TV

'The Killing': Still Murky and Still (Mostly) Smart

Imagining the worst -- whatever that can be -- Sarah persists with her work while trying to be a mother to a child who's becoming a man.


The Killing

Airtime: Sundays, 8pm ET
Cast: Mireille Enos, Joel Kinnaman, Jamie Anne Allman, Brent Sexton, Liam James, Kristin Lehman, Billy Campbell
Subtitle: Season Two Premiere
Network: AMC
Creator: Veena Sud
Air date: 2012-04-01
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It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

-- Stan (Brent Sexton)

"I'm sorry," Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) tells her 13-year-old son Jack (Liam James). "Sometimes things just don’t work out." She's leaning over him, crouched on he floor in the airport in Seattle. They were supposed to be on their way out of town -- away from their past lives, and especially, away from Sarah's grueling job as a homicide detective. But, as everyone who saw last season's finale of The Killing knows, their departure was interrupted by news that the murder case she thought she solved was not even close to solved.

Many viewers complained about this finale, claiming a need for closure, an end to the seemingly endless mystery. TV series are supposed to work a certain way. And this TV series did not. Jack's glum anger here, his rejection of his mom's apology or promise that "Things will be like they used to be," as well as his frustration and impatience, might all stand in for what those viewers were feeling. As he ponders his new situation -- which is the old situation -- Jack peeps up at a TV set across the waiting area: "Is the real reason were staying because that guy's dead?" he asks, gesturing to the news report that shows mayoral candidate Darren Richmond (Billy Campbell) being gunned down.

As Sarah turns to look, her face is pale. Her face is always pale, an effect underscored by her frequent framing in the dark, wet, green and grey Northwest. Here she sees what may be consequences of the news she heard in the final moments of last season, that the photo she believed had placed Richmond on the bridge and in the car associated with Rosie Larsen's murder was false. For all the upset at this revelation, it makes thematic sense, part of this TV series' continuing challenge to TV series conventions.

Like all police procedurals, The Killing is about reading clues: it allows viewers to read along with the detectives, anticipating and guessing and putting pieces together. But unlike most police procedurals, The Killing also interrogates that process per se. Again and again, it frustrates and turns around, encourages speculation and then refracts exactly that. Its focus on Sarah's efforts to read visual clues reached a sort of combinatory nadir-and-apotheosis with the false photo. You know that all images are subject to doctoring, that images only bear meaning in contexts and that contexts shift. But still, on a TV show, the clues are supposed to lead to a season finale, a resolution that delivers to your faith in -- or at least your familiarity with -- formula.

Sarah, your stand-in for all this reading and faith in same, spent much of last season looking at images -- surveillance photos, snapshots, cell phone videos, and so-called news on TV. Her readings informed yours. Now, as she begins to reread everything, her trust in her own perceptive skills shaken, the first two episodes of the new season -- premiering on 1 April -- she tries to reassure Jack that she still has means to her end, that there is an end to be reached. Now she's also distrusting the men around her, men who lied to her, from Richmond to her partner Holder (Joel Kinnaman), her lieutenant, Oakes (Garry Chalk) to Stan (Brent Sexton), Rosie's dad. Now, as she reinvestigates, she does her best not to share with the guys, but instead to keep her new ideas to herself.

"I wish I had known the truth," Sarah complains to one of these liars. But, that lament doesn't get at the real problem, which is that there is no single truth. Yes, series developer Veena Sud has promised to reveal the identity of Rosie's killer by the end of this new season, but it hardly seems crucial to know. The killer will be a surprise or not. Sarah's is only partly a quest for "justice" in the standard sense. It's more subtly, and more forcefully too, a quest for understanding, specifically an understanding of how the world works.

As Sarah pursues her case, you see what she doesn't, as the men who mean to mess with her -- accidentally or willfully -- go through their machinations. They also misread images and the parameters of their entitlements, they rarely manage their schemes efficiently or effectively. The series is still uneven, plot-wise: the story that clears Richmond as this season begins lies somewhere between soapy and silly, and the misuse of his shooter, the excruciatingly slow-and-frantic Belko (Brendan Sexton III), is tedious (at least for now). At the same time, Richmond's aide Jamie (Eric Ladin) is becoming something else, his seeming cluelessness now reflecting the elusiveness of truth rather than only acting it out. As he's perpetually unable to do a right thing, even if he knew what it was, he's framed repeatedly in windows, in the campaign office or at the hospital, removed and too close at the same time.

Of course, Jamie's isolation is of a different sort than Sarah's. No matter her erstwhile relationship with the ex-fiancé (Callum Keith Rennie) or her devotion to Jack, she has always in this series looked profoundly alone, driving on lightless highway or walking grassy expanses. This season, her investigation again takes her into dark nights, disorderly offices, and damp hallways, the camera hovering behind her or just in front of face, perplexed or horrified by what she sees -- or more often, by what she's imagining, perhaps about to see.

Imagining the worst -- whatever that can be -- Sarah persists with her work while trying to be a mother to a child who's becoming a man. At one point, she leaves Jack with friends he calls the "Jesus freaks," where, she promises he'll be "safe." His ready question -- "Safe from what?" -- goes to a recurrent dread in The Killing, which is that no institution, official, religious, or familial, is reliable. Jack and Sarah both get that, in different, sometimes opposed, ways. If their arguments are familiar ("Jack, you're eating too much junk, you’ve got to read something real." "Hello! Chips are like potatoes!"), they're also symptomatic and ridiculous, and always about something else.

As such, the mother-son debates and conversations illustrate The Killing's interest in what's unseen and unsaid. Whether or not there's "something real" to be found here, it likely has little to do with who killed Rosie Larsen.

7

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.


In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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