Sunday’s episode of The Killing introduced a mystery that has left me as obsessed as the matter of Rosie Larsen’s murder: Just how many Del Tacos are there in Seattle? Linden’s fiancé Rick poked at the detective’s increasingly bad eating habits as she gave more of her time and mind to the investigation. “Drive-thru at the Del Taco doesn’t count,” he said. Linden smiled at his concern. “Busted!” she said. Now, I grew up in Seattle, and I don’t recall a whole lot of Del Taco franchises. According to its website, the fast food chain – popular throughout California – only has five locations in Washington, and the closest one to Seattle is in Federal Way, which is about 20 miles south of the Emerald City. While most journalists would surmise that the show made a mistake (“Busted!”), my superior mind and golden gut – honed by years of successful investigative work (yes, a Lost reference) – tell me that that the writers wanted us to buy into the reality that Linden loooooves that Macho Burrito so much that she’s willing to drive wayyyy out of her way to get it. It speaks to her dedication… or possibly obsessive or compulsive or even addictive tendencies. Yes! That was some seriously top-notch analysis I just gave you right there! Bodes well for the rest of the column, doesn’t it?
THE KILLING CASE FILE
EPISODE FIVE: “SUPER 8” (NO CONNECTION TO THE J.J. ABRAMS MOVIE INTENDED. I THINK.)
OLD LEADS: Last week Linden and Holder zeroed in on Bennet Ahmed, Rosie’s English teacher, as their chief suspect.
They grilled him this week, and Bennet insisted his relationship with Rosie was above-board. The tonally inappropriate, lit-quoting letters? “Rosie didn’t like to raise her hand in class, so she left me notes, and I wrote her back,” Bennet said. “It was an intellectual discourse. That’s it.” The fact that she was spotted at the inner city community center where Bennet coached a Seattle All Stars after-school basketball team? “A lot of students volunteer there. Rosie checked it out once or twice. I don’t remember.” Yet Bennet could not supply a corroborating witness for his whereabouts on the night of Rosie’s murder. He said he was home by 10 p.m., but he also said he had sent his wife away for the weekend. The Bennets were having their floors refinished, and Bennet didn’t want his wife inhaling the fumes… but he claimed that the workers canceled on him, so he had to do the job himself.
NEW LEADS: The more the detectives dug into Bennet, the better he looked for the crime. His wife, Amber? She was pregnant, so it made sense that Bennet would want to protect her and the child from those “fumes.” But like Rosie, Amber was a former student, and Bennet used to write her florid, inspiring letters, too. The laborers that Bennet had hired to re-do the floors? They never came over during the weekend when Amber was away. Bennet actually canceled on them, not vise versa. Did Bennet have access to a car belonging to the Darren Richmond campaign? Yep. Richmond is a sponsor of the Seattle All Stars program, and in the episode’s final moments, we saw Bennet – a spokesman for the Seattle All Stars – participating in a Richmond TV commercial.
EVIDENCE FOR SERIAL KILLER THEORY? Let’s go back to those refinished floors. Linden also spied chemicals – including polyurethane and ammonium hydroxide – in one of the rooms under renovation in Bennet’s house. According to the medical examiner, Rosie’s hands were saturated with ammonium hydroxide.
Medical Examiner: “It was on her hands under nails, even in her lungs.”
Linden: “What’s it used for?”
Medical Examiner: “Cleaning, flooring, making bombs. Pretty powerful stuff.”
Linden: “Why would someone use it on a body?”
Medical Examiner: “It does the job. Might explain why we didn’t find anything under her nails and inconclusive for sexual assault.”
Linden: “Sounds like he’s a pro. Like he knows what he’s doing.”
Medical Examiner: “Wouldn’t be surprised if he’s done it before.”
Are we to think that Rosie’s murderer might be some kind of serial killer? Or maybe… a mob hit man?
HOT NEW CLUE: While insisting he had no motive for killing such a beautiful soul like Rosie, Bennet produced proof of just how beautifully soulful Rosie was: The girl had made a super 8 film for a class project – a series of images from Rosie’s everyday life that expressed a poetic way of looking at the world. Monarch butterflies. Graffiti. The Space Needle. A seaplane. A pink bicycle. We also got a glimpse of someone else in Rosie’s life – an unidentified girl. Perhaps the most intriguing image was the one that was most abstracted. It appeared to be a company logo reflected in rippling water, thus distorted. Linden had several frames of the film printed and blown up. Do you think one of these images holds an important clue to the case?
BURNING QUESTION! BENNET AHMED: Killer or Red Herring? I say: Red Herring. But a lot of people disagree with me. According to AMC’s “Suspect Tracker” (a really cool resource), 20 percent of participating fans think the teacher murdered Rosie Larsen.
RANDOM OBSERVATION! With its Pacific Northwest locale and moody score, The Killing evokes Twin Peaks, minus the Lynchian affectations and mystical mythology. (But Linden’s Del Taco fixation does remind me of Dale Cooper’s coffee-and-pie passions.) In fact, it seems to me that with Rosie Larsen, the writers of the show are riffing rather knowingly on Laura Palmer. The iconic murder victim of Twin Peaks was also a bright, promising student full of secrets. But the investigation into those secrets revealed that Laura Palmer was full of darkness. Rosie Larsen’s secrets reveal so much light. If Bennet is to be believed, Rosie was an idealistic and gifted young woman, “curious” and “hungry” and “different” from all the other kids who can “barely stay awake in class”; per his characterization, I got the sense that perhaps Rosie felt embarrassed and self-conscious about the qualities that made her unique in the eyes of her teacher. She wanted to fit in… yet she wanted escape, to move to a place where she could reinvent herself, or more specifically, to live out the person she really was. (Remember that tidbit that was mentioned in the pilot but hasn’t been revisited: Rosie had been researching colleges – out-of-state colleges – but she was reluctant to tell many people, including her father. Why?) Laura Palmer was used to indict the phony, corrupt culture of her time and place by making her phony and corrupt, by rendering her victim and participant. Rosie indicts the phony, corrupt culture of our time by being revealed as an antidote for it. Laura was icon for an ironic, cynical culture. Rosie is an icon for a time that’s tired of irony and cynicism.
Or not. Just stuff I’m thinking about.
FROM THE “EVERYONE HAS A SECRET” FILES
HOLDER: Received an envelope full of cash from a guy in a car. Then Holder put the envelope in a mailbox in front of a house. The curtains were open, and Holder saw an adult (a woman, I think) and a few kids. He took a long, longing look, then walked away. Holder’s wife and children? Many fans think Holder killed Rosie and that he’s working the case to both cover his tracks and make a name for himself. Not buying it.
GWEN: Did I get that right? Did we learn that she was sleeping with the hotshot director she originally hired to shoot the Richmond commercial?
JAMIE AND MAYOR ADAMS: Jamie figured out the mole in the Richmond campaign wasn’t working for Mayor Adams but councilwoman Ruth Yitanes, who has a habit of subverting and manipulating other Seattle politicians. Jamie also went drinking with the Mayor – a nauseating outing in more ways than one. The Mayor revealed himself to be a toxic racist with glib disdain for Richmond’s “rainbow coalition” of “black, fruits, whores and drug addicts.” (Hard to believe the people of Seattle actually elected this guy.) He also declared himself politically bulletproof; his waterfront project had helped him amass a wealth of capital from the city’s rich power players. Jamie wasn’t a drinker, so he got soused pretty quickly, and during his inebriation, he belched out this line: “Richmond is an idealist. Ethics this, fair play that. It’s all bull—-. You win, you win; you lose, you go home. Let me tell you something, Mayor. Politics is war. If you step in the ring, you better like the taste of blood. And if you don’t, you better step aside for somebody who does.” Jamie – playing mole for Richmond – may have been just saying what he said to get cozy with Adams. But it also betrayed Jamie’s ruthlessness – an idealism gone jaundiced and jaded. I think Jamie believed every word he said – but the untenable tension within him is that he doesn’t want to. Little moments like that just further convince me that Jamie is Rosie’s killer, especially given how they seem to be connected via the thematic blah blah blah of my “idealism” riffing. I was also struck by this conspicuous line, uttered by the Mayor’s non-drinking aide, commenting on Jamie’s booze-sickened pallor: “You feeling all right? Frankly, you look like a dead person.” That was loaded.
BELKO ROYCE: Belko – Stan’s buddy and employee, who last week suggested that they re-embrace their old mob goon ways and whack Rosie’s murderer once they find him/her – discovered that the Larsens’ oldest son Denny was trying to hide the fact that he was peeing the bed. We saw Belko change the sheets for Denny and even hook the boy up with new pajamas, as if filling in for Denny’s absentee parents… or helping the kid with a cover-up. “I used to wet the bed until I was 17,” Belko said. It was very touching. But bed-wetting throughout adolescence happens to be a behavior found in… serial killers. (Trust me on this.)
What sets the show apart – what makes The Killing more than just a (really good) murder mystery – is the attention it pays to the Larsen family as they grapple with Rosie’s death. The microscopic examination of their grief is intense, sometimes hard to watch. “Super 8” was all about the little moments – the bits and pieces of everyday life – that can evoke huge emotions that can overwhelm you if you let them. Everywhere Mitch Larsen turned, she saw a reminder of her daughter, and those reminders stopped her in her tracks and dragged her into despair. “It gets better,” Richmond told her during an encounter at a supermarket, his “wisdom” a lesson learned from the experience of losing his wife. Mitch turned away, without asking the two questions I wanted her to ask: When? And why not now? Stan tried to hold strong, but seeing Rosie in her dress at the funeral home broke him. He sought out Belko and told him he had changed his mind about pursuing a street justice solution to Rosie’s murder. (Bennet Ahmed, your days are numbered.) I loved the scene where young Tom stole money from his sleeping parents and walked to the store in his pajamas to buy milk for breakfast – a bowl of Rosie’s fave cereal, Bits and Pieces. Denny chastised him; eating Rosie’s food was off-limits. He was going to rat out Tom to Mom and Dad. “Go ahead,” Tom said. “They don’t care about us.” Chilling. A killer moment.
Bits and pieces of Rosie’s murder + “Bits and Pieces” (Rosie’s fave cereal) = Serial killer?
Belko’s looking good right now, isn’t he?