"Go beyond the limits of what you know."
The above sentence appears in a secret letter written to our dearly departed Rosie Larsen. Look at it sideways, and it could say "Nothing is as it seems." That's a notion that really hangs over THE KILLING. Everytime the cops find something that they think could lead them somewhere (usually discovered right at the end of an episode), they end up right back at square one. As such, information comes slowly, and the investigation is as lengthy and difficult as it is soul-crushingly bleak.
To start with, we find out that the girl in the disgusting rape video from the end of the last episode is not Rosie, but best friend Sterling. And she isn't being raped, but so feels lost in Rosie's shadow that she would do anything to make herself known to the world ("It's like I'm not there when I'm around her."). So she gives her body over to two teenage degenerates. Is that supposed to make us feel better about the whole thing? Well, Sterling certainly doesn't. Being that the video of the encounter made its rounds of the cell phones of the student body at her school, she's now prone to gross dudes coming up to her in the hallway and whispering lewd nothings into her ear while manhandling her ("Remember Sterling, no means yes," he explains).
The best acting work once again is turned in by Michelle Forbes and especially Brent Sexton. As Stan Larsen, Sexton has been absolutely smoldering, and in "A Soundless Echo," it seemed like he could have exploded into a cloud of rage at any moment. There were a couple of moments where it looked like he was going to take a swing at Linden. All that tension and emotion is going to boil over at some point. Stan is constantly on the edge, but he's hiding more than just his grief. References are made to some shared criminal past with Belko, Stan's right-hand man in the moving company ("we oughtta take care of him, like in the old days." "I don't do that anymore."). Later on, in search of some money to help cover funeral costs, and the mortgage on a house he bought as a surprise for his family before Rosie was killed, Stan meets up with a shady loan shark type whom he's apparently stayed away from for the past seventeen years (Rosie's entire life. Hmm....)
After firing campaign advisor Jamie Wright for leaking information to the opposition, Darren Richmond decides to make his case to a Seattle-area eccentric young billionaire in order to secure a donation. The bad publicity of Rosie Larsen being found in a campaign car isn't subsiding, so it's decided that more advertising is needed. Jamie, for his part, ends up getting hired by the incumbent mayor, but we later find out that he's actually still working for Richmond as a mole in the Adams campaign. Nothing is as it seems.
So does that election storyline connect to Rosie Larsen's life and/or death yet? No, but that may change soon. This week's interesting discovery (which will probably be explained away at the beginning of the next episode anyway) centers on Bennet Ahmed, the hip, young English teacher with the cool dreads. It turns out the letter that contained the above quoted line was written to Rosie from Bennet, and hidden away in her light-up globe. Is it a love letter? We can't know for sure yet, but while Linden is discovering the scraps of paper it's written on, he's meeting with Mitch and telling her how great of a student she was, and how "kids like her are why I got into teaching in the first place." This interaction could have been so touching were it not cross cut with scenes of not only Linden finding his letter, but also of Holder finding out that Bennet is a basketball coach in Darren Richmond's after-school program for underpriviledged youth in far off Fort Washington (this is significant because Rosie was apparently making regular trips to the gymnasium). All this, combined with Linden's suspicion that Rosie was having an affair with an older man, just adds a whole air of menace to the Bennet character. Nothing is as it seems.
What's interesting about this episode is the way it employs narrative paralells. In talking about how he ended up in Seattle, so-called "rich kid from Connecticut" Darren Richmond simply states that "I got on a bus twenty-five years ago, and I never got off." Detective Stephen Holder, meanwhile, spends most of this episode riding a bus he finds interminable. Linden discovers that Rosie is hiding paper in the form of the letter, while Stan is hiding away money he secretly borrows. Drug addict Kris is interrogated by former narcotics officer Holder (whom Kris suspects is jonesing as hard as he is).
In a mystery series like this, it makes sense that the backstory bascially would be the story; the plot is parcelled out in drips and draps throughout the thirteen episodes. The character backstory, however, just feels superfluous. Not only do we get the allusions to a violent or criminal past with Stan, and the possible addiction of Holder, but the bandage on Sarah Linden's arm seems to bring back difficult memories for her fiánce Rick, who has returned to Seattle to surprise her (doesn't this guy have a job?). The scene does serve to remind viewers that Linden is human, and that she isn't completely shut off from her emotions. She's spent much of the last couple of episode gloomily intuiting details of the case, but with Rick returning, she gets to laugh and just be a person again. Possibly as a result of this renewed access to her feelings, she apologizes profusely to the Larsens when they happen upon a whiteboard covered with Rosie's crime scene photographs; an enormous step for the icy cold detective who couldn't so much as offer condolences while shooing away Stan when he discovers that his daughter is dead (by the way, the whiteboard scene is particularly gut-wrenching. One can only imagine what that might be like for parents in this situation).
"A Soundless Echo" takes a lot of time to further establish the characters in its story, but one starts to wonder just how much we need to know them. The allusions to these dark pasts, at this point, just feel like more "stuff" to be thrown into the mix. Hopefully, it can all pay off down the line.
Written or Contributed by: Royal Nonesuch