It's the nature of a show like The Killing: Set up a murder mystery, introduce the possible suspects, and then slowly zero in on the real culprit. Thus, there's nothing wrong with how strongly the character of Joe Mills (Ryan Robbins) is being set up as the bad guy, the man who might be responsible for whatever's happened to missing teenager Kallie Leeds. The evidence against him isn't exactly circumstantial. That's his voice heard during the sex tape with Kallie, which was filmed at the same hotel that Joe's mother owns, and, as we learned at the end of last night's episode, "Scared and Running," he also has Kallie's cell phone. He might as well tattoo "I Did It!" on his forehead.
But there's no possible way that Joe Mills is the killer, right? Would series creator Veena Sud really let the audience in on his identity so early into the season, in only the fourth episode? After all, this is the same show that dragged on a murder investigation for 26 episodes. Smart money says Mills is yet another one of The Killing's red herrings, this season's answer to probable, though ultimately not guilty, Rosie Larsen killer Bennet Ahmed, the schoolteacher who suffered a similarly on-the-nose amount of suspect-number-one development in The Killing's debut season.
"Scared and Running" was the season's best hour so far, marked by an atypically hilarious scene in which Holder (Joel Kinnaman) verbally fumbles through the world's worst cover-up for forgetting that it's Valentine's Day (that he celebrates it on February 15, so it's "not so commercial") in front of girlfriend, Caroline, and a visibly uncomfortable Linden (Mireille Enos). It's also nice to see Linden lashing out, particularly against Kallie's deadbeat mother (Amy Seimetz)—an all-out Linden spaz-out moment is clearly on the horizon, though hopefully it doesn't involve her past affair with Skinner (Elias Koteas). That storyline can go the way of Darren Richmond—as in, disappear entirely.
With so much good happening, it'll be a shame if The Killing falls back into another predictably misleading string of red herrings, a la season one. Assuming that Joe Mills isn't the perpetrator, it'll be on to the next one, probably the unsubtly suspicious guy who runs the Beacon center for runaway teens. That dude has "Investigate Me!" written across his face, leaving just enough room to add "I Did It!" before Linden and Holder realize that he's not the guilty party either.
Chances are, the person responsible for whatever fate has besieged Kallie Leeds hasn't even been introduced yet. He or she is waiting on a Seattle street corner, getting drenched by rain, a towel handy so he or she can dry their forehead and allow Veena Sud's proverbial tattoo gun to brand it with, "It Was Me All Along, Suckers!"
Written by Matt Barone (@MBarone)