Tuesday, 24 May 2011

THE KILLING, 1.9 - "Undertow"

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

In "Undertow" there was a major development in the murder case, but it wound up setting the investigation back by several days/episodes. That's even more frustrating when you realize the removal of Bennet Ahmed's subplot means The Killing could probably have been told in a tighter six hours. Beyond that, my usual complaints and praise largely apply, regarding performances and , but it's fascinating watching The Killing slowly throttle itself...


  • A translator interpreted Bennet's wiretapped phone call to Muhammed, confirming he knows about the meat market room and how it was used as a holding pen for a young girl. Unfortunately, Holder (Joel Kinnaman) couldn't get an arrest warrant signed by his old friend Judge Elliot (Jay Brazeau), owing to the way the wiretap is a gross misuse of the Patriot Act's anti-terrorism provisions.
  • Mayor Adams (Tom Butler) responded to allegations he's the father of his pregnant intern's unborn child by holding a televised press conference and claiming it's all a smear campaign from Richmond's (Billy Campbell) camp. He even offered proof by revealing he's had a vasectomy, but is actually planning to have his medical records falsified and payments to his intern doubled to keep her quiet.
  • Mitch (Michelle Forbes) was assured by Linden (Mireille Enos) that the investigation will be over within the day, but after Bennet's arrest warrant is denied the school teacher goes back to school and faced walkouts from his class (who also wrote 'KILLER' on his whiteboard.) When Mitch saw Bennet was still walking free, she broke down and chastised her husband Stan (Brent Sexton) for letting the man who killed their daughter go.
  • Richmond was put in an awkward position, having to pretend he didn't leak news of Adams' pregnant intern, while Jamie resolved to prove Adams is lying about his innocence. All dirty tactics were called off by Richmond after hearing the Green Street Mosque has been defaced.
  • Bennet's wife Amber (Ashley Johnson) was still suspicious of her husband and wrote down Muhammed's phone number from Bennet's cell phone, passing the information to Linden and Holder. The phone's number was traced to a Muhammed Hamid (Jarod Joseph), with the GPS pinpointing him to a Seattle marketplace. Linden and Holder arrived on the scene, calling Muhammed's phone to see which of the stallholders responded, and eventually found their prime suspect--who decided to run when he realizes he's been identified, but was apprehended.
  • Gwen (Kristen Lehman) tried to convince Richmond to open up to the people about his wife Lilly's death, as it's a tragic story that comes from the heart and could be their last chance to turn the tide of public opinion now Adams looks like a victim. Richmond declined, but went to see multi-millionaire Drexler (Patrick Gilmore) to ask for more money. Drexler gave Richmond a basketball challenge: sink a basket in one free shot and receive $5m to rebuild the Somali community, or miss and resign from the mayoral election race. Richmond accepted the challenge and won.
  • Muhammed was interrogated by Holder and Linden over the abduction of Rosie Larsen, but it soon becomes clear they have their wires crossed: Muhammed and Bennet were actually involved with protecting a young girl called Aisha (Odessa Rojen Miriam) from female circumcision--a controversial tradition in their culture--and have been trying to smuggle her across the border to safety. Bennet and Muhammed are innocent.
  • An outraged Stan, feeling emasculated by his wife's comments, kidnapped Bennet with help from Belko and savagely beat him up on the outskirts of town. Simultaneously, Mitch found Rosie's "GRAND CANYON" T-shirt in the laundry, proving the one found at the meat market wasn't her daughter's.


  • You can mark a line through Bennet and Muhammed's names after this episode. They're both in the clear--although I hope they explain the sighting of a small woman helping Bennet and Muhammed smuggle Aisha away. Who was that?
  • Are there any more suspects to consider? We're back to square one after this episode--so my mind's wandering back to characters who felt significant before Bennet's story became a focus. Those being Rosie's best friend, her ex-boyfriend, and the mobsters her father used to work for. I'm also still suspicious of Stan's buddy Belko, frankly--but I'm suspicious of everyone because the story could throw a spotlight on any random character and somehow make them the murderer, let's face it.


"Undertow" was a frustrating episode. I know this partly its intention (so audiences felt just as exasperated as Linden when the Bennet/Muhammed line of investigation became largely insignificant), but I question the need to have spent the majority of six episodes investigating a dead-end. I can only hope Aisha knows something about Rosie that could help Linden and Holder crack the case.

It's also becoming more noticeable that The Killing's ignoring the one thing that traditionally fuels whodunnits: motive. Why would anyone want to kill sweet Rosie Larsen? That obvious question has hardly been asked since the two-part premiere, and the show's mostly dropped the idea of investigating Rosie's background and getting inside her head. A particular shame because Linden was at her most fascinating when she was observing minutiae and making deductions from bedroom evidence and old videos.

"Super 8" was probably the last episode where Rosie felt like a tangible part of the story, even in death, before everything shifted and The Killing started spending an inordinate amount of time prying into Bennet's life. Isn't the one thing people love about murder-mysteries the way characters each have possible motives for killing the victim? Hopefully The Killing will get back to that for the remaining batch of episodes, perhaps returning to Rosie's circle of friends for some answers. But even if it does, so much time has been wasted mid-season. And will the Richmond/Adams story reveal a tangible connection to the murder, or is that as disconnected from events as it's now come to feel?

I appreciate what The Killing's aspiring to be, I really do, but it's a handsome production that's giving us too many reasons why this protracted method of procedural storytelling isn't the norm. It's too reliant on formula to pull it through each episode, and has just undone a huge swathe of the ongoing storyline. Real police investigations undoubtedly encounter issues like a prime suspect being vindicated, but perhaps the slow pace of The Killing is what made it sting as a viewer. All that invested time rendered largely pointless? Wow. Credit to the writers for managing to logically explain Bennet's suspicious behaviour while keeping him innocent, but it's shame we don't appear to have learned anything from this storyline that'll be useful in finding Rosie's killer. And the coincidence that both Rosie and Aisha visited the Ahmed residence on the same night of their abductions is hard to swallow.

Has The Killing lost its patient audience thanks to a misguided storytelling tactic, or can it be rescued as the show approaches the finish-line? And knowing that AMC have renewed their remake for season 2 (owing to the early critical buzz and good ratings), is that going to look like a poor judgment of The Killing ends its inaugural run in the midst of an audience backlash?

written by Dan Nowak / directed by Agnieska Holland / 22 May 2011 / AMC