Episode Title: ‘Numb’
Writer: Eliza Clark
Director: Brad Anderson
Previously on “The Killing”:
After two episodes of wondering where Mitch Larsen (Michelle Forbes) has disappeared to, episode 2.03, ‘Numb,’ answers it in the pre-credits sequence. She’s been running away. Throughout the episode, Mitch seems intent on escaping her crumbling home life. She has a dispassionate extramarital affair with a traveling salesman, and keeps seeing a hitchhiker who looks suspiciously like her deceased daughter, Rosie.
Meanwhile, Detective Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) has to pick up the pieces of the murder case. Showing up at the Larsen’s doorstep, she’s forced to admit that she doesn’t know a thing about the backpack, making her once again look utterly incompetent to the victim’s family. A confrontation with her old lieutenant earns her the backpack, but she quickly realizes that it’s a fake, and pieces together that Holder has been on the same track she is.
The problem is that Holder is unavailable at the moment. He attempts to spend time with his son – previously unmentioned, but hinted at last season – and is rebuffed, because the boy’s mother has forbidden him from even getting in his father’s car. Holder then attempts to reconnect with his old dealer, but loses his cool and beats the dealer (and the dealer’s mother) down, but not before stealing some meth. Whether he actually uses it isn’t firmly established, but he does engage in perhaps ill-advised sexual intercourse with a fellow recovering addict, and spends his final scene precariously walking through heavy traffic until Linden talks him down, assuring him that she knows he’s not the evil bastard she naturally assumed she was.
At the beginning of ‘Numb,’ Stan Larsen (Brent Sexton) is feeling pretty good about asking his old mob boss, Janek Kovarsky (Don Thompson), for assistance in catching Rosie’s killer. But that quickly goes south when Terry (Jamie Anne Allman) notices that they’re being watched by thugs, who later give unto them polish desserts. Stan’s furious, since he wanted his kids left out of this, but seems pleased when Janek presents him with news that the police were lying about Rosie’s autopsy (she was alive when the car submerged, and died slowly, clawing to get out), and that she had nothing to do with Beau Soleil… which is a lie.
The shoe warehouse which housed the servers for the online brothel Beau Soleil has been torched, and Linden orders the traffic cameras searched for clues towards the probable arson. It bears fruit when one of Stan’s own vans pulls up, driven by the man with the manga tattoo. Previously in the episode, Linden learned that the manga is called Ogi Jun, and that her son knows all about it. In fact, she bought it for him. It’s about a man on a violent revenge spree over the death of his father, a detail which the episode spends a lot of time establishing, implying a greater significance.
Oh, and Darren Richmond spends the episode in bed, coming to terms with the fact that he'll never walk or, as he learns in 'Numb,' even have sex ever agan.
Sometimes a show just plain writes itself into a corner, and the only thing to do is to write its way out. “The Killing” hasn’t committed an offense anywhere near as bad as, say, Cordelia banging Connor on “Angel,” or pretending Kat was some kind of badass on “Battlestar Galactica,” but it divided Detectives Sarah Linden and Stephen Holder in such a way that the investigation can’t continue until they’re reunited, and in such a way that a simple apology won’t suffice, even for the audience. And so we get an episode like ‘Numb,’ which focuses on reestablishing audience sympathy for Holder – presumably lost after his involvement in the conspiracy was outed at the end of last season – and letting the actual investigation go on without them for a while. That’s a problem, since they’re the actual investigators.
The revelations in ‘Numb’ unfold in an unexpected, unfocused way that undermines their importance to the series. By the end of the episode we realize that Janek is a new prime suspect, but the information is piecemeal. Our first clue comes when he tells Stan the truth behind Rosie’s autopsy, followed by a lie about her involvement in Beau Soleil. Later in the episode we learn that Janek was behind Beau Soleil all along, and used the arson to cover his tracks. All decent plot points, but “The Killing” hints at his motivation in a remarkably roundabout way: Jack Linden’s description of the (fictional) manga Ogi Jun describes it as a revenge saga, but he gets such a monologue about it that it plays like a valid thematic parallel to Janek, even though we have no reason to actually suspect that (yet, at least). Is this revenge for Stan’s past misdeeds? Is it not equally likely that Janek became aware of Beau Soleil’s involvement in the murder case, and is shutting it down to prevent unwanted attention?
Or better yet, that Janek was involved in the conspiracy to bring down Richmond’s campaign, after learning that the mayoral candidate was also a client? Or maybe Janek sent one of his own men on a date with the Beau Soleil girls as “Orpheus” to establish Richmond as a potential suspect by foreshadowing the whole “drowning” motif? These are intriguing questions that relate to the series as a whole, but ‘Numb’ fails to introduce them, even to the audience. All the narrative progression is a bit of a mess, and the episode – hopefully not the whole series – falters as a result.
One final bit of interest is the revelation of Mitch’s whereabouts. It’s understandable that a person in her position would seek out a new locale, a bit of sexual escapism, anything to distract her from the hell her life has become (although it’ll be curious to see how the fans react to her infidelity from a moral perspective.) But “The Killing” also seems to be making a big deal of the Rosie Larsen lookalike she keeps running into on her travels. Is she going mad? Is “The Killing” finally taking the step towards magical realism that will make all the “Twin Peaks” parallels complete? Or is this just another awkwardly established plot point in an episode chock full of them?
The questions raised by ‘Numb’ aren’t nearly as interesting as they should be, since they were incorporated into the episode so haphazardly. Let’s call this one a wash, and hope the next episode picks up now that Holder and Linden are back, motivated, and have less than ten episodes to piece the whole mystery together.
Photo Credit: Carole Segal/AMC