In its third week now, The Killing has already merited critical acclaim and AMC's biggest ratings after The Walking Dead (2.7 million viewers for the two-hour debut, 2.5 million for last week's follow-up). The atmospheric pacing and vaunted slow realism haven't prevented the show from developing a plot that, while psychologically complex, feels like it's moving at a riveting, suspenseful speed. Each episode's conclusion has brought new progress to the Rosie Larsen homicide case, while also pulling on the audience's heartstrings.
This week's episode succeeded at expanding the show's rainy Seattle world—the audience received glimpses of texture, of ambient details about our setting, of characters' pasts, and most compellingly, plenty of revelations regarding our bleak band of Seattle folk. These details ground and blow out the show's world in important ways, especially considering that each episode only features one day of time in the Larsen investigation.
What secrets did this week reveal?
First off, the witch-costumed girl in the video was not Rosie Larsen. Rosie apparently had nothing to do with Jasper and Kris after the Fort Washington Halloween party, and the bloody, sexual moments from the video depicted Rosie's former BFF Sterling dressed up in her pink wig. AMC provided nice foreshadowing in showing a Sterling nosebleed in the show's debut weeks ago—thus explaining the blood in "the cage" below the school.
Stan Larsen has a dark past. Stan's coworker and family friend Belko offers assistance: "I want to do something about that guy—that Richmond. Just say the word, we'll take care of it, like old times."
"I don't do that anymore," Stan replies firmly as he stares at the ground in the rain. The grieving heart of the show has become Rosie's family. They cry, they sadly stare, they skirt the topic of her death in conversation, and this week they plan their daughter's funeral. But this scene and other moments demonstrate that the father, whose character has been especially well acted and tender in tragedy, may not have always been the perfect, loving family man observed so far.
Has Sarah Linden become obsessed over murder victims before? Her fiancé arranged a truly romantic surprise for her: pastries and candles in a spontaneous return visit. But tension returned quickly, and in the course of their argument, Rick called her out: "It's not happening again, is it? Chasing after a dead girl."
What dead girl? This mysterious past case of Linden's comes off as vaguely contrived, but its existence does help explain why she continues to stick around Seattle and work when she could have already moved to California. The reference suggests obsessive fixation—and a more ongoing relationship problem than audience had realized.
Councilman Darren Richmond secretly still trusts and coordinates with former manager Jamie. Amid all these other disclosures, it's no great heartstopper to learn that, despite the appearance last week of Jamie's betrayal e-mail, the politician and operative remain allies.
And the big one—Rosie was hooking up with kindly teacher Bennet Ahmed. Detective Holder finds the two lovers' secret hangout at the end of the bus line just as, rather conveniently, Linden finds Rosie's secret stash of love letters. The episode builds to this discovery before the closing credits, cutting gracefully and ominously to scenes of gentle, patient Bennet consoling Rosie's mother Mitch. Although the young teacher shouldn't be traipsing with students, the relationship makes sense once initial shock at the prospect wears off. His presence has been reassuringly serene since the show's start, and his meditative charisma would be particularly seductive to a bright girl like Rosie, tired of boys her age after tweaker punks like Kris and ex-boyfriend Jasper. Bennet seems an unlikely candidate for homicide, but this new revelation could drive momentum for episodes to come...and certainly complicates the events of the Halloween party that led to Rosie's murder.
The overall narrative's pieces, from the detectives to the teenagers to the grieving family, move together surprisingly well throughout these initial episodes. Our saturation in their world—and in this episode, their backstory context and secrets—often offers verisimilitude and authenticity, not the slowness that many critics feared.
The only element that feels out of place is the campaign of Darren Richmond. Once the initial clamor surrounding Rosie's discovery ended, the glossy political types began feeling entirely unconnected to the Rosie Larsen investigation, and in this episode, there were zero crossover moments between their world and the rest of the show. But that may change over time, as the audience learns more details of why Rosie was found in a Richmond campaign car.
Questions of the Week: How will Bennet stand up under police scrutiny—and will Rosie's parents find out about this liaison? In what context did Stan Larsen once (apparently) kill people? Is Richmond's aide and secret lover Gwen the real campaign leak?
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