Detective Linden, back on the job and taking the scenic route

Remember last week, at the end of the two-episode season premiere, when you caught an eyeful of the bodies decaying in a shallow pond and wished you could get a better, more detailed look at the carcasses?

Yeah, me neither. But that’s what we got at the start of last night’s episode, “Seventeen,” which opened with skulls and femurs and Washington State’s least fun ferry employee looking like she just took a wrong turn on the way to the ladies room.    

Then into the frame swaggered Lieutenant Skinner!! and we knew, if nothing else, Sarah Linden was going to get her old job back, because she’s the show and also what police department wouldn’t want as its top detective someone who keeps getting institutionalized and keeps quitting the force?

Back at the cop shop we learn that the body count totals 17 and that the pond in which they were recovered is “west of the I-5 near SeaTac” (because everyone in Seattle calls it the I-5, and West Seattle, location of the pond-adjacent factory, and SeaTac are so close, “about a half a mile” apart, according to the geography of The Killing).

The lieutenant says they may be looking for an active serial killer but disabuses his men that it’s Hannibal Lecter. There definitely won’t be any skin suits or heads delivered in boxes, he says. Oh, and Sarah Linden, here’s your badge back and you definitely won’t be doing tête-à-tête, mind meld thing with a convicted murderer behind bars at any point this season. Nope.

Late in the episode, Alton, Ray Seward’s garrulous fellow death row inmate, asked if he ever shuts up, says, “No, I’m a shark, I keep the water flowing over my gills.” Alton may be a shark due to his motor mouth, but this could just as easily apply to Linden and her tenacity.

She too is always in motion, her mind forever hunting the darkest depths, as if, were she to stop she’d cease to exist. And so she presses the issue with Skinner!! about the affair they apparently had. She crashes the sidewalk hangout of the runaways’ to look for Bullet and loses a pack of smokes in the process. She interrupts the coroner sitting among the literal skeletons of Seattle’s lost and forgotten youth. She trespasses at the elementary school of Ray Seward’s kid, Adrian, and has a quick nibble of a mumbled conversation before a teacher (very wisely) chases her and her bad sweater off campus—just before Adrian says he wants to see his dad, Ray Seward.

But Seward has his own troubles on Green Mile. He and death row guard Francis Becker try to crawl into each other’s heads. Seward brags about thrashing Becker’s cousin at another prison (“Six pounds of pressure, you can rip an ear off, but an eye, an eye takes dedication”) and notes that he likes to watch Becker’s wife and kid in the parking lot. Becker hits back, saying Seward should’ve slit Adrian’s throat just as he did his mom’s, and that, like father like son, Adrian will behind bars soon.

Not that Seward’s without his admirers. Alton calls him “Big Noise,” prison lingo traditionally referring to wardens, which implies that Seward, through his manipulation, is really running things, an idea that will be tested by episode’s end.

Meanwhile, Holder and Riddick, apprehend a john and debrief a teen prostitute, whom Holder tells, “You are done bobbing apples for today baby girl. You’re going to have to find some other way to pay for them braces.”

They raid Goldie the Red Herring’s apartment—his taste in music is how you know he’s a really a bad guy—and find not the missing Kallie Leeds (as tipster Bullet suggested they would) but a mini porn studio. Holder and Riddick question him back at the shop, where he jaws on and on in exquisite detail about his pimping, then pleads the fifth and demands his lawyer. (Oh Goldie, that’s not how it works.) They set him free so they can maybe catch him in the act of kidnapping/killing/burying another teenager somehow, but he spots them parked outside his apartment so that doesn’t work either. Police work!  

The episode ends with a triptych, jumping between scenes of the runaways—Bullet, Lyric, Twitch, Rayna—who’ve decided to visit the corpse pond just for fun; Linden and Holder previewing Goldie’s porn; and Ray Seward in his cell. The runaways hold hands in shock at the sight of 17 markers for the 17 teenage girls found at the pond. Linden and Holder behold the face of missing Kallie Leeds on a DVD found among Goldie’s collection, which means the pimp will spend at least one more episode as the red herring—and means we need to start praying that AMC hasn’t green lit another script in which the protagonists spend a whole season searching for a character we don’t care about. Ray Seward razors his jugular, proving that Big Noise is a worthy title.

Given the recent fascination with the meaning of room numbers what are we to make, if anything, of Seward’s prison cell number? (When guard Henderson /Chief Galen Tyrol discovers the inmate bleeding on the floor he calls for a Code Blue at "number 204.") Is 204 a clue? In Season 2, episode 04, for instance, Stan Larsen’s past loosely tied him, briefly, to his own daughter’s murder before Linden and Holder’s sleuthing absolved him.

But even then it took another nine episodes before we learned who the real killer was. And we’ve got a lot of characters to accuse in Season 3 before we’re done.

The Killing airs Sundays at 9pm on AMC.

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