In Memoriam: Shot Through the Heart, and Bullet’s to Blame!

LyrickissAs I sat down to write a few words in memory of our beloved Bullet on her anniversary of officially joining the show, I was immediately struck at the almost insurmountable task young actress, Bex Taylor-Klaus, must have faced the moment she stepped on set in Vancouver, whether she realized it.  In many ways, fans of The Killing are better conditioned than most to appreciate our leading ladies with some underlying flaws and difficulties, but by the time we first spotted Bullet pulling Kallie back over the bridge in the very first episode, we were pretty hardened to getting too attached to anybody, especially the smart-mouthed scrappy, street kid full of bravado and bullshit that threatened Holder within ten minutes of meeting him.  We already survived the gut-wrenching loss of Rosie Larsen, watched her family crumble under the knowledge of not only her murder but the reality that the woman that pushed the car into the water was her own aunt, Terry Malek.  In the process, we’d watched our beloved heroine, Sarah Linden, essentially lose everything, including her son, her badge, and her mind.  We knew before the season started that this case would take us back to the very case that caused our Linden to lose her mind in the first place.  In short, we were already on high alert, and we weren’t willing to let any part of our hearts go to anybody other than Stephen Holder and Sarah Linden.  That type of audience, callused by tragedy, by anxiety, does not readily welcome others to the party, let alone decide that some new character should be deemed every bit as beloved as Sarah Linden and Stephen Holder.  Like I said, that is a pretty tall order for a teenage kid accepting her first official role.  When I thought about what her character, Bullet, might have said to us, this audience full of skepticism about any female lead not named Mireille Enos, I laughed out loud, because I think I know exactly what Bullet would have said to us all in that moment: “Have a little faith.” 

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Faith was Bullet’s mantra, and as Bex prepared to shoot her first scenes on set with Emmy and Tony nominees, she had to literally be living out the reason Bullet told Linden that faith was important to her:  “Because nobody’s got it in me but me.”  Perhaps in the beginning we did not have reason to really believe that pierced, dirty, homeless punk with a half shaved head, a cigarette hanging off her lips, too cowardly to really tell the woman she loves how she feels, would somehow emerge as the street angel.  After all, she had verbally threatened at least three different characters before the end of the first episode: Twitch (“You think that playing house means jack? If that low rent punk is using her, I’m going to kick his skinny, white ass!”), Goldie (“That’s what I thought.  You ain’t nothing but a punk ass pussy bitch.  I got more balls than you.”), and even Holder (“And you’re pretty slow there, 5-0, I ain’t a boy.  Peace out, Po-Po”). Yet, as Voltaire once said, faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe.  As we watched, we discovered that Bullet was not entirely unlike our Stephen Holder, a tough exterior shell masking a sensitive and loving soul.  I immediately thought of Holder’s words to Linden in the car while they were watching Pastor Mike when he asked her about the infamous Boatman Cody: “He hurt your feelings?  I’ll beat his ass!”  It certainly sounds like something Bullet might say, and yet, he follows it up by listening to Linden talk about what she really wanted but could not be.  “Sometimes what you get isn’t really want you want,” he says.  He later moves Heaven and Earth to find missing Sarah Linden only to awkwardly try to express his fears, his affection with an aborted kiss.  Well, most of that sounded very much like Bullet, save the less-than-Velveeta smooth aborted kiss, since Bullet had every viewer swooning with her kiss with her love, Lyric.  Perhaps Stephen Holder should be the one taking advice on sealing the deal with a close friend from Bullet around a trash can fire instead of the other way around…

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Like faith, for Bullet, love was a verb, a conscious choice to live a certain way every day.  It was never merely an emotion for Bullet, but rather, the fruit of her feelings were her actions.  We, as an audience, judged the authenticity of Bullet’s faith, her love, by how they influenced her behavior.  So, how precisely did Bullet live out her love?  Bullet protected: The very first thing we see Bullet do is pull Kallie back to safety on the bridge.  She talked to her about finding breakfast, finding a safer place to sleep for the night.  Bullet listened: She told Kallie about a ring that Lyric, her love, once told her about that had belonged to Lyric’s grandmother and shows her a similar ring she acquired to give to her.  Bullet knew when others are not being treated with honor: She was outraged that Twitch and Lyric are merely “playing house,” implying that her Lyric deserves better than that.  Bullet was attentive: She immediately perceived Kallie’s apprehension about Joe Mills and demanded to know if he did something to hurt her.  Bullet sought help: When Kallie’s mother did not provide any information about her whereabouts, Bullet tried to report her missing to the police, even knowing that her presence at the police station could put her in direct contact with authorities that could land her in child protective custody.  Bullet acted: When the police failed to immediately respond to her pleas for help, Bullet went to Goldie’s apartments at Twitch’s suggestion and tries to break down a door when she hears a girl crying inside the room.  Goldie held her at knifepoint and raped her in what was the most brutal, heart-breaking scene at that point in Season 3 of The Killing.  Bullet overcame:  Even when the police cut Goldie loose and everybody knew she is a snitch, Bullet continued to confide in Holder, helping Linden and Holder identify Kallie from the video from Goldie’s apartment.  She directed them to the hotel owned by Mama Dips and eventually to the bridge where Kallie used to sleep, giving the audience the moment we had truly been waiting for all season long…Holder back in his crime-fighting hoodie!

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Fearing Lyric was missing, Bullet lied to Holder, telling him that Pastor Mike took her to the same woods where the police believe the other victims had been taken.  It certainly is not the first time fans of The Killing witnessed a leading lady tell a little lie to get help to find a missing person they love, so perhaps we can give Bullet a little slack here.  (Yes, Sarah Linden, I’m looking at you.  When your partner was missing on the reservation?  Something about the Seattle P.D. and the Coast Guard being on their way, arriving any minute, when your Lieutenant had already told you quite emphatically that was never going to happen?  Sound familiar?)  A massive manhunt ensued, detracting resources away from the search for the now missing Sarah Linden, a hostage driving Pastor Mike around the City of Seattle away from the lights.  Holder’s sheer panic at the prospect loss of Linden oddly mirrors Bullet’s own paranoia at Lyric’s sudden absence.  Perhaps that shared knowledge of one another’s weak points, those two girls, was enough to allow Bullet to forgive Holder’s comments that she wasn’t “shit” and that if he ever saw her again, he’ll bury her ass in the foster system.  Bullet preserved: She procured heroin in order to bribe Angie Gower for information about the Pied Piper, and despite Holder’s threats, she called his phone repeatedly, trying to report the information.  Relieved to watch his favorite redhead eat her lemon chicken safely at home, he ignored her calls, and Bullet eventually called dispatch, resulting in an intercepted message and a lurking car outside the café waiting to lure Bullet to her death. 

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Bullet’s death left The Killing fan base literally reeling.  From the moment Sarah pled with Holder to step away from the trunk, that he did not need to be there, to the excruciating look on Holder’s face when he saw the C.I. he could no longer trust in the trunk of Joe Mills’s cab, another victim of the Pied Piper, we were collectively broken over her death.  The parting shot of Bullet in “Reckoning” is the tattoo she drew on her wrist, “Faith,” indicative of the belief or trust she continued to hold in herself now transferred to Stephen Holder to find the person responsible even though such a belief may have been, at that very moment, beyond the reach of proof.  Because of the incredibly empathetic performance of Bex Taylor-Klaus, we felt Holder’s madness, drinking himself into arguably a sobriety relapse, slugging Carl Reddick in the face for not prompting responding to Bullet’s calls to the station, throwing beer cans in the prison cemetery.  We understand completely the look of relief on Sarah Linden’s face after she kills the Pied Piper, because we instinctively know this is the monster that killed our Bullet.  We grieve collectively as we sit with Holder in the church, mourning a girl named Rachel Olmstead that, frankly, we never really knew and undoubtedly pales in comparison to the street angel we grew to love in only eight episodes. 

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As the fans of The Killing prepare for Season 4 on Netflix, the lessons of Bullet live on in Linden and Holder.  Will Holder demonstrate Bullet’s protectiveness and cover for Sarah Linden?  Will Sarah Linden recall Bullet’s words and be her own North Star, the light within her that guides her safely home?  Will the aborted kiss between Linden and Holder be chalked up to mere grief and alcohol or will both admit the connection there is something worthy of exploration, even if, like Lyric and Bullet, it may or may not be able to last?  Most importantly, will the audience remember true heroines come from the least expected places complete with flaws, scars, and vulnerable hearts fortified by walls of stone?  We will need to remind ourselves of that lesson repeatedly in Season 4, because like Bullet, our Sarah Linden, the ultimate heroine of the entire story, comes to us riddled with these same imperfections.  So, what would Bullet tell us about the possibility of Sarah’s redemption?  You got it.  “Have a little faith.”    

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