Episode Title: “Off the Reservation”
Director: Veena Sud
Writer: Nathaniel Halpern
Previously on “The Killing”:
Picking up immediately after the events of last week’s episode, Detective Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) calls an “officer down” report on Detective Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman), who was in the middle of a brutal beatdown courtesy of the hotel staff of the Wapi Eagle Casino. After leaving her son Jack (Liam James) at Holder’s apartment, alone (again), she rushes to the station to find that the search for her partner’s potentially dead body has been called off by Lt. Carlson (Mark Moses), because Linden is notoriously unreliable and they have no jurisdiction on the reservation. Shocked, Linden points out that when Internal Affairs investigates the entire Rosie Larsen case (a safe bet), he’ll have a hard time explaining why he abandoned one of his officers in the field.
Linden returns to the reservation and confronts Roberta Drays (Patti Kim), who is awaiting her with a shotgun. Linden bluffs and says that the police are coming any minute but – surprise! – they really are. Carlson shows up and begins a search for Holder, although they only have until dawn before the lawyers arrive to throw them off the land. Luckily, at the last minute they find Holder, who has been beaten senseless and left for dead.
They take him to the hospital where his sister and nephew try to take care of him, and deliver to Linden the book of matches from the last episode, detailing the meeting place that Mary (Q’Orianka Kilcher) said she’d meet Holder. Linden arrives at a barbershop and interrogates Mary, who claims that Rosie was never a prostitute, and instead worked at the Wapi Eagle Casino as a maid. When last she saw Rosie, she was on an elevator, presumably en route to the mysterious tenth floor, where they used to take smoke breaks.
Meanwhile, the Darren Richmond (Billy Campbell) campaign has only five days to go, and he has to find some way to close the enormous gap between Richmond and incumbent Mayor Lesley Adams (Tom Butler). The fact that Richmond refuses to reveal his whereabouts on the night of the murder is seriously hurting his campaign. They’ll need to do something dramatic, so Gwen (Kristin Lehman) and Jamie (Eric Wright) suggest sabotaging Adams’ plan to join forces with the tribe for his waterfront project. They set up a meeting with Nicole Jackson (Claudi Ferri), but Richmond balks, thinking (accurately) that she’s just as corrupt as Adams. Richmond confronts Adams and says he knows all about the leaked photo that connected him to the Rosie Larsen murder, which Adams clearly knows all about.
Carlson fires Linden, who returns to Holder’s apartment to find Jack missing. Eventually she finds him at the docks and sends him to Chicago to stay with his father, leading to a tearful goodbye. The episode ends with Linden and Holder driving away, determined to steal Rosie’s key card from the evidence room and return to the tenth floor of the casino for answers.
Last week I joked that Linden had gone “off the reservation,” and even I sighed in resignation to the awful pun. Little did I realize that not only did the producers of “The Killing” have the same terrible sense of humor, but that they were so committed to the gag that they’d actually use it as the title of the next episode.
I get the impression that “The Killing” is trying to get us to sympathize with Linden in this episode, despite the fact that everything going wrong is clearly her fault. She disobeyed orders, nearly got Holder killed, and is evading child services to a possibly criminal degree (a plot point I am shocked to discover was never addressed this week; you’d think that would be grounds for dismissal by itself). It’s an unusual situation I last encountered in Roland Emmerich’s 2012, in which the filmmakers expect us to sympathize with the protagonists simply because they get the most screen time, even though the ostensible villains have a stronger ethical ground.
It didn’t have to be this way. “The Killing” could have emphasized the conspiracy against Linden a lot more, justifying her behavior and making her decisions feel noble in the face of unreasonable odds. Instead, she actually deserves to get her badge taken away, and sympathy for her plight has gone out the window. There had better be one hell of a redemption coming. I mean, she'd have to solve the case, fix Richmond's spine, reunite the Larsen family and end the episode carried on Lt. Carlson's shoulders amongst a cheering throne in order to seem like the real hero that season one made her out to be, or at least justify her position as a genuine protagonist. There's "flawed" and then there's "why is she the main character, anyway?" and right now she's firmly on the wrong side of that comparison.
It’s fair to say that throughout Season 2, “The Killing” has done a less than stellar job of integrating its various storylines. For half the season the Richmond campaign has felt completely unconnected to why the series exists in the first place – that is to say, the actual “killing” – the conspiracy subplot has never been adequately incorporated into the majority of these episodes, and now “Off the Reservation” finds Stan Larsen (Brent Sexton) spending the entire show collecting tips from people looking for the cash payout he offered, which is as much of a waste of time as you’d expect.
I deeply regret not watching the original series, “Forbrydelsen,” at this point. Series re-creator Veena Sud, competently directing her first episode of the show with “Off the Reservation,” admitted that the second season of “The Killing” diverges with the earlier show, and I suspect – but cannot confirm – that the decision was a bit of a mistake, because “The Killing” now lacks the narrative focus that used to be one of its primary pleasures. The structure of the series now feels so slapdash that you’d be forgiven for wanting to drop it from your DVR recording schedule at this point. I have no such luxury.
“Off the Reservation” doesn’t quite jump the shark for AMC’s series, but it seems abundantly clear that “The Killing” has been hovering over the selachimorpha for some time now, unclear what side it wants to fall on. This show had better have one hell of a finale if it wants to go down as something other than a one-season wonder.
Photo Credit: Carole Segal/AMC