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‘The Killing’ Review: “Head Shots”

The Killing Head Shots
AMC

The Killing‘ spins its wheels this week and seems to get back into old habits as Linden and Holder continue the search for Kallie Leeds, while her vagrant friends continue to show us how rough it is on the streets.

Tonight’s episode, titled “Head Shots,” is a bit of a head-scratcher. On the one hand, ‘The Killing’ proves that old habits die hard when Linden and Holder run in circles chasing the few leads they have, and the episode spends far too much time with ancillary characters, trying to make these characters seem more important than they are. On the other hand, I’m enjoying the time we spend with Bullet, though I’m not sure I can say the same for Lyric and her boyfriend Twitch, whose intelligence is elaborated in the scene where he explains to his probation officer that “Joaquin Phoenix never went to school.”

Of course, that scene is followed by an uncomfortable moment in which ‘The Killing’ continues its themes of transactions, as Twitch is forced to have sex with his probation officer in the backseat of his car in exchange for letting his dirty drug test slide. As unsettling as that moment was, it feels like the show is getting into overkill territory. Isn’t it enough to have pedophiles, kiddie porn peddlers, child prostitution, drug use, and — lest we forget — murder? It’s almost as if the show is struggling to give us a shocking moment every week, and rather than keep the action and suspense contained to the central story, it has to force its ancillary characters through the hoops, too. Perhaps showrunner Veena Sud wants to confront us with the harsh daily realities of the lives of these wayward kids, but at some point it stops being confrontation and becomes head-bludgeoning.

There are some solid scenes this week: Linden gets a nice one with Kallie’s mom (Amy Seimetz) and a too-brief exchange with Skinner (Elias Koteas), while Holder’s interactions with Bullet continue to be a highlight. But then we pay a home visit to the prison guards, and the whole episode feels as though it’s gone off the rails. Why do we care about the personal lives of these prison guards? Maybe on a more nuanced show, delving into the personal lives of these two men would make more sense, but here we are, four episodes in, and ‘The Killing’ is feeling overstuffed. We already know that Henderson is the more sensitive and empathetic guard, while his partner (whose name currently escapes me) is the more zealous and aggressive of the two; we don’t need to hang out in the living room of the latter during mealtime to understand that, and his wife’s bizarre conversation with Henderson about how lonely she is just further cements how awkward and out of place this scene is.

As for Seward, his story gets little momentum this week as we continue to see how poorly he’s being treated in prison. It’s nice to see him make friends with his fellow death row inmate, though Seward is later reminded why he doesn’t open up to people when the guards use his new friend to teach him a lesson. In the first few episodes, I thought I understood the goal of Seward’s narrative: he’s a complex man who has been emotionally corrupted by the system and by his willingness to accept guilt for his wife’s death, even if he (possibly? Likely?) didn’t commit the murder himself. But his scenes this week feel shoehorned into the episode and don’t provide us with much more than we’ve already understood.

The major traction this week comes in the last few minutes, when Linden and Holder discover the identity of the mystery man on the kiddie porn motel tapes — turns out, it’s Kallie’s mom’s boyfriend, which might explain why Kallie doesn’t like him much. Maybe next week a confrontation with this guy (who I doubt is the killer of these baby prostitutes because, come on, it’s ‘The Killing’) will stop the wheels from spinning in place.

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