THE PERFORMER | Joel Kinnaman
THE SHOW | The Killing
THE EPISODE | “Reckoning”
THE AIRDATE | July 21, 2013
When Season 3 of The Killing began, Joel Kinnaman’s Det. Stephen Holder, the recovering meth addict with charming street swagger and an offbeat sense of humor, was all cleaned up — rocking a suit and tie, cracking cases like they were flimsy peanut shells and even mulling the possibility of a promotion to sergeant. Over the ensuing couple of months, though, we’ve seen him fall under the grip of an impossibly difficult case: The vicious serial slayings of at least 17 runaway girls living in the underbelly of Seattle. Still, while Holder — reteamed with his not-quite-stable partner Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) — began retreating into his old gray hoodie, began snapping at underlings with an unexpected viciousness, his sweet, lighthearted side stayed afloat in large part due to his budding friendship with a tough, homeless lesbian teen named Bullet.
In “Reckoning,” however, we see Holder’s emotional house of cards come tumbling down when — after apprehending a possible culprit in the Pied Piper slayings — he pops the trunk of the suspect’s cab and begins to open it. Linden, having spotted Bullet’s signature necklace among the killer’s triophies, realizes the horror contained within and rushes to stop her partner. “Please, Holder. You don’t need to be here. Holder, please don’t,” she begs him, but he’s headed down a road from which there’s no turning back. Inside, lies the body of the charming girl whose phone calls Holder had ignored just the night before — a punishment for an overzealous and ultimately erroneous tip she’d provided that got him in trouble with his superiors. Without speaking a single word, and while barely moving a single facial muscle, Kinnaman captured Holder’s shock, disgust, disbelief and despair via a trunk’s-eye-view camera shot.
Later, Linden finds Holder alone in his darkened apartment, surrounded by empty beer cans and blaming himself for the tragedy that’s unfolded. Kinnaman keeps his character’s gaze straight ahead — almost as if he’s in a trance — until, overcome by his partner’s kind words and consumed by his grief, he leans in and tries to kiss her. When she dodges the ill-advised move, the seen-it-all cop finally cracks, sobbing into his hands, as Linden tries to convince him everything will be OK.
Capping a troika of gut-wrenching scenes, Holder discovers at the end of the hour that fellow detective Reddick had logged a series of calls Bullet made to the station on the night of her death. Kinnaman, descending his beloved character into an almost animalistic state, arrives at his ex-partner’s house and beats him with a ferocity that leaves the man’s wife and daughter attempting to subdue him while screaming their pleas for mercy in the process. The terrifying, bloody scene left us wondering how deep Holder will sink in a sea of guilt and regret. Regardless of the answer though, Kinnaman’s riveting work will keep us taking the journey with him.
HONORABLE MENTION | As USA Network’s Burn Notice barrels toward its series finale with a thrilling season, it slowed down this Thursday to afford Jeffrey Donovan a real gut-punch of a showcase, as Michael pulled out all the stops to get closer to Sonya’s boss (played by John Pyper-Ferguson). As part of this almost sadistic “interview,” Pyper-Ferguson’s character — who was ultimately revealed to be named James — plied Michael with a brain-addling cocktail of “truth serum” and hallucinogens, sending our brave hero down a rabbit hole where he confronted a vision of Fiona (reminding him of the lives at stake if he spilled too much) and revisited formative, destructive relationships with “Crazy Larry” Sizemore (played by Tim Matheson) and his abusive father. Through it all, Donovan depicted a strong man, an elite spy, compromised in a way never before and loath to let slip anything he shouldn’t, even as he lost most every bit of control. The episode was titled “Psychological Warfare,” and Donovan indeed compellingly portrayed a tragic victim of brutal mind games.
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