'The Killing' Finale: Seriously, Who Killed Rosie Larsen?

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At the end of the show's first season, the big question remains unanswered

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AMC


In matters of emotional investment, The Killing has rarely lost its audience in its inaugural season. Technical details, the pacing of character development, and the coherence of the narrative may be off. But the visceral pull of the show was its first drawing card, and in its heart-pounding, bewildering season finale, the show demonstrates it can still stir its watchers as much as ever. Suspense rippled through what were apparently the final moments of the Rosie Larsen murder case. Linden and Holder demonstrated expert police skills in tracking the miles of the murderer's voyage, the Larsens and Ahmeds both received appropriate and nuanced attention, and authentic mystery drove the episode on till handcuffs clasped and after. The crime procedural's taut lyricism was fiercely engaging.

But most intriguing and frustrating may be what the audience realizes in the last few minutes: We still don't know for sure who killed Rosie Larsen and won't for another year. AMC leaves its audience with more questions than ever. Yet the stylish and sudden turns feel entirely natural this week and make the final twists more thrilling than maddening.

As the final moments of last week's episode revealed, Councilman Darren Richmond (Billy Campbell) secretly acted out his restless affairs online via the online persona of Orpheus, named after the mythical god obsessed with his dead wife, as Richmond himself always has been. The politician has typically appeared to be a model of decency, elevated into someone the audience has rooted for all season and contrasted against the incumbent mayor's corruption. But Richmond exudes primal creepiness in the season's opening scene with Detective Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos), as unmatched in intensity as the anger he demonstrates later when she confronted him in his elegant, shadowy apartment overlooking downtown Seattle. All signs point to Orpheus—and by extension, Richmond—as the killer of Rosie Larsen.

"I was just curious, when the car was going into the lake and she was begging for her life, how did that feel?" Linden asks.

"Get out!" the politician barks in response as he gestures to the door.

"Maybe you felt nothing at all," Linden says with acid heat to her voice. "The integrity candidate? Bullshit. That's why Orpheus the enchanter, a man incapable of loving anyone since his wife died, and he looked for her everywhere, in other women, in other bodies, but none of them were Lily—"

The rage firing through the mayoral candidate is unlike anything seen in the season so far, other than that one brief moment when he shattered a bathroom mirror in grief. His posture distorts, his face quivers, one hand on his hip with the other outstretched pointing at Linden. "Stop it, you stop it—you have no right! For two weeks you've been trying to burn me. Burn this campaign."

The man towers over Linden, seeming as eerily like a sociopath as ever. The brutal battles of the campaign have already shown his chilly capacity to lie, as in the penultimate episode when he told The Record reporters that his campaign hadn't leaked the mayor's affair when it had.

The evidence builds, and ultimately Holder and Linden move to arrest Richmond once they receive enough. They trace the killer's route, find Rosie's shoe in the fields, the photo of Rosie meeting Richmond months ago, Gwen's story debunking his excuse from the night, and what appears to be a photo of Richmond driving a campaign car that night from a tollbooth. "I got the nail," Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman) says as he presents the photo that will ostensibly nail Richmond's coffin shut, "if you got the hammer... We got him, boss."

The twin moments haunting the close to the season come shortly after the arrest in the final five minutes of the episode. Linden and her son Jack board a plane, presumably (and finally) heading to Sonoma to reconcile with her one-time fiancé, when she receives a call informing her that no tollbooth cameras had been working in months. The show cuts to Holder hopping in a car, saying to an unidentified man, "Photo worked. He's going down." On the plane, Linden tears up as she realizes the critical photo evidence of Richmond was fake, and that the case—and her peace of mind—is far from settled. Simultaneous to all this is how the news of Richmond's alleged guilt hits Belko, the family friend and employee of the Larsens. Damaged, confused, and angry, the small man grabs a gun and in the final moments, fires on Richmond.

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

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