Episode 3 of "The Killing": "El Diablo"

Slate's Culture Blog
April 11 2011 9:23 AM

Episode 3 of "The Killing": "El Diablo"

[Caution: There are spoilers ahead! So if youhaven't yet watched "El Diablo," come back when you have and share yourthoughts and theories.]

AMC's new crimeshow The Killing , based on acelebrated Danish series, traces theaftermath of a young girl's murder, with each installment describing oneconsecutive day in the investigation. Last week's two-part debut was met with critical acclaim includingsome from Slate 's TroyPatterson and the CultureGabfest and solidratings . Episode 3 continued to deepen the three main storylines (whichfollow the detectives investigating the case, the victim's grieving family, anda handsome mayoral candidate whose relationship to the case is, at the moment,ambiguous) while providing a couple of perverse Law and Order: SVU -style thrills and more gorgeous, noir-ish shots of the Seattle skyline.

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The first major twistcomes when detectives Sarah Linden and StephenHolder discover a peephole on "the Cage," the basement room at FortWashington High School where Rosiemay have spent some of her final hours. This leads them to a drug-addledjanitor with a sketchy past . He proves a dead end but not before he wreakssome violence and (gratuitously, I thought) jumps out of a window and splattershimself on the sidewalk but he doestell the detectives that he saw Rosie in the Cage on the night of the Halloweendance and then whispers, "El Diablo." At the end of the episode, we get a seemingly majorclue when a grainy cell phone video surfaces, appearing to show Rosie beingsexually assaulted in the Cage by her rich, slithery ex-boyfriend, Jasper , andhis tweaky drug-dealer best friend, Kris , who are wearing devil masks. Whichpart of that video will turn out to be a red herring, do you think?

Linden and Holderare my favorite things about the show so far. I don't think it's a dig at MireilleEnos's acting ability to say that I just find her look and affect socompelling: youthful yet maternal; stern yet sorrowful; tough but with those pillowylips and soft eyes. I'll be curious to see how her status as a mother (and, itseems, a former lost teen herself) affects her during this investigation herson, after all, is not so much younger than Jasper or Kris. I find the subplotof the fiancé waiting, increasingly less patiently, in Sonoma a bit forced,though: So far it feels like an unnecessary character wrinkle. Meanwhile, Ilove how the show is setting up weaselly-looking Holder as an unlikely sexsymbol. Has there ever been a better pick-up line than "Did I tell you about that time I got pica? When I waslike 5?" He doesn't get any scenes as great as the one in episode two, when heseduces two young schoolgirls into giving up the secret of the Cage, but hisgravelly drawl is really starting to work for me. And I like the uneasy banter betweenthe two detectives. Holder clearly wants to turf her out, but he respects her,and there's no tiresome "You sure are tough, for a lady" business.

Show runner VeenaSud hassaid that the central challenge in adapting The Killing for American television is getting an audience that'sbeen desensitized to "real violence and to televised violence" to "care" aboutthe victim. Rosie Larsen herself hasn't emerged as a character for me yet and theonline game that lets you "explore" Rosie'sbedroom doesn't make her seem any less generic a teenage girl but the fantasticperformances by Michelle Forbes and BrentSexton as Rosie's parents continue to add a layer of poignancy to theproceedings. When you watch Mitch Larsen listening repeatedly to Rosie'soutgoing voicemail message, or sinking into the bathtub in order to experienceher daughter's final moments, it becomes impossible to look at grisly crimescene evidence in the same, detached way you might in a typical procedural. (Just give Forbes the Emmy already,why don't you!) I'm not sure yet about the two younger brothers, though the(older?) one, at least, seems impossibly mature to me. It felt a little cute,and false, to have him say serenely, "It's okay, Dad, we don't have totalk about it." But maybe Mitch and Stan have just raised awesome kids.

The politicalsubplot remains the least interesting to me. The horse race itself, and the(apparent) discovery of the campaign's mole just aren't as compelling as themurder investigation, even with all the hints being dropped about the fact that Richmond's wife died in a similar fashion as Rosie did. But I'm willing to give it time. As of rightnow, AMC's viewers who've voted using the show's online Suspect Tracker arefingering campaign advisor Gwen Eaton asthe prime suspect. Is it possible a lovers' spat put Rosie in that trunk?

Did you watchepisode three? What did you think?

Photograph of Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman as Sarah Linden and Stephen Holder by Carole Segal.  

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