My wife and I are devout DVR users. We watch a lot of TV, and we tend to record shows, save them up and watch ’em when we have time. Plus, we like fast-forwarding commercials. And so today, we decided to catch up on The Killing.
We got started on this show because I know the lead actress. Mireille Enos was a freshman at BYU the same year I joined the faculty, and I cast her in the first show I directed. It was a medieval passion play–basically, we adapted the Wakefield play of Corpus Christi into something called The Wakefield Passion. All the actors played multiple roles, and this tiny red-head became one of the cast standouts. I’ve kept tabs on her ever since, as she’s carved out her career on-stage in New York and now in film and television. She was a wonderful 18 year old actress, and she’s even more wonderful now. Plus, it’s so cool seeing her getting to carry a gun.
In The Killing, Mireille plays Sarah Linden, a detective trying to solve the murder of a teenage girl, Rosie Larson. It’s based on a Danish TV series, which I haven’t seen. A lot of TV critics howled at the end of the first season when the show didn’t solve the murder. The producers had hinted that they would, and all the clues seemed to be falling in place, implicating a mayoral candidate, Darren Richmond. Turns out he was framed, and the murder was still unsolved. Still is, for that matter, mid-way through the second season.
I really like the show, though it sort of drives me nuts. One thing I like is that it really does show the anguish of the family of the murdered girl. Too many shows treat the pain of victims’ families in a perfunctory way, but Rosie’s Mom, Mitch Larson (Michelle Forbes) is about the most compelling character in the show, compelling because of her grief. I love the performances, by Mireille and also her kind of skeevy partner, Holder (Joel Kinneman). Plus, Michelle Forbes was a Bajoran on Star Trek: TNG, and Linden’s ex-husband (Tahmoh Penikett) was a Cylon on Battlestar Gallactica. So in all his scenes with Mireille, Annette and I have to go ‘don’t trust him, he’s a Cylon!’
But, my gosh, they’re awful cops, Linden and Holder. They just consistently violate the most basic rules of police procedure. They don’t check up on the most obvious clues, they tell the victims’ families things they have no business telling them, they never finish an interview, they don’t secure crime scenes. If the point of the show was that these were terribly inept, hopelessly incompetent cops trying to solve this thing, all right. But they’re supposed to be good at their job. It’s just badly written, not from a character standpoint, but in terms of basic cop research.
I am, as it happens, something of an expert on police procedures, particularly as it relates to murder investigations. It’s just something I know a lot about. You may ask, ‘how did you achieve this particular expertise?’ I’ve never gone to cop school, never been a cop, never been friends with cops. But I’ve seen hundreds of hours of Law and Order, and CSI, and Hill Street Blues, and NYPD Blue, and Prime Suspect and the Mystery channel, and Castle and literally dozens of other police procedural dramas. We all have. Most Americans are murder experts, even murder connoisseurs. We know cops, and by golly, we know murder.
And Annette’s better at it than I am. Watching murder mysteries with her is an amazing experience. She pretty well always knows who-dun-it, and why. I tell her she’d be a great detective. She says she wouldn’t be, because she’s only good at figuring out the way they write these kinds of shows. A real life crime scene would probably leave her flummoxed. She likes The Killing because she still hasn’t figured it out. It’s got her stumped, and that makes it more fun.
Or maybe not. I’ve actually read a lot of real crime stuff, plus I used to home teach a cop, and most actual murders aren’t hard to solve. Most actual murders, the cops show up, and the poor schlub is sitting on his porch covered with blood, holding the gun, saying over and over, “she wouldn’t give me the remote. That’s all I wanted, was for her to HAND ME the REMOTE.” On cop shows, the investment banker had to kill his accountant because he knew the password to the Cayman Islands’ account, plus his girlfriend was the daughter of his rich uncle’s attorney. Most real murders, it’s about two drunks and a beer tab.
A whole day with The Killing, however, turned out to be fun. I’m pretty sure Mireille didn’t kill Rosie. Beyond that, I still got no idea.