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'The Killing' recap: You've got mail

June 13, 2011 |  9:00 am

Richmondgwen
I’ll say this for “Beau Soleil,” the latest episode of “The Killing”: That final sequence was terrifically tense. Linden’s dropped by Darren Richmond’s place (y’know, just to chat), when she fields a call from a guy back at the station. He’s sending an email to Orpheus, the mysterious guy who creeped out one of the girls who worked at the escort service in the episode’s title. She asks him to send it again… and then she hears the sound of a computer somewhere in the Richmond house receiving an email. Again. The same sound. Again. The same sound. It’s not a coincidence. The emails are being received from inside the house!

Meanwhile, Holder’s off to meet with the escort who had the information about who Orpheus was, so he can follow up on the fact that Orpheus asked her what she thought it would be like to drown. And as he stands near the pay phone she called him from, he looks across the way and sees a wall full of Richmond posters. At the same time, Linden’s tracked down the computer receiving the emails and watches as more and more of them with that incriminating subject line (“I KNOW WHAT YOU DID!”) pop into the inbox. And then Richmond steps into the room and asks her what she’s doing. End of episode.

These last few episodes are making a pretty good case that “The Killing” might have made a fun miniseries. Character development isn’t the show’s strong suit, but it does all right by the plot when it wants to, and that last sequence showed that the series can do tension pretty well too. It’s not that I think Linden’s going to have trouble escaping Richmond’s clutches or even that I think Richmond’s the killer. (I rather think we’re being set up to find out that Gwen or Jamie is the bad guy.) But that sequence felt suspenseful and dangerous in a way the show just hasn’t in a long time.

Part of that is because the middle section of this season was such a mess. But if you could strip that middle section out and replace it with just the first part and last part of the year (because, really, the Bennet stuff ended up being largely useless), there’d likely be something that could be tightened up into a really satisfying six-hour miniseries.

Now, if “The Killing” is a show where two or three things happen per hour and one of them is a cliffhanger, “Beau Soleil” was the episode where a whole bunch of stuff happened, finally. One of the weird things about the show is that Linden and Holder often don’t seem to be doing really basic things to investigate Rosie’s death, like, say, looking into how a teen girl would have such expensive shoes. (A TV critic friend pegged Rosie’s shoes as being a major plot point in the season’s endgame from the moment they first popped up; I think I owe her $20.) Once Linden and Holder get on the trail of Beau Soleil, it feels like the story lurches back to life again. I don’t really care about Linden’s personal problems, but I do enjoy watching these two try to crack the case together. And “Beau Soleil” had the most case-solving action yet.

Granted, in the midst of all of this, there were scenes featuring the Larsen family and the Richmond campaign. (Is this the most roller-coaster-y mayoral election ever? It sure seems like the polls are all over the place, despite the series taking place over less than two weeks.) The stuff with the Larsens, while not nearly as compelling as the case, wasn’t bad, and I liked the scene where Stan finally snapped and got angry with his wife (while sitting behind the glass of the jail visiting room). The mayoral election stuff is probably a total loss at this point, even if Richmond was the killer. But at least we’re starting to get a better sense of him as a character.

I kind of feel the same way about the whole Beau Soleil back story, at least insofar as it gives us information on Aunt Terry and Rosie. For the first time, Rosie is starting to feel like a person who died and not just a random symbol of the tragic deaths of all teenagers everywhere. She was a girl who liked the finer things (like poetry) but also got wrapped up in a job as an escort at a service her aunt also worked at. It’s a bit seedy (and I don’t think anyone was necessarily surprised by this revelation), but it really does give us a better sense of the pressures of being in this family, something the show needed to do a long time ago. In order to care about who killed Rosie, it’s important that we really care that she’s dead, and the show has done a poor job of making her anything other than a generic dead girl, for the most part.

So as we head into the final episode of the show’s first season, it sure seems like Linden and Holder have got their guy, which is exactly why I’m pretty sure it will turn out to be that, yeah, Richmond had a relationship with Rosie, but he sure didn’t kill her! (This IS a show that runs on coincidences, after all.) All the same, though, “Beau Soleil” was a mostly fun, often tense episode of “The Killing,” one that made me think there’s still a good show buried underneath all of the other stuff that’s gotten tossed on top of it. Here’s hoping the ending’s satisfying enough to wash the bad taste of the season’s middle section out of the mouth.

Photo: Darren Richmond (Billy Campbell) comes under suspicion for the murder of Rosie Larsen, which shouldn't make his girlfriend Gwen (Kristin Lehman) all that happy. (Credit: AMC)

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--Todd VanDerWerff (follow me on Twitter at @tvoti)

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