With a show as slow paced as “The Killing”, it’s always a worry that you’ll come to the end of the episode and nothing will have happened. When you have nearly two hours as the writers did in the pilot it gives you a little more room to explore, and until the last ten minutes of the show I was worried they had dropped the ball. I needed a little more faith.
While looking back the case moved along at a fairly good clip given the length of the season, it seemed to take much longer while watching it. What is clear by the end of the episode, and not just during the investigation is that every scene will eventually have something to do with the two larger plots: the election campaign and the murder investigation.
Three scenes that really hit it out of the park for me: the phone scene, where Rosie’s teacher confiscates the phone, eventually leading to the discovery of the video and all its horrific consequences;Mitch listening to her daughter’s voice on the answering machine and the family not picking up the calls of the police and the campaign; the link between the cause of death and the final scene when Mitch tries to simulate drowning. This last scene was especially heart wrenching. It took me a second to realize just what was going to happen, and I nearly threw something at the television when I did.
The other thing that really stuck about the writing was that it gave a lot of room to the actors to show, rather than tell the audience. Nearly every scene is punctuated by a meaningful glance, and off-in-the-distance stare, or an emotional moment with little to no dialogue. With a lesser cast, this could easily become a liability, but not in this case. It helps remind the viewer that this is not your average hyper-active procedural.
While the investigation worked very well for those reasons, I’m unsure what to do with the election campaign. Given how the writers have apparently planned out the show, I have little doubt it will eventually come to be an important part of the resolution of the murder, but at this point I just don’t see the stakes in it. The hijinks with Jamie and the leaking of the Yitanes endorsement and to the details of the murder to police just seemed a little arbitrary and resolved too perfunctorily. Given how things have gone so far, regardless of whether Jamie is the actual leaker the whole debacle will come back to bite the campaign.
While not strictly plot-related, the third obvious focus is on the Larsen family, and I cannot praise the actors enough. Brent Sexton plays the overburdened father pitch-perfect. This man is clearly the leader in this family, and does what he can to help assuage his grieving wife, and help his two young sons work through the death of their eldest sister. Michelle Forbes is again excellent portraying the grief-incapacitated Mitch to the point I thought it a sure thing that she was going to commit suicide in the tub at the end of the episode. The two sons earn bonus points as well, in the scene when they tell their father that it’s ok that they don’t talk about how Rosie died.
The production values remain high, demonstrated especially for me in the opening credits. Many shows today have seemed to abandon the classic credits sequence, but watching it at the beginning of the episode really made me realize how much more effective they can make a show. Those little details are what put this show above so much what is on television today.
Despite the slow pace during the first two-thirds of the episode and the uncertainty of the political plot, “El Diablo” overcame it thanks to the writers unexpectedly tying together nearly every scene and the amazing quality of the acting. The refreshing quality of the whole show is remarkable, and I have little doubt now that it will continue throughout the rest of the season.