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On TV last night, there was more going on than just a Stark army genocide and Don Draper's self-destruction. Daringly, AMC reintroduced its most divisive original series to date, The Killing, armed with an all-new, Rosie-Larsen-free case and two seasons' worth of viewer frustration and critical beatdowns to avenge. Begrudgingly, we're fans of The Killing, primarily because, at its best, the show can be a hypnotic marriage overpowering mood, emotional bleakness, and intense, rich acting performances—that is, whenever its writers are logically and thematically jumping those proverbial sharks. Thus, every Monday morning, we'll keep ourselves grounded by calling out The Killing's creative team out for their storytelling follies, starting with last night's two-part season premiere, "The Jungle"/"That You Fear the Most."
First, off, let's hear it for the end of the insufferable Darren Richmond/corrupt politician storyline from The Killing's first two seasons. More so than the whole "Who, for the love of all that's holy, killed Rosie Larsen, damn it?" plot thread, everything that had to do with Richmond's unlikable team of crooked aids consistently distracted the series from its strongest attributes, namely the quiet chemistry between leads Mireille Enos (as Detective Sarah Linden) and Joel Kinnaman (Linden's partner, Stephen Holder). Now that it's time for a new investigation, thankfully, the focus is on Linden and Holder, though they're in different places mentally and professionally—the former left the Seattle force and now works for the Vashon Island Transportation Authority, while the latter has a new partner and is studying in preparation for a sergeant's exam.
The Killing's dynamic duo reunites over a case that, for Linden, is uncomfortably reminiscent of an assignment from her past. A 14-year-old prostitute's body is found, her throat slashed from "ear to ear" and one of her fingers broken, much like the 30-year-old woman Linden discovered dead in similar detail three years earlier. The man convicted of that crime, the victim's husband, Ray Seward (Peter Sarsgaard), is fresh on death row, awaiting an execution via lethal injection (though he's able to switch that to fatality via hanging). And it's through Seward's scenes that we arrive at the first of our things on The Killing that made us want to kill ourselves.
Once again, The Killing defies audience intelligence in the name of lazy plot progression. Seward—hoping to speak to Linden's old partner and demand he attends the inmate's execution, to see that he's no "coward"—desperately wants to make a phone call, which, of course, isn't allowed. Well, not unless you come across the world's dumbest, most unbelievably sympathetic guard, one Evan Henderson (Aaron Douglas).
After an out-of-nowhere exchange between two prison guards, during which one of them, Henderson, talks about his four-month-old son, Henderson has a strangely pleasant chat with Seward about the proper ways to burp one's baby. Seward notices the drool stain on Henderson's uniform and talks about his own kid, manipulating Henderson into somehow forgetting that he's conversing with a convicted murderer who, not long before their run-in, ferociously smashed the prison's chaplain's face into his cell's metal bars. Henderson's all, "Oh, this guy also has a child—he can't be that bad, right?" Which leads to him breaking protocol and giving Seward the chance to phone his "lawyer."
Granted, on a show that once hilariously used the dated AOL "You've Got Mail" sound effects to reveal a bad guy's identity, Henderson's momentary (and illogical) lapse of reason isn't an epic fail—it's just a sign that, even though season 3 is off to a mostly promising start, The Killing's writers aren't yet immune to frustratingly poor decisions.
Written by Matt Barone (@MBarone)