The Killing and reaction shots

This post contains SPOILERS for season 2 of AMC’s The Killing

While I don’t think that The Killing is a very good show, and admittedly have never seen the Danish original, there are still a lot of things to like.  Joel Kinnaman is great as Detective Holder, and some of the helicopter shots of Seattle are gorgeous.

Does this show remind anyone else of Twin Peaks but without everything that made Twin Peaks great?  Namely: humor, fantasy, awesome production design, general bizarreness, a front-to-back (at least for season 1) compelling story, and fantastic characters.

A major problem with The Killing is that the writing is frequently on-the-nose.  Case-in-point: would be mayor Darren Richmond (Billy Campbell) gives a surprise campaign speech towards the end of season 2.  Cue the obligatory cut to his aides Gwen (Kristin Lehman) and Jamie (Eric Ladin) as the latter asks, “what’s he doing?”  That’s purely a line for the audience and one of many that, unfortunately, runs rampant around both of the first two seasons.

I really want to write about a very small sequence in the second-to-last episode of season 2, where Holder and his partner Detective Linden (Mireille Enos) are finally coming close to solving the Rosie Larson (Kate Findlay) murder case.

Holder and Linden accost Jamie at the campaign office.  They’ve got serious questions for him, including some that may implicate him or his boss in the murder.  Their brief interrogation ends with a shot over Jamie’s shoulder, with Holder in the middle-ground, and Linden in the background:

Picture 1

The offices leave and there’s a cut to Jamie in a medium close-up as he goes back to work, but continues to eye the detectives:

Picture 2

End scene.  That’s it.  Pretty simple.  But it got me thinking about this ending to the scene.   We end with Jamie still looking after the detectives.  If he looks down and goes back to his work before we cut out of the scene it’s an entirely different implication.  In short, by keeping Jamie’s eyes glued to the detectives for the last few seconds here, he is immediately implicated (somehow or other) in the murder.  It’s the simple concept that the last thing we see – in this case, Jamie’s lingering gaze – stays with us the most.

So whose call is this?  Did the director have Jamie look down at his papers after a beat on set and then did the decision to cut that part out come in the editing room?  Or did the director never have Jamie look down, just have him hold the look, and the editor’s only real call was when to cut off the gaze and not to cut it before Jamie looks away?

You cut with Jamie still looking, he’s guilty.  Cut after Jamie looks away, he’s innocent.

The frames here telegraph an important plot point and all through one really simple ‘to look or not to look.’

About dcpfilm

Shooting, teaching, writing and watching the Phillies.
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One Response to The Killing and reaction shots

  1. Pingback: The Killing | filmstvandlife

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