Let The Psycho Grab Your Face!

I will accept a lot of nonsense from The Killing because my expectations have never been that high. The first two seasons may have been shakily written, but they were beautifully shot, decently acted, and better than CSI. Sometimes, that's all I need.

For the most part, last night's premiere gave me what I wanted. Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman are still great; I'm intrigued by the serial killer storyline; and I love this teenager Bullet (Bex Taylor-Klaus), a badass lesbian runaway trying to protect her street family. (The Killing has a lot of interesting lesbian characters, but that's another essay.)

I'm also enjoying Peter Sarsgaard as Ray Seward, a dude on death row who's about to be executed but maybe didn't do it. Because he's giving such a textured performance -- vulnerable and psychotic at the same time -- I don't even mind that his character type is also on Hannibal, The Following, and The Blacklist.

But you know what I do mind? When Seward asks to see the prison chaplain (John R. Taylor), and the chaplain gets riiiiiight up next to the prison bars. And those prison bars are roughly six feet apart, so that in a moment of feigned tenderness, Seward can reach through the opening, grab the chaplain by the collar, and slam his head around. And the guards are playing Minesweeper or something because it takes them a week to get in there and help.

I know the assault demonstrates Seward's violently manipulative power, which is supposed to make him alluring and repulsive at the same time. You can't have a Lecter-esque villain without that combination. But couldn't Seward have proven his mettle without making an entire prison staff look like fools?

There is no way a prison chaplain would sit that close to a man so obviously deranged, certainly not on their first meeting. And there's no way a seasoned CO like Francis Becker (Hugh Dillon), whom we're told is the Execution Czar of Washington State, would be so hands-off, like, "Oh, this bastard needs a prayer. I'll tiptoe downstairs and toss my taser in the toilet."

It's not just Seward, of course. TV psychos are always getting opportunities to wreak havoc in prison. A few weeks ago on Elementary, Fake Moriarty got to talk to Sherlock with his hands in front of his body, like he was about to deal a hand of bridge. This was a man who was notorious for hanging victims upside down and slashing their throats, but somehow, not even Sherlock Holmes suspected he'd kill a prison guard when he got the chance.

And don't even get me started on The Following, in which an entire community of idiots has decided a serial killer should be their new guru, up to and including breaking him out of prison -- a plan he's able to puppet-master via apparently unrestricted internet access. What could go wrong?

I understand that plots need forward motion and that charming murderers need a chance to seduce us before they terrify us. But writers have got to stop making it so easy for them to game the system. Even if I don't expect much from a show, I still expect characters to be sufficiently cautious around a guy who majored in Evildoing at the University of Phoenix.

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