Give The Killing creator Veena Sud and her colleagues a little bit of credit—at least they're giving us some answers this season, rather than dangling question marks and red herrings before viewers' eyes with no sense of eminent closure. Be careful what you ask for, though. The answers that surface in the divisive AMC show's latest episode, "Hope Kills," all feel so…anticlimactic. And uninspired.
Long-suffering viewers of The Killing know that feeling of disappointment and self-loathing...
Because, come on, did anyone really not suspect that Pastor Mike, he of the glaring stares and obvious motives, isn't the caring do-gooder he and the runaway prostitutes have said he is? It's the easiest explanation for a writer to come up with when tackling a narrative arc about runaway teenage girls being killed—let's make their one and only savior the villain. That's what detectives Linden and Holder finally figure out, thanks to a quick conversation with a witness who saw Pastor Mike chase down recent victim Angie with his car that fateful night and then return to the Beacon House, with blood all over his clothes.
That eyewitness account leads the Seattle Police Department to dig into Mike's records and uncover some not-so-earth-shattering facts: The real Mike Sheehan is long dead, and six years before arriving in Seattle using the dead Mike's identity, Mark Elwood (the Pastor's real name) was arrested for kidnapping a 16-year-old girl. And now he's done something bad to Lyric, the doe-eyed, sweet lost girl who's been developing a tender little romance with Seattle's edgiest underaged outcast, Bullet. And he also has a knife pressed against Linden's neck, seated behind her car's driver's seat. Odds are, Mark Elwood's not the sole bad guy here—there are still five episodes left this season, and plenty of loose ends to tie up. But Mark's involved to some significant degree.
Linden and Holder realize that they should've noticed his shadiness long before it was too late. You can see it their eyes, in the way that Holder flips out on that younger cop inside Elwood's now-empty home, in how Linden seems on the verge of tears after leaving where they've found Elwood's car with the blood-smeared backseat. Long-suffering viewers of The Killing know that feeling of disappointment and self-loathing—it's the combination of sensations that happens when you realize that you loyally watch a sloppily executed TV show in which the two lead protagonists are supposed to be expert detectives yet even the dumbest of viewers can nail the perp before they're even close to acquiring a warrant.
Whatever happens with this Pastor Mike/Mark Elwood guy, the damage has already been done. The reasonable amount of good will that The Killing's been accumulating throughout season 3—which so far has been an uneven yet compelling enough improvement over last season, namely due to great performances from Joel Kinnaman, Bex Taylor-Klaus (who plays Bullet), and Peter Sarsgard as death row inmate Ray Seward—is now rapidly dissipating.
It's all just so on-the-nose, not that The Killing has ever been a show that's keen on subtle revelations or crafty storytelling intelligence. From the first second he popped up this season, Pastor Mike has deserved a nice bit of police vetting. Anyone who's ever seen a murder mystery (something that Linden and Holder apparently haven't done) should be able to finger the most obvious suspects, and in a case that, again, revolves around runaway teens whose only sanctuary is the local shelter, who wouldn't immediately pinpoint the shelter's charming, decent-looking overseer whom all of the kids love? Sarah Linden and Stephen Holder, that's who.
Written by Matt Barone (@MBarone)