for police protocol to the many shortcomings of leading detective Linden. Her flaws have been alluded to from the start, but their depth grows with each week.

Unlike Holder, Linden's problems don't concern professional competence—quite the opposite. Her single-minded devotion to her homicide cases often causes her to ignore her personal life, from her fiancé to her son. Last week, family friend Regi warns Linden: The cop's incredible strength, her friend cautions, has the power to limit her other emotions—friendship and love, especially. Linden's work-life dilemma reflects a classic archetype of the devoted police officer, which The Wire explored with alcoholic, crazed super-cop Jimmy McNulty. But Linden doesn't give in to vices like McNulty; she always means well, and comes across as an inherently nice person, sweater, quiet smile, and all.

Tension dominates Linden's relationship with fiancé Rick and young son Jack, and for good reason. She intended to fly to join Rick in California multiple times now, and in missing her flight once more this week, Rick stops talking to her. Although the ever-dangling plot element of Sonoma may be contrived, Linden's continual failure to leave Seattle and the Rosie Larsen case speaks volumes for her priorities.

"Sweetheart, aren't you a little bit worried about how this is affecting Jack?" Regi asks Linden as they share coffee on Regi's boat. "He doesn't know where he's going to be from one minute to the next."

"I don't want to do this anymore," Linden says, her voice firmer than usual—as though she's trying to convince herself her own words are true. "I'm finished with this life, but I have to wrap up this case."

"That's exactly what you said about the other case, with the kid," Regi accuses. "And you're doing the exact same things that almost lost you custody of your son."

These allusions to Linden's past make sense, given the distance she keeps from the various characters around her. Rick fears her manic workaholism, the injuries she never even mentions to him. Jack has never trusted his mother to deliver on her promises. This week, the most poignant illustration of Linden's conflicted priorities came in her car. She dropped Jack off for a party—an outdoor event with paint guns—and she can immediately see he's being picked on. The boys push one another, and the word "douche bag" is thrown around. But what occupies her attention? Not her son initially but Holder, on the phone and updating her on a lost warrant and the case's trouble. The updates clearly bother her and will inevitably send her returning to the station soon.

But luckily Regi's words make a difference, at least briefly. Linden hangs up on Holder and approaches her son. In a gentle way that doesn't embarrass Jack, she instructs him on the best ways to shoot a paint gun. That Linden's parenting skills come alive in the handling of guns, of course, is not an encouraging sign in favor of future domestic bliss.

Questions of the Week: Why did FBI agents waylay Linden and Holder in the final moments? Is Mitch, perhaps, the person who will violently lose it and not Stan? What events or revelation might permit a comeback for Councilman Richmond after his recent crushing defeats?

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

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