Mireille Enos (Linden) and Joel Kinnaman (Holder)
photo by Frank Ockenfels/AMC
It feels like the perfect day to discuss The Killing: it is dark and rainy in New York and I pulled my back out, so I’m feeling a bit other-worldly. AMC’s The Killing is one of those spooky shows that gets under your skin. I wasn’t sure I’d like it at first, but a good friend recommended it just as season two began. Intrigued, I watched season one on demand (Fios) and was smitten. Based on the successful Danish series, Forbrydelsen, meaning “The Crime,” each episode of The Killing spans one day in the murder investigation of teenager Rosie Larsen. (Spoiler alert: I will try not to reveal any major clues, but will touch upon specific events from the first two seasons.) Set in Seattle, the atmosphere is gloomy—Bergmanesque, even—and washed under a gray blue lens.
Now well into season two (last Sunday was episode 7), we still do not know the identity of Rosie Larsen’s killer, but the characters and the unfolding of the story keep you in suspense. For me, the best part of the show is the budding, unlikely friendship between Detective Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) and Detective Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman). Linden is a still water that runs deep, a loner and single mother who was abandoned by her mother at age 5 and spent her childhood in foster homes. She struggles on a daily basis to be a good parent to son Jack. Jack’s life is in a constant state of upheaval: first they move from an apartment they are sharing with Linden’s fiancé, then to her friend/social worker’s boat, then from one hotel room to the next. Later on, Jack’s long-absent father appears on the scene, wreaking more havoc on their already chaotic existence.
In season one, we find Holder, a former narcotics detective, recently promoted to homicide who is supposed to be training under Linden, who is supposed to be moving with Jack to Sonoma County and get married. Linden proves to be a lousy teacher, and Holder spends most of his time following her around like a lap dog or trying to find her when she’s off on a lead. Linden initially has little use for him, but softens a bit when she follows him to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting (not knowing that is where he was headed), and hears him recount the tale of stealing his nephew’s prized gold coin to buy dope. Holder refers to Linden’s son as “little man” and bonds with him in a way that Linden cannot understand, but grows to appreciate. In the partnership, Linden is Abbott to Holder’s Costello. He is always quick with the witticisms, and sometimes she even smiles, but never laughs.
One of the best episodes in season one was when Jack goes missing (episode 11) and Holder spends the entire day with Linden trying to find him, even though he had plans to spend the day with his nephew, even bought him presents. The episode opens with Linden journeying to the Unknown, the Wapi Eagle Casino on Native American territory, where Rosie Larsen was seen the night of her death. After being stonewalled by the casino manager and escorted out, very unceremoniously, by security guards, Linden receives a call that her son is not in school and has not been there for the past three days.
The introduction of the casino into the investigation adds a whole new element of foreboding. It is a forbidden place where neither Linden nor Holder have any authority as enforcers of the Law. You can sense Linden’s feeling out of control and lost, despite the strength of her character and convictions when she ventures to this Other Land.
I will admit that a few times this season I was ready to quit, and said to myself, when the hell are we going to find Rosie’s killer? But executive producer and writer Veena Sud (Cold Case) has made it clear that we will not know until the end of season two.
If you’re in the mood for something off the beaten path, give it a try: Sunday nights at 9:00 p.m. (EST) on AMC.