The first two episodes of The Killing that aired last week were, let’s say, fairly dark. The case is depressing, the location is depressing and a lot of these people Linden and Holder are coming into contact with seem suspicious and kind of awful.
Well, if the events of this week’s episode, “El Diablo,” are any indication, what we saw in the first two pilots is nothing. This story is going to get much, much darker before any grain of hope is pulled from it. And while I might have some concerns about that which I’ll address here in a moment, I think this episode was very solid at moving the plot forward incrementally while still giving the characters enough room to breathe and develop in realistic ways.
Let’s discuss that ending first: Whoa. There’s a chance that it could all be a big swerve since we didn’t actually see her face, but it appears as though Rosie was taken down to the cage by Jasper and a drop-out meth-head named Kris. There, the two men took turns raping her — presumably after she was drug — while filming it. That video is now circulating around the school and eventually, it made its way into the hands of Linden and Holder. I know that this is a bleak series about the murder of a young girl, but I was expecting The Killing to throw pre-murder gang rape at us in episode three. Of course, the “found footage” aspect of the sequence makes it all the more disturbing, especially since there was a short scene early in the episode where other students at the school were actually watching the video (presumably) and that’s just so, so wrong.
Although the rape video is one hell of a way to end a third episode and tell the audience you’re not screwing around, it does concern me just a bit. I understand that we most certainly are not going to find out who killed Rosie until at least the penultimate episode so there have to be a number of twists, turns and fake-outs along the way to keep things interesting. Chances are Jasper and Kris had very little to do with the actual murder of Rosie, which is good for them I guess, but moderately troubling for us in the audience. I really hope that the series doesn’t try to pile on more and more terrible things that apparently happened to Rosie in the last like 8 hours of her life just so that it can keep up the mystery and add new possible candidates for the crime. The fact that she was apparently drugged and gang-raped just a few hours before she was then running through the forest and subsequently knocked unconscious and put in a trunk to drown is really, really awful and that’s the point, I know. But there is really no reason that we need to add a drug overdose, a torture scene and seven other terrible pre-murder sub-events just so the plot seems more mysterious. I think The Killing creative team wants to keep the series inside the realm of believability, so I have to imagine and hope this will not happen, but I’m still concerned.
Thankfully, “El Diablo” wasn’t just about that powerful ending, the previous 45 minutes were also very solid. I have to imagine that there will be people out there complaining about the pace of this series, but despite the appearances of glacier-like pacing, The Killing actually moves really fast if you’re into it. Last night during this episode I didn’t look down at the clock until somewhere around 10:50 and I was shocked that there was only a few minutes left. It felt like the episode was just really kicking into gear in a compelling way. This series is obviously not moving as fast as something like 24 would, but there is a hop to its step, even if the case isn’t SOLVED yet.
Moreover, I really, really enjoy how the series finds time to give us interesting looks into the lives of these people. Sticking with the parents through the mourning process isn’t wholly original, but it’s not a thread most series really stick to in the long-run, so it was nice to watch the sequences with Rosie’s parents as they try to figure out what the hell to do next. I particularly enjoyed the well-edited scenes near the beginning of the episode, with Mr. Larsen standing inside his warehouse just looking out into the rain while Mrs. Larsen continued to lie on Rosie’s bed at home. One of them is actually trying to go out in the world and be strong for the other, but it ultimately doesn’t really matter where you are in a situation like this one. Stanley breaks down at work, Mitch does it at home. They’re both a mess.
We also don’t always get a major look into the lives of the detectives themselves, at least past a courtesy mention, but I really liked how this episode developed both Linden and Holder. Holder has quickly become my favorite character and I love how all the things we were supposed to hate about him within the first 20 minutes of the pilot have been rapidly turned on their head so that those qualities actually make him endearing and good police. If this case is going to continue to bleaker and creepier, he’s certainly a good man for the job. Linden is so quiet and introverted that it’s still a bit difficult to get a read on her but I really enjoyed the running thread with her fears about her son. Having the investigation run into some degenerate kids has her spooked a bit about what is going to happen to her son if she doesn’t quit this job and actually give him the attention and patience she thinks he deserves. He’s already been caught smoking and he loves video games, and if this Jasper kid is any indication, video games could be the gateway to rape and murder! Of course I’m being factitious on some level, but I can understand her fear. It’s clear that one of the primary reasons Linden wants to get the hell out of Seattle is to give her son a fresh start and the more she delays that and runs into terrible kids through that process, the more she’s going to feel especially responsible for what her son does next.
Finally, the campaign stuff: It’s still too disconnected, but I’m willing to roll with it for now because Billy Campbell is very good in the role. He ends up discovering that the male aide Jamie was the leak, but it’s pretty obvious that he was set up by Gwen. I have no idea why or what this has to do with Rosie’s murder, but this episode does introduce this pier-front project that the current mayor is trying to get built, so maybe that’s something to take note of. Again, there’s really nothing in this thread yet but people looking suspicious because the series expects them to be, but I’m fine with it. The rest of the series is so good that a moderately disconnected thread is OK for now.