Review: 'The Killing' - 'I'll Let You Know When I Get There': Family men

The show's still a disappointment, but some positive signs this week

<p>Linden and Holder make a discovery on &quot;The Killing.&quot;</p>

Linden and Holder make a discovery on "The Killing."

Credit: AMC

A review of tonight's "The Killing" coming up just as soon as I call my mom "Bev"...

"I made a mistake." -Linden

There are still many, many things that "The Killing" struggles with, like characterization(*) and compelling plot advancement. Whatever expectations I had for the show at the start of the season have long since been recalibrated, where now all I want is to not have to throw up my hands when they reveal the killer and say, "Really? That guy? Really?"

(*) This week's groaner is courtesy of Darren Richmond, who doesn't even blink, or have any kind of reaction at all to the news that Bennet Ahmed was kidnapped and beaten to within an inch of his life other than to tell Linden that he doesn't envy her job. What in the world was that? Is he a robot? Is he, in fact, a cybernetic organism sent into the past by SkyNet, because the Seattle mayoral race of 2011 will play a crucial role in allowing the machines to crush humanity?

That said, "I'll Let You Know When I Get There" did some good things - did them better than the show has done in quite some time. In the past, I've compared this series to "24," which never really had enough story to fill 24 episodes and either sagged in the middle of seasons or did an abrupt left turn halfway through the year so that Jack Bauer was essentially chasing several unrelated bad guys in the same day. "The Killing" hasn't tried the latter approach, but watching this one did make me feel like the episodes focusing on Bennet Ahmed were essentially the show's way of marking time until there were only a few weeks left and it was time to get into who actually killed Rosie. And because of that, there was more of a sense of urgency tonight than there's been in a while.

Of course, some of that urgency came from yet another red herring in Belko. Some people objected to my use of that term a while back, noting that a murder mystery by design needs multiple suspects. The problem here is that "The Killing" has set things up in such a way that there is always one overwhelmingly obvious suspect (or, in the case of Jasper and Kris, pair of suspects) at a time. Within a particular episode (or over many episodes, with Bennet), it seems so clear to Holder and Linden that so-and-so did it that it just makes them seem gullible, and makes the show seem extra-manipulative, when those suspects are cleared one by one and our heroes move onto the next idea. Things would have been so much more interesting if the high school kids, Bennet, Belko and whomever it was Rosie met at the Indian casino (maybe Richmond? Stan slipping away from the camping trip to gamble away the family bank account?) were all being pursued and considered simultaneously. I know that an actual murder investigation can't and doesn't always work that way - that time and energy demands can at times lead cops to latch onto the most probable angle and work that exhaustively - but it's been pretty dramatically inert for this show.

And yet... the actual scenes with Belko and his mom were among the stronger the show has done in a while. In the course of this hour, Belko came alive as a person in a way that none of the other suspects, family members or political operatives really have. And I'll pay Linden and Holder's interrogation of him the highest compliment I can for such a scene and say that I could easily imagine that exact sequence being transplanted into an old episode of "Homicide."

Also, while it took far, far, far too long to happen, the show has finally put the Sonoma question behind it, with Sarah not responding to Rick's final ultimatum about getting on a plane. So at the very least, we won't have to waste much, if any, time in the final episodes on Holder or Oakes or Reggie asking Linden why she doesn't go already.

Again, my expectations have been drastically lowered. This isn't the show it could or should have been, and if it comes back next season (AMC often moves slowly on renewal decisions), it's going to need a significant creative overhaul to get me back. But I've stuck it out this long. Only a few weeks to go. Might as well see how it ends.

What did everybody else think?

Everything: The Killing

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Alan Sepinwall
Sr. Editor, What's Alan Watching
Alan Sepinwall has been reviewing television since the mid-'90s, first for Tony Soprano's hometown paper, The Star-Ledger, and now for HitFix. His new book, "The Revolution Was Televised," about the last 15 years of TV drama, is for sale at Amazon. He can be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com
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