(Spoiler Alert: This article discusses central plot twists in the AMC television series The Killing.)
What would you do if you had the opportunity to get your hands on the person you thought murdered your daughter? Would you ignore society’s rules about trying the accused before a jury of peers, hoping that revenge would salve your personal wounds? And are you ready to deal with the consequences of your actions?
If you’ve been watching the critically acclaimed series The Killing on AMC (Sunday, 10/9 C), the lingering question at the end of Sunday’s episode was whether Stan Larsen, father of the murdered high school girl Rosie Larsen, was going to kill the teacher who’s become the chief suspect in his daughter’s death. Stan, who used to serve as muscle for an organized crime syndicate and has (according to the hints in the show) killed a guy or three in life, said in earlier episodes that he doesn’t do that kind of thing anymore. But his attitude changed after he accidentally saw death scene pictures of his daughter’s bound, battered, and drowned body. The police had told him and his wife that Rosie had not suffered; they did this to lessen the anguish of their daughter’s death. Once Stan learned otherwise he began morphing into the guy who used to hurt people for a living. The question now is, How much has his thinking been clouded by emotion? And if he kills the teacher, will he in fact be killing the right man?
When the series began, I remember thinking that the show was misnamed. Why was it called The Killing? Shouldn’t it be called The Murder? After all the signal event was the murder of Rosie Larsen, which happened in the first episode, with the question becoming, Who murdered her? But now that we’re at the midway point of the season, the meaning behind the title has evolved—at least for this viewer. The Killing is not so much a singular act here; it seems to allude to an ongoing thing, i.e., “Will the killing ever stop?”
If Stan Larsen takes justice into his own hands and kills the teacher, then “the killing” has continued. If the teacher manages to turn the tables and kill Stan, then “the killing” goes on as well. Then again, maybe the full definition of the show’s title remains to be seen. You can, after all, make a killing in various ways that don’t involve murder.
I’m the father of a 3-year-old daughter, and contemplating her murder is almost incomprehensible to me. If she were murdered, I think the pain would be so unbearable that the only person I might want to kill is myself. Obviously that wouldn’t solve anything. In fact, it’s essentially running away from the problem, which would strike many people as the definition of cowardice. But what are the alternatives? Stan Larsen is showing us one. He’s showing us how one man could conceivably react to the murder of his child. But will he carry through with it? And should he?
—Photo by Frank Ockenfels/AMC