This episode starts with a man discovering the tattered body of a terrified young woman stretched out across a moonlit road, begging for help. Then headlights appear, and the man never gets the chance to offer said help. I don’t want to say that this opening is so The Killing-esque that it almost counts as the show’s homage to itself, mainly because I’m not sure it would sound like a compliment, but I don’t mean it as a put-down. This show knows what it is and what it does well, and if it’s never going to take any land-speed records in narrative drive, it keeps slogging forward, in a way that instills confidence in a viewer that the loose ends will come together and the trips down random alleyways will lead somewhere. The image if the imperiled girl on the empty road in the woods is a reminder of the strengths of that first-season pilot that got everyone so excited two years ago, but it’s also in keeping with the mood and plot details of the current season. And before you know it, it yields the reward that we’ve all been hoping for: Linden and Holder, sitting in a parked car together, at a crime scene.
I had a hunch we’d get here sooner or later, but I didn’t know how Holder’s current partner, Riddick, would be ushered out of the way. Maybe he’d just clutch his chest and keel over, like the guy who was blocking Jane Tennison’s career advancement on Prime Suspect? Maybe he’d get the picture and take early retirement, or lose his shit and run through the station house naked? Or maybe he’d get a hero’s send-off, and take a bullet in the line of duty? If it’s option [A.] or [B.], they haven’t found the body yet, and need to send someone to scope out his apartment; tonight, his absence is duly noted, and dismissed with a shrug. I was kind of surprised at how little I missed him. At its best, The Killing generates enough interest in its characters that it can get by with depicting Seattle as a rain-soaked charnel house without seeming nihilistic. The uneasy warmth between Linden and Holder is the heart of the episode, but it’s an uncertain, jittery heart, because the two of them are no longer sure what they are to each other.
With her son living away from her in Chicago, all the dead and ill-used children she’s had to look at already have Linden’s nerve endings raw and exposed. Holder, always well-meaning and getting it about 85 percent of the time, tells her that he talks to “Little Man” regularly, and that it sure is great that he’s so happy and has adapted so well to Chi-Town; it seems, he says, like he sounds happier every week. Linden, never the world’s most agile liar, does her limited best to sound as if she agrees that it’s terrific that Jack isn’t curled up in a fetal ball from the agony of missing her. And Linden, who never felt threatened by Riddick, who she doesn’t respect enough to allow that he had really displaced her as Holder’s partner, is just beginning to pick up on the fact that Holder’s real partner on this case is the street kid, Bullet, who is out tracking down all the good leads, and whose tolerance for being around cops is sorely tested when Holder gently suggests that maybe, since it’s the middle of the night, they should suspend the search for Bullet’s friend Kallie until the morning and look at everything again when they’re not exhausted and sleep-deprived. (Her version of “Permit me to retort” is to punch him in groin.)
“Bugs is pretty lame,” Bullet says to Linden, when they’re in the car along, “but he grows on you. You gotta respect that.” While Linden is still recovering from the news that Bullet’s relationship with Holder has progressed to the point that she’s assigned him a nickname, Bullet asks about his relationship with Linden: “If he ain’t your boss, what he is? Your man?” Linden, whose side of the car looks as if someone’s been barbecuing in the driver’s seat, immediately confirms that she herself is confused on this point when she snaps, “You’re not supposed to be smoking in here.” Later, Linden pulls a drop-in on Holder at home and gets to meet his girlfriend, Caroline (played by Jewel Staite), who looks as if she’s had a lot of practice smiling when she doesn’t mean it. It’s a convenience she’s there, since she and Holder are called away, just when Linden is mooching dinner (“It’s okay, I don’t need a plate.”) and Holder is unwinding with a little TV. (He’s a devotee of one of those shows where hillbillies catch fish out of a stream with their bare hands: “Love me some noodlin’!”) If they had left a minute earlier, Caroline wouldn’t have had a chance to slip in a subtle reminder that it’s Valentine’s Day.
But it's not all dead or wounded girls and missed emotional connections. On death row, the fun is in waiting to see, once Ray Seward has begun to behave in a way that’s civil and halfway human, which buzz word will suddenly turn him back into ice. His big scene tonight is with the woman who’s adopted his son. She wants him to agree to see the kid, and their conversation goes spiraling down the commode after she gets so comfortable that she dares to suggest that it might still be possible for Ray’s son to “forgive” him. Jesus, maybe the kid killed his mom.
- Have I said anything yet about how perfectly the music, by Frans Bok, complements the images and sets the mood? If not, that was an oversight on my part.
- Scariest line of the night: When Linden and Holder barge in a guy who’s got an injured girl in the back of his veterinary hospital, the first words out of the guy’s mouth are, “She was worse when she got here, I swear!”
- Holder’s attempted save, when his girlfriend reminds him that it’s February 14: “I celebrate on the fifteenth, so it’s not so commercial and whatnot. I thought I’d told you that, but if I didn’t, my bad!” It speaks very well of Linden that she doesn’t needle him about that all the way to the next crime scene.