Over the course of five weeks, Dr. Laszlo Kreizler has slowly been unraveled to the audience. He’s lonely, bitter, and has an ego the size of a mountain. After having yet another spatter with Sara (why does she still hang out with him?) about what could have motivated his killings, Sara suggests that a dominant, abusive mother is a likely factor, but because Freud never mentioned women in his studies, Kreizler refuses to acknowledge it.
But as Kreizler has been teaching us for the past five episodes, to understand the nature of something, you have to study it until it reveals itself. Named after Kreizler’s college project, Hildebrandt’s Starling requires the audience to look past the evidence and wait for the subject to reveal itself. In regards to this episode, that means considering that everything we’ve seen so far is not what it seems.
On the next stop of his patient tour, Kreizler and Moore visit Jesse Pomeroy, a convicted child killer. Similar to his visit with previous murders and patients, Kreizler attempts to get inside Jesse’s mind to experience what it’s like to kill a child. After some pressing, he gets nothing except a knife to the throat (how in the world does a chained convicted killer have a knife?).
Meanwhile, Roosevelt finally decides to take action in this case when the New York mayor casually approached him in the park and told him to drop the case.
“Let the family handle it,” the mayor says.
Fortunately, this motivates Roosevelt even more to kick ass and take names. He teams up with Sara to look up potential suspects in privileged families. Shortly after, the list of names ends up in Kreizler’s, and there’s a familiar name in the pile: Willem Van Bergen.
Here’s what we know about Willem Van Bergen so far: He has silver teeth, he’s rich, and he left the church after getting into a brawl with the bishop. But even after all of this investigating, Kreizler has decreed that Willem is not the killer. He hypothesizes that the killer has been targeting young immigrant boys because they remind him of himself. Since Willem was born rich, there would be no reason for him to identify with boys such as Giorgio and Ali. How he came to this conclusion is not exactly clear and seems like a rather abrupt turn in this case.
Roosevelt doesn’t buy it and immediately orders O’Connor to get Willem’s address. This is where the showrunners take a page out of Silence of the Lambs book. On one side, Willem has brought a boy prostitute to his apartment and is seducing him with a milk bath, ballroom dancing, and champagne. On the other, Roosevelt is raging in the middle of the night with a wagon and a police team. He goes up and furiously knocks on a door while Willem nervously responds to a knock on his door. Suddenly, their timelines merge: Roosevelt didn’t knock on Willem’s door, and Willem didn’t hear Roosevelt. Instead, Roosevelt is greeted by a frightened old woman, and Willem opens to find his mother at the door.
O’Connor, who intentionally ruined the operation, tries to play it off as a mistake, but Roosevelt isn’t having it. He fires O’Connor on the spot and tears his badge on his coat. His parting words are simply, “You’ll regret it.” Roosevelt’s death has been hinted through the series, but now it’s basically set in stone. Roosevelt knows the police are behind the corruption of this case, and it won’t be long until he knows too much.
And while Roosevelt was knocking on the wrong door, Mrs. Van Bergen disrupts Willem’s night to ship him off to another country until this blows over. Their relationship seems to correlate with the abusive mother theory that Sara was talking about earlier. Sexual abuse is hinted at and has left Willem traumatized and full of hatred.
Roosevelt may have lost his lead, but Kreizler may be onto something new. He and Moore discover a pattern correlating to the boys’ deaths: they were all committed on Christian holy days. The next holy day is coming up soon, leaving Kreizler with an opportunity to get one step ahead of the killer.
I suppose it’s murder mystery 101 to not reveal the killer halfway through the series, but this turn of events feels like a cop-out. Willem has been developed as this cold, psychopathic person, that it feels wrong to have anyone else be the perpetrator. This show has primarily focused on seeing the “why” and not the “who” in the crime. Having someone else be the killer puts the show in cliche territory and rids it of its potential. Hopefully, the red herring is just a red herring, and Willem is still the killer.