You heard me right: The series finale of The Killing sucked. Like, deeply. Mr. Max summarized our reaction best:

  • It was awful.
  • It was the worst.
  • It ruined everything.

We both love(d) the show, so this is a bit of a downer. In order to work through our sadness, we spent a long drive discussing exactly what went wrong and how it could be fixed. Warning: spoilers abound.

What Went Wrong Part 1: I got 99 Problems and Plot IS one of Them
I’ll start with the big one: letting Linden off via a huge, sloppy deus ex machina. I mean, are we really supposed to believe that the mayor – ANY mayor – has the ability to magically disappear a murder investigation? Because, I dunno… elections? And what about the police department? How can we be sure that no one — not even some snappy young detective ten years in the future — EVER reopens the case? What about if/when Skinner’s angry family demands their own autopsy? Or when they start doing DNA tests? For the love of pete, are we supposed to believe that ONE sentence from Billy Campbell is all it takes to get someone off the hook for murder?

Next, there’s the family stuff. Linden and the Colonel are dealing with similar mother-child issues. I get that they were trying to make a parallel here between these women, but the problem is that these issues feel a little TOO similar. It’s so literal that it doesn’t come off as smart or interesting, just redundant.

Along the same lines, I was majorly disappointed by the side plot with Linden’s birth mother. I almost fell out of my chair when they had her deliver that cheesy dig, “I think we’re a lot alike.” Because… apparently Linden’s mom is a villain from a Batman movie?

As far as the military school storyline goes, they had an interesting idea but screwed it up towards the end. The “It’s his mom!” thing was lame. Having a criminal revealed as the person everyone first suspected is tired. And giving a character amnesia is lazy and feels like something out of Megan Draper’s bad soap opera in Mad Men.

Last but certainly not least, we can’t forget the cringetastic tacked-on romance between Linden and Holder. We both groaned aloud as soon as these two started smiling and flirting and exchanging awkward, completely out of character dialogue. Why??

Linden does not smile! No!

What Went Wrong Part 2: Truth is Stranger than Fan Fiction
A lot of the weak plot stuff could have been forgiven had they avoided the temptation to write wish-fulfillment fan fiction. But they just had to go there. They had to throw in an unrealistic romance (Holder and Linden), bring back an old character (Billy Campbell, for 30 seconds), show someone’s future kid as a cutesy mini-me (Holder’s kid…whatever her name was), and tie things up with a cheesy, unnecessary epilogue. Please stop listening to Internet fans, writers. It’s the road to perdition.

I Fixed It For You

Here’s how the ending should have gone down. We pick things up just after the (excellent and powerful) scene where Skinner’s car is being pulled from the lake.

Re: the military school plot: All 3 boys end up being involved in the crime. Main kid is motivated by hatred of his abusive father. The other two want to kill the mom because she rejected them. Main kid goes catatonic after killing the dad and can’t remember anything. Little sister is killed by accident or by the other kids, with ensuing angst. Colonel is NOT the main kid’s mom but does orchestrate the cover-up, relating it to her experience killing civilians in war. She gives some sort of impassioned speech about the meaning of it all before they haul everyone away.

Linden solves the case but also gets caught/arrested for killing Skinner. However, it turns out that others in the department knew about Skinner and did nothing. In order to protect themselves, the police cover up everything, including Linden’s involvement. The Chief of Police tells Linden she is being given a second chance. She has no choice but to take it.

The last episode ends with a callback to the first: Linden’s retirement party. We see cake plates being thrown away and Linden closing her office door. Someone murmurs that she is moving closer to her son. She drives to the airport and we see her hesitate, then look back one last time at the city of Seattle before boarding the plane. THE END.

And we came up with that in like 15 minutes in a car. While driving.
You can do better, writers!

The title says it all. I had been avoiding this one on Amazon Instant for a while now, going for more splashy titles like “The Pregnancy Project.” But after watching and being wowed by a crazy-murderer/artist-dumping-brown-paint-over-his-naked-body-in-a-ritualistic-manner scene in “The Eleventh Victim,” an equally drab-sounding offering, I hoped another gem might be in store. I gamble, I win.

An officer and a murderer AND a panty sniffer?!

I knew I was in for a treat from the beginning, as the credits roll over a military uniform being straightened out and fussed with and we see CANADA emblazoned across the upper arm. I was like “holy shit this is going to be about Mounties” and went to make myself an Old-Fashioned. When I got back, a man was being introduced to an audience of military people as the new Commander of the air base. Then I was like “holy shit Canada has an Air Force?” First time for everything, I suppose. Anyway, the man is Russ Williams and he seems like a bit of a hardass, saying that he doesn’t want to move away from his neighborhood to be closer to the base. He says that he “could run the base through his phone.” Yes sir.

“Snug Harbor Road” is where Russ is so reluctant to leave, and it is made obvious that he’s a well-liked guy as he jogs around the neighborhood.  I got a bit of a House of Cards vibe from Mr. and Mrs. Williams– no kids, no nonsense. Well, maybe some panty-sniffing nonsense!

<Law and Order sound>

Detective Dobson is definitely no nonsense and she doesn’t seem too happy about getting a partner. Detectives never seem to want partners, but they always come in so handy– duh. Anyway, I honestly can’t blame Dobson for not wanting this guy because just looking at him makes me angry. He looks like a bloated version of Brenda’s crazy brother Billy in Six Feet Under and he’s trying to pull off some “distant” look.

I… know things about… criiimees….

Chief Novak (the most detectiviest last name ever) tells Dobson that Gallagher is some kind of criminal profiling master and that they’re going to go investigate… a break-in. Womp womp. But Gallagher’s genius isn’t wasted because they discover that some pre-adolescent panties have gone missing! “Let’s get forensics in here,” says Dobson. Back at the office, Dobson and Gallagher eat detective food and rap about the case. “Stealing underwear is a way for him to get close to his victims.” LOL. I’m getting drunk and this is getting good.

You know what I mean when I say “detective food”

Russ gets warmed up with a couple more panty raids, the first of which involves stealing a woman’s dildo collection and leaving a note mentioning “you’re big dildos.” The second starts off legitimately creepy with a cute air base colleague at home getting into the shower. Russ takes off all his clothes and makes like he’s going to quietly sneak into the shower behind her (eek city) but lo! He spies her underthings and decides to rub them on his chest instead. Then he takes a sip from a nearby wine glass and rubs her panties on the wine glass. His good times are interrupted by the shower being turned off, so he grabs the panties and runs.

Back at headquarters, Dobson and Gallagher meet with Chief Novak to tell her they found a male pube on some underwear he left behind. Novak, as all good police chiefs do, needs more evidence. She also demands a full profile by noon, which leads directly to hilariously bad detective dialogue like:

“He does his homework. He’s methodical.”

“It’s almost like he WANTS the women to discover him.”

“Wearing the underwear represents subjugation of his victims from afar.”

“He’s evolving. He’s going to move on to stealing pants.”

As minds race and midnight oil is burned, Russ enters the bedroom of a new mother who has passed out after finally getting her baby to sleep. He does that “almost touch” thing and then, to our surprise, actually grabs her. He ties her up and blindfolds her, and pretends to be part of a robber posse, keeping her quiet until his guys get the stealing done. In the meantime, he says he’s going to take some pictures of her. The camera sound effects here are those of a camera that looks like this:

Noisy shutter, popping flashbulbs… He must also have an antique camera fetish, no?

Nope. That’s just the way tiny digital cameras sound in Canada. Russ is mostly pretty nice to her and even gets her aspirin for a headache she complains of through her sobs of terror. He takes a few crime selfies and tells her to count to 200 and peaces out. She counts all the way, and only then does her baby wake up and start screaming. Whew!

Russ is on a roll now but the detectives are closing in fast. And by “closing in fast” I mean getting sidetracked by the last victim’s misidentification of Russ’s “sketchy” (not at all) neighbor named Charlie in a lineup who, during questioning, says “do you think I look like the kind of guy who would do that?”  They’re like “yeah, you’re right” and let him go. Good cop, great cop?

My quickly-shortening attention span was refocused by a clever cut to a weird charity auction at the air base where they put good old Commander Russ in a fake jail cell and bid on who’s going to bail him out (?). He raises $3000 (??). “Great for moral,” says some other army guy to Russ on his way out of the men’s bathroom. Yup, says Russ… and then takes off his clothes to reveal that he is wearing women’s underwear!!!

“I’d fuck me”

It was definitely time for Old-Fashioned #2, and (thankfully) by the time I got back Russ had actually killed a couple women, and Dobson and Gallagher were coming to the conclusion that “he’s highly organized, disciplined” and therefore “could be someone from the air base!” They get some roads closed off for random stops for tire tread match identification purposes, possibly the only smart detective thing they do, and get evidence of Russ’s guilty tires. But how could it be Commander Williams? He’s an officer!

AND A MURDERER! Back in his garage, he rolls up a dead woman in a rug and dumps her somewhere. When he gets back, his high degree of organization and discipline manifests in the form of a tiny little dustbuster that he uses to get rid of the forensic evidence. If I know anything about dustbusters, this won’t work, but maybe Canadian dustbusters are more powerful.

Dobson is burning some more midnight oil, and Gallagher praises her diligence (he has done basically nothing useful at all) but warns her that she’s “gotta be careful with cases like this; they really get inside you, they eat you up. So put up a firewall (?).” And oh, by the way, Commander Williams’ tires matched. Dobson checks their profile against Russ’s info and she is ON it. Like a good TV detective, she shows up at his house Clarice Starling style, alone, no backup, no warrant. Russ is inside, Jame Gumbing out, wearing a victim’s bra and panties, watching his video recordings and taking more crime selfies. Dobson peers into his garage, stares at his tires, leaves, goes back to the office and looks at a photograph of his tires they got at the roadblock. Amazing, quality policework right there. You make that face, Dobson.

Chief Novak says that they’d better be able to back up their accusation because if they’re wrong about Commander Williams they are all going to be writing parking tickets for the rest of their lives. Classic police chief threat, classic police chief face.

Russ agrees to answer some questions down at the station, and before heading into the interrogation room he removes his shoes by the door (??). Dobson doesn’t get it either, but she takes the opportunity to grab a shoe and bring it down to forensics to have it matched with tracks that were left on a victim’s floor. It matches and BOOM, it’s all over for Russ. They find his panty stash and he’s off to the clink. One of his army colleagues is so flustered he pukes in the bathroom. The final scene is a weird ceremonial burning of Commander Russ Williams’s uniform. Probably a Canadian thing.

And then the Internet tells you that Russ is the Office Space guy and you go to sleep!

Last night I was diddling around on our newest media box interface, Amazon FIRE TV or something, and stumbled across several– no, many– LMN movies! I saw Liz and Dick, Betrayal (with Meredith Baxter!), and a couple other familiar titles, but I focused in on Magic Beyond Words because:


Oh boy..

I was so psyched that I pressed play right away, but got distracted in the kitchen cracking open a second bottle of wine. I missed some stuff, but was able to figure out some “important” “plot” material, namely that as a child Joanne Rowling had a lot of wizard fantasies, did poorly in school and was picked on. And she looked like Harry Potter.


Hermione she wasn’t.

I settled in as rebellious teenage Rowling flips out at her parents when she doesn’t get in Oxford. “But I want to be a writer!” she wails in her dreadful British accent. Mr. Rowling is an ass and tells her that being a writer sucks and she should make some money instead. Mrs. Rowling is all about supporting her dear Jo and says she should follow her dreams, do what makes her happy, etc. She ends up going to stinky Exeter.

At this point I was half-watching, maybe even quarter-watching so it gets a bit hazy, but what follows are my sporadic notes– with visual media!

- – -

Alright I’m just jumping in here–

Rowling snoozes on the train, has a dream about her childhood woodland wizard games and meets HARRPY POTTER, scar and all, wakes up and says “Harry Potter! Your name is Harry Potter!” just based on his face.


Dream Potter

They are throwing random Harry Potter things into her “real life”  (an owl, weird train snacks)

Rowling’s mom, her champion, DIES after having a shaky-hands-and-wheelchair disease. She sees her little 6 year old stories she wrote that her mom had saved and has a big old breakdown.

….aaaand then finds a job ad for English teachers in Portugal and goes for it, moving into a house of hot, light-hearted chicks. She is loving it. She is still not writing, just partying down and blaming her mom’s death on her slacker lifestyle. They go clubbing.

Pulsing dance music thumps as JK flounces into the club with her Sex in the City entourage. Was JK Rowling actually a slut? They are making up fake identities for the purposes of a one night stand! JK is approached by a sexy Portuguese man who knows ENGLISH and LITERATURE. He’s like a steroid version of Tony from West Side Story. She’s totes going to one-night bone him, but you can tell it’s going to turn into so much more. They’re up in her apartment already; she’s in the other room, and he starts snoopily reading her MANUSCRIPT. She flips out and kicks him out but he saves his poontime by saying “I think I’m falling in love…. with a great writer” in a tortured spanish accent and she basically jumps straight onto his hog.

J.K. Rowling is a *babe*

Family trauma with dad remarrying, meh, and then her Portuguese Romeo is caught smooching some hussy in a club..! She is walking away SO mad. He proposes. Literally next shot is a wedding. Her wedding is IN Portuguese. And now he’s going to war?

Back as an ESL teacher, she is doodling crappy wizards while her students take a test. I guess he wasn’t going to war, I don’t know why he was wearing camo– his job was taken by someone else and he’s all full of machismo. He won’t let a woman support him! She reveals that she’s pregnant! He walks out! Not looking good.

Her Sex in the City housemates are telling her to LEAVE him now, before the baby gets old. He comes home drunk and freaking out, flinging her around by her hair and being generally violent, wakes up the baby, throws her out of the house. Policia altercation. She goes in and gets all her harry potter notes and flees with the baby. SINGLE MOM.

She’s on the DOLE. Dole lady implies that she should have stayed with the abusive husband instead of going on the dole (69 pounds a week). She sees her mother’s ghost face in a mirror who tells her to be strong and follow her heart. She gives her sob story to the real estate lady who was not keen on having a doled-up tenant but she said aaawww why not! Now they have a gorgeous, warm apartment with a nursery! On 69 pounds a week! I’d also point out that she has not been writing Harry Potter this whole time. She’s got an awful lot of stupid names to make up!

Things have hit rock bottom and she is showing her friend Harry Potter notes when she’s asked “what makes you happy?” Her friend is just amazed by Harry Potter.  “Jo, it’s magical!” Single mom writing montage. She writes in a hip coffee shop. Dole much? She looks so not poor. She sees hipsters playing chess… Inspiration! She goes without food to get a typewriter from a pawn shop.

She bought baby food and a typewriter

The candles are all floating as she writes. She sees the Gringotts bank goblin at the dole office. Her magical world is everywhere. She is sending the book to agencies. Everything is working out and now her only hardship is to think of a middle initial– she decides on K from her mom’s maiden name, I think. Secretary says “it’s got a ring to it– JK Rowling.” NOT.

She’s teaching English again and her unruly class is putty in her hands when she makes them all dress up like witches. “Don’t think of a test as a bad thing, think of it as something that makes you stronger!” Mary Poppins city. OMG SHE GETS A PUBLISHER– The publisher who published “The English Patient,” someone says, reverently.  She finally gets a hard copy of her splendid book. She smells it.

She’s doing a reading. Everyone assumes she’s going to be a man because of her mysterious nom de plume. It’s over and they just layer some written facts over JK reading to a rapt audience, but in like a Waldenbooks or something.

- – -

And that was that. Overall, it’s fun to imagine the real JK Rowling being SO PISSED upon seeing this. She got Lifetimed reaaal good. This movie was so Lifetimey that although I’d deliberately set out to watch it, I found myself wandering around the house missing chunks of it.

Also, this movie made me wish that Brad Neely narrated the entire thing.


In my continuing mission to document America’s greatest design treasure, I’ve traveled near and far to collect four new entries for the Anthology of Pizza Box Graphic Design.

Adorable Vegetables: Part 1

Design Assessment: They’ve packed more cuteness into this line art than a bathtub full of baby sloths. I love the bulbous garlic and jaunty, plump mushrooms.

Generic Product Claim: They pull us in with “Fresh oven baked…” and seal the deal with “It’s the greatest!”

Adorable Vegetables: Part 2

Design Assessment: This design puts a pie front and center, with mushrooms, olives, a tomato, and a wheat sprig (which I’m guessing is meant to be a symbol, not a topping) peeking out from behind.

Generic Product Claim: A slight rearrangement of the prior box: “Baked oven fresh.”

Little City

Design Assessment: Let’s be honest: this looks like a photocopy of an office memo. There’s no generic product claims (Hot! Fresh!) or cute renderings of cartoon toppings. I can’t even figure out if the drippy ink is a “style” or the result of inexpensive screen printing. However, none of this really matters. Why? Because the margherita pie it contained was one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had in my life. It would have been delicious served out of a black hefty bag.

Fake Classicism: Sbarro

Design Assessment: Sbarro is the official fake pizza joint of American malls, and this box design is authentic in its inauthenticity. While the red ink, tacky uppercase font, and unnecessary exclamation mark are all elements common to classic boxes, something just feels wrong about the combination here. The text isn’t where it should be, there’s a weird white box around the logo, and the 50th anniversary banner just confuses me.

Generic Product Claim: A slightly wordy take on an old standard: “Hot and delicious pizza!”


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