Lest it seem as if these "Things on The Killing That Made Us Want to Kill Ourselves Last Night" posts are only about huffing and puffing, let's clear something up: So far, three weeks into its third—and, yes, please-call-it-a-comeback—season, AMC's murder mystery series has been aces, despite a few minor storytelling slip-ups. The mood's captivatingly gloomy and intense, the acting's been first-rate, and creator Veena Sud and her team have wisely narrowed the plot's focus to a few select characters, leaving out all of the flatlining political subplots of previous seasons. Finally, like it was during the show's debut weeks back in 2011, you can feel good about liking The Killing. There's no need for irony.
However, In last night's episode, "Head Shots," the possibility of a Darren-Richmond's-campaign-like distraction officially came into play, and it's a bit troubling. The first of these "Kill Ourselves" posts called out prison guard Evan Henderson (Aaron Douglas), the enforcer with a conscience who's been taking it easy on death row inmate Ray Seward (Peter Sarsgaard). A big reason why Henderson's been so lenient is that he and his wife are first-time parents of a little girl, a new responsibility that's weighing him down tremendously.
He's working alongside the tougher Becker (Hugh Dillon), your stereotypical angry, non-empathetic authority figure who looks like a skinhead and acts like a tyrant. Noticing that Henderson's stressed the hell out, Becker invites him over to his house for some afterwork beers. Inside the Becker family's home, Henderson sees that his colleague's relationship with his brainy teenage son is strained and Becker's wife is clearly unhappy and looking for some physical intimacy (her compliments about Henderson's "defensive tackle" shoulders, followed by how closely she nestles up against him on the couch, is obvious code for starved affection). Moreover, Mrs. Becker makes it clear to Henderson that her picturesque marriage is, thanks her hubby's workplace demands, a sham.
The implication here is heavy-handed: Already mentally beaten down, Henderson now has even more reason to hate his job and slack off around Seward. Becker is what he could become, thus not treating Seward like he's a worthless pile of law-breaking excrement could help Henderson maintain some semblance of humanity, and, concurrently, keep his family in a good place. But do we really need to feel any kind of way about the prison guards?
The Killing's main players this year—Linden (Mireille Enos), Holder (Joel Kinnaman), Seward, and tomboyish street kid Bullet (Bex Taylor-Klaus)—have all been centerpieces for plot-lines compelling enough to hold down 12 episodes. Time spent with Henderson and his emo tendencies is time spent away from what makes The Killing thrive: a central whodunit storyline with obvious red herrings that give way to unforeseen twists and bleak resolutions.
As in, moving forward, keep things in season 3 more Agatha Christie and less Oz.
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Written by Matt Barone (@MBarone)