The Killing ‘Numb’: The Clues Are In The Manga

When The Killing began airing promos before season 1, it posed itself to viewers as a show about a question: ‘Who Killed Rosie Larsen?’ Some would think they would be tuning into a murder mystery, and others tuned in hoping to see a Twin Peaks for the 21st century. Instead, we’ve been given a show that is being written by people who clearly don’t know the answer to that question. I will give them credit for the episode’s name, though:  ‘Numb’ is quite a fitting title for the episode, although its more of a description of the audience at this point, rather than the emotional state of its core characters.

‘Numb’ begins with the first Mitch Larsen sighting of the season. She’s having visions of her daughter – of course – as her mental instability from season one carries over, bringing her to a hotel – and for some inexplicable reason, into the arms of another man. At this point, I don’t see why Mitch hasn’t tried to kill herself. She’s spent 14 episodes acting so melodramatically depressed and/or numb to situations around her, it’s become cumbersome, both to the plot and her character. Let’s be serious: a greiving mom isn’t going to abandon her family and run away to a seedy motel, just to tell some textbook salesmen (how cliched) not to touch her, but wait, I changed my mind, don’t leave, and please touch me.

It doesn’t make any sense: although using the warped logic of the show, it makes perfect sense that it doesn’t make any sense. Holder spends this episode beating up a drug dealer, banging some girl from his old NA group, and then acts all weird on the side of the highway with Sarah. This show is so obsessed with trying to be elusive about his past, and by proxy, being elusive at defining his character, that there’s no emotional investment from the viewer in anything Holder does. I don’t really care about his meth past: I care about why he’s a dirty cop, but that’s a question the show obviously can’t answer yet. Instead, we get this tired formula: Holder does good in scene 1, does something bad in scene 2. Now something good in scene 3, an ominous phrase and look in scene 4, and BOOM, let’s call it a night.

That’s the approach to everything on the show, essentially. Veena Sud is so concerned with keeping everyone on their toes she just goes back and forth between the same points over and over again. Stan Larsen is another example: in one scene, he’s the calm, mindful father. In the next, he’s reckless, acting on anger without thinking. Then it’s passive Stan again, meekly defending his wife who bounced on him for no discernible reason. five minutes later, he’s verbally attacking a detective and throwing a perfectly good cup of coffee on the floor. There’s no moral or emotional center to any of these characters, and it makes for a frustrating, empty viewing when trying to understand the motives for their actions.

There’s also another huge problem: everything and anything political. For the majority of season one, the mayoral race felt completely disconnected from the murder of Rosie Larsen – even when all the signs starting pointing to Darren in the last couple episodes, there were way too many holes in the case time line for me to invest any belief in it. So when it turned out to be false, not only did the whole campaign of the first season feel useless: it’s making everything and everyone involved in it feel pointless this season. His false accusation is obviously part of some master political plan by the mayor (since all the mayor has been on-screen so far to do is shit on Richmond to the media), so why didn’t we start getting these pieces in season 1?

Oh, that’s right, to show us what happens when people fuck up real bad. You see, it’s so emotional to watch Darren stick himself with a pin and not feel it, because he wasn’t even involved. Although if he opened his mouth ON DAY FUCKING ONE, he would be walking and fine to bang Gwen and win/lose an election right now. That major plot contrivance deprives his character – or those surrounding him – of any sort of importance to the viewer, and renders his scenes a terribly cliched attempt at bringing about empathy for a man who essentially made his own bed with his stupidity.

But if I had to pick the one question I think that really defines The Killing , it would be pretty simple: “Which is Sarah Linden worse at? Being a cop, or being a mom?” She doesn’t really investigate things as much as she jumps into conclusions and starts flailing around to make connections – and she’s not big on the whole “being a parent” thing, either. It’s hard to watch a show that paints its protagonists as impressionable incompetents, but shit, these people are making a career of it.

This episode is a clear-cut example of why this show is such a massive (and quickly becoming legendary failure): it under develops its characters, and over complicates its plot lines. The show’s gone so far out of its way to make us care about this case over the last year, only to spend the last three episodes (season 1 finale and the first two episodes this season) spitting in our faces because we wanted an answer. ‘Numb’ existed only to reinforce certain character traits, all in the name of throwing more contrived twists into the already ridiculous plot. That is, unless everyone really thinks the guy with the manga tattoo is the killer. Hasn’t a year of this show taught you anything?

Grade: F

Other thoughts:

– “hooker rings”? “Prostitute services”? Is there no respect for professional escorts in this world?

– Alan Dale makes a second appearance (I think he showed up last season) as Gwen’s father. Any LOST fan knows he is somehow tied up in this conspiracy – why else have him around?

– Russian gangsters like to give children pastries to send subliminal messages to their formerly-employed parents…. seriously, this is what The Killing believes.

The Killing would like us to remember one cynical stereotype about cops: you don’t get a promotion unless you’re hella dirty.

– The massive sign on the church door proclaiming ‘NA’ is another great example of the show assuming its viewers are really stupid, and can only get the most obvious messages.

– shady waterfront projects? Wait, didn’t The Wire do this already?

what did you think? Is The Killing your favorite show on television? Feel free to discredit anything I’ve said with your thoughts in the comments below.


3 thoughts on “The Killing ‘Numb’: The Clues Are In The Manga

  1. I think its a brilliant show. I absolutely hate most police shows. They are tacky, shallow, and completely unrealistic. i am sorry, but i really don’t understand your problem with this show.
    So here is why nothing you complain about is a problem, and the show gets a Grade A;
    First of all, I have never seen anyone give any respect to Escort services, seeing how they deserve none. Second, the Killing makes no assumptions about most cops. The protagonist of the show is not dirty, and narcotics is rather famous for turning cops into users. That is just reality. So is the fact that many cops are dirty. They certainly are not knights in shining armor. Third; Perhaps they simply had the guy there because he is a good actor and works for the role. Anyhow, who cares WHY they had him there. He certainly did a good job. Isn’t that enough? I have been to AA meetings. This is EXACTLY what they look like, and the massive sign on the door was actually just a modest piece of paper with handwriting. Its not like people write it in code. Or wear masks. Fourth Yanik ISN’T RUSSIAN. He is Polish, ignorant one. And yes, I think they are family men, and are people just like everyone else. They don’t al do one thing. I am sure they do like to give kids a treat. Why wouldn’t they? I had no idea they did a study about how Polish mobsters hated pastries. Five; I don’t know what they did on the Wire, because it puts me to sleep when I try to watch it, but who cares if they also had a shady waterfront project. Almost every story line ever written probably has been done before in some way. Besides, I don’t actually think the waterfront project is in any way shady. Its just going to benefit a wealthy group of people, and Richmond is liberal.
    I can tell you this show copies less then most. At least they don’t have the story where wealthy school kids all get together and do crimes because they are psycho. I think this has been done on NYPD Blue, Cold Case, Bones, CSI, L&O and every one else.
    I think you just don’t have the mind to appreciate shades of grey. No one is perfect. Holder isn’t dirty, not at heart. he is just trying to live down his past. Lisbon is a good mom. She is a good cop. She just doesn’t solve the case like they do on the rest of the idiot cop shows. Within ten seconds using absurd logic. She can’t put her own kid ahead of the case either. Thats to her credit.


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