‘The Killing’ – ‘El Diablo’: Gasping for air

Senior Television Writer
04.10.11 110 Comments


A review of tonight’s “The Killing” coming up just as soon as I dress like Justin Bieber and eat pork rinds for dinner…

“Get cozy, Linden. We gotta wait.” -Holder

Just as Linden and Holder have to spend a while in the car waiting for Kris to show up at the skate park, “El Diablo” is the episode where “The Killing” really settles in and preps us for the long haul. We know most of the players, so now it’s time to see how things slowly play out.

On the police front, Linden’s boss explicitly asks her to stay in Seattle through the end of the case – which will, I hope, put an end to those scenes in every episode where Holder, her fiance, etc., ask when she’s going to leave – while Linden in turns begins to recognize that while she’s stuck working with Holder, the guy does have his uses.(*) The two also chase after the janitor, which at first seems like both a red herring and excuse to insert a little action and suspense into the middle of the episode, but which ultimately has value, since his words in the hospital room help lead Linden to Kris.

(*) On the other hand, what the heck is up with that surreptitious phone conversation Holder was having, which included an exchange about him needing more time because “She’s not stupid.” I really hope it doesn’t turn out that Holder is in some way trying to sabotage the investigation, because that would fall right into my fear that this show will suffer the same flaws of “24.”

On the political front, the episode is less about wondering if Richmond, Gwen or Jamie is a suspect than simply about showing the impact that the investigation can have on a campaign at this late, delicate stage. We get some more hints about how Richmond’s wife died, Jamie is identified as the mole (though he vehemently denies it, and I wouldn’t be stunned to learn he was framed), and the pressure of the moment leads squeaky-clean, holier-than-thou Richmond to do a little shameless horse-trading with Councilwoman Yitanes just to stay afloat. The campaign remains not my favorite part of the series, but I’m definitely most interested in it in just showing the collateral damage a sprawling investigation like this can have.

Reaction last week to the Larsens story was mixed, not so much about the quality of it – everybody seemed with me that Michelle Forbes and Brent Sexton are doing exceptional work – but rather whether some of you want to spend another 10 or 11 hours watching this shattered family wallowing in grief. I can understand that perspective, but I’m definitely not there yet, not after a great (albeit devastating) moment like one of the sons reassuring Stan “We don’t have to talk about it,” or watching Mitch disappear down any rabbit hole that she feels can still lead her to Rosie, whether it’s listening to the answering machine message over and over or trying to drown herself in the tub before her survival instincts kick in. (In the state she’s in, Mitch could be genuinely suicidal in an attempt to shut off her overwhelming grief, or she might just be trying to understand what it was Rosie felt in her final moments.)

Again, one of the things that distinguishes this show from your average done-in-one murder mystery show isn’t just that we get to see so many more stages of the investigation, but that we get to see the ripple effect of this one tragedy in a way a “Cold Case” or “CSI: NY” doesn’t have time for. We can follow Linden and Holder as they move the case forward, but we can also watch the Larsens as they find themselves rooted in this horrible, unchanging place(**), and see how the investigation in turn causes both problems and opportunities for the city’s political elite. Some of this stuff may eventually grow frustrating or repetitive, but right now, I’m all in.

(**) It’s almost funny – and definitely sad – how the Larsens have shut down to such a degree that they’re now as minimalist as Linden, so that when Sarah shows up at their door, nobody actually needs to speak any kind of greeting.

Finally, as with the last original AMC series, I feel like I have to include some specific commenting instructions at the end of this one. Even though “The Killing” is going to ultimately deviate from the Danish show in some ways, there’s going to be enough overlap that I’m going to ask those of you who’ve seen the original to be very careful about what you reveal about it. Do not discuss anything that happens in the Danish show that takes place after the events of each specific episode of “The Killing, and in general try to be respectful of those of us who are experiencing a version of this story for the first time. If, for instance (and I’m just making stuff up now), the Danish version of Jamie got fired for leaking, but then was revealed to have been framed by the Danish Gwen, keep that to yourself until that revelation happens on “The Killing,” or until that part of the story so clearly diverges that you know it’s not gonna happen here. Understand?

And with that in mind, what did everybody else think?

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