Who killed Rosie Larsen? It may be TV's best mystery since "Twin Peaks"
No, really: Who killed Rosie Larsen?
AMC’s “The Killing” is the most engrossing American mystery series since the first season of “Murder One,” maybe since “Twin Peaks.” But it’s starting to seem like less of a solvable puzzle-box whodunit by the week — assuming, of course, that the recent flurry of new suspects and motives and incriminating histories doesn’t end up amounting to a gigantic, swarming school of red herring.
Last night’s installment, “Vengeance,” was the series’ best directed and acted episode to date. The only thing that stopped it from eclipsing the series’ pilot were a few clunky moments and lines pertaining to Rosie Larsen’s teacher Bennet Ahmed (Brandon Jay McLaren), his mysterious and still unseen Islamic teacher Muhammad, and the issue of anti-Muslim sentiment, which boiled over in Seattle once word leaked out that Bennet was under suspicion. The instant furor seemed credible, especially given how ruthlessly the incumbent mayor has exploited Bennet’s arrest to damage his strongest opponent, councilman Darren Richmond (Billy Campbell). But the Rush Limbaugh-like radio rant and Mitch’s mom’s bigoted lament felt too scripted, and political correctness makes Bennet’s guilt highly unlikely (I doubt he’ll even turn out to have been an accomplice). And surely “The Killing” is too smart to expand this stuff into a “24″-like terrorism story! I bet this entire thread will turn out to have been a distraction meant to help run out the series’ time clock. There were other irritants, too: For instance, from the instant we saw Sarah’s lie-detector stare in episode one, we knew damn well she was never going to leave Seattle to join her boyfriend, so why keep dwelling on it?
That said, the scene where detectives Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) and Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman) visited Bennet’s mosque was terrific: sharply observed, dryly funny (the line about the 40 Muhammads at the prayer meeting), and in the end, surprising. And in every other way, this hour was aces, especially visually. More so than any other episode, this one was built around wide shots that showed the characters from head-to-toe, or from the waist up, and that put several key players in the same frame at once — the better to let you observe their posture and gestures as a detective might. And nearly every cut, shot and scene was thrillingly exact: Darren’s speech before the council (how could anyone vote yes to defunding an afterschool program after hearing Billy Campbell’s sorrowful voice?); the detectives poking around in Muhammad’s meat-cutting warehouse; the various silent-with-music montages. These sequences and others had a precision and restraint that recalled great 1970s paranoid thrillers such as “Klute” and “All the President’s Men,” and early Michael Mann films (“Manhunter” especially). And how refreshing it is to see a crime story told with such patience! Most TV dramas have more cuts in a single act than this episode had in its whole running time.
But really, now, AMC: How are we supposed to try to out-guess the writers (as the network is breathlessly urging us to do via gimmicks such as “The Suspect Tracker”) when the series keeps widening the net, and revealing unsettling facts about major characters that were previously withheld from us? So Bennet was almost certainly having an affair with Rosie, and he was studying Islam at the mosque, and he had a shadowy teacher who happens to work in a place with electrical saws and meat hooks and freezers? And Stan (Brent Sexton) was once a mob enforcer, experienced at killing, so the murder might somehow be connected to his past?
It’s all believable, and very well acted — especially the Stan-Bennet scenes at the end of the last episode and the start of this one; they reminded me of those tense sections of “The Sopranos” when Tony would do a bit of tactical calculus in his head, then conclude that someone had to die. But the plotting is starting to worry me. At times it reminds me of the movie version of “The Fugitive,” an entertaining film that nonetheless withheld key facts so as to make it impossible for viewers to guess who killed Richard Kimble’s wife, or why. I hope that’s not where “The Killing” is headed.
Whether it is or isn’t, though, the plotting of the last couple of episodes still makes me think that the show is a very different animal than the P.R. campaign led us to believe — and that I might as well give up doing the weekly “Colonel Mustard in the study with the candlestick” routine, and just surrender and go along for the ride.
But since we’re here, what the hell: Let’s predict.
Because no major network series is going to reveal that a dark-skinned Somali-American Muslim murdered a teenage white girl, Bennet is a no-go except as an accomplice. I bet that in the end he will prove guilty of nothing more than deeply inappropriate behavior with a student. I feel pretty certain that Darren didn’t kill Rosie, either; despite the fact that Billy Campbell has played bad guys and damaged people brilliantly, the “all politicians are possible murderers” card strikes me as one that “The Killing” has too much pride to play. And I think we can rule out Rosie’s mom and dad and probably everyone else in her immediate family, with two possible exceptions: Rosie’s sister Terry Marek (Jamie Anne Allman) and Jamie the campaign manager (Eric Ladin), who has a hot temper, thinks his bosses are idiots, and seems to have few scruples about anything.
One of my editors suggested that Belko Royce was still a strong candidate as prime suspect because the actor who plays him (Brendan Sexton III) was a bit of an indie film up-and-comer in the ’90s; why would “The Killing” hire somebody like that and not have him end up playing a major role? I disagree; Sexton’s a good actor, but not such a big name that he has to be indulged with extra screen time, and besides, “The Killing” just doesn’t strike me as the sort of show where the identity of the murderer hinges on an actor’s past filmography. That said, Belko has seemed quite impulsive and squirrelly of late.
Right now I’m leaning strongly toward Aunt Terry or Kris Echols (Gharrett Patrick Paon) — the former because she seems tightly wound, put-upon, and very resentful of her in-laws, and the latter because he’s got that Method junkie twitch thing, and his character’s last name is the same as Damien Echols, the convicted teenage murderer in the “Paradise Lost” documentaries.
Who’s your prime suspect? And do you think “The Killing” is giving you enough information, and doling it out fairly enough, to allow you to make an informed guess?
More Related Stories
- Cannes: Directing 101 with James Franco
- Welcome to the jungle: The definitive oral history of '80s metal
- Burt Bacharach opens up on daughter's suicide
- Steven Spielberg to produce "Halo" television series
- Amazon set to launch fine-art gallery
- Twitter torches Dan Brown's "Inferno"
- Brad Pitt keeps breaking his silence on how boring marriage to Jennifer Aniston was
- Lars von Trier's "Nymphomaniac" to use porn star body doubles
- New Beyoncé single leaked
- The sweet, sure to be short-lived "The Goodwin Games"
- Damon Lindelof admits barely-clothed scene in "Star Trek" was "gratuitous"
- Justin Timberlake: I'm a mediocre folk singer!
- Ray Manzarek, founding member of The Doors, dies at 74
- Beware of book blurbs
- Did a Salon excerpt ruin Penn Jillette's chance to win "Celebrity Apprentice"?
- Zach Galifianakis to take formerly homeless woman to "Hangover 3" premiere
- Seth MacFarlane will not host Oscars again
- "SNL's" uncomfortable Garner/Affleck moment
- "Celebrity Apprentice" finale ratings hit a new low
- Worst National Anthem fails
- The truth in Kanye's anti-prison rap
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11