By Ken Tucker
Updated April 10, 2011 at 12:00 PM EDT
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The second week of The Killing deepened the mystery, deepened the performances of its actors, deepened the enjoyment of this new series.

“I have a wedding to plan,” said Sarah, even though she’d say, a few minutes later, “The first 48 hours are the most important.” These two lines define the parameters of Sarah Linden’s involvement with who-killed-Rosie-Larson. Mireille Enos has already nailed the way ambivalence can turn into obsessiveness so quickly, one doesn’t even realize it’s happened.

Rosie’s body, found in a Darren Richmond campaign car, is an awful, squalid sight in an episode filled with only slightly lesser ones. Identifying the body in the morgue, the grief endured by parents Mitch and Stanley Larson as they try to hold it together for their sons, Holder smoking pot with two high school girls; the janitor who jumped out a window rather than answer questions about “the cage”: It was one marvelously bad-news scene after another. Add what my notes for this episode say on one page — “RAIN, RAIN, RAIN” — and I am thrilled that The Killing got very solid ratings last week, and I only hope more people will brave to rain to focus in on a murder mystery that I’d have figured most viewers would write off as too much of a downer.

It’s not, of course. Day three of the investigation was tremendously exciting, in the show’s assiduously low-key way. All the hugger-mugger about the mayoral campaign carried the sour taste of realistic cynicism (brava to Lee Garlington, an underrated actress, for her portrayal of Ruth Yitanes, a politico whose endorsement Billy Campbell’s Richmond is seeking).

And the discovery, pursuit, and bullying interrogation of Kris Echols (Gharrett Patrick Paon) by Joel Kinnaman’s Holder was easily one of the high points of the series thus far. Holder’s extreme cynicism works awfully well as a contrast to Sarah’s more thoughtful, if nonetheless hard-headed, investigative style.

The final scene this week, the one that gave the episode its name — “El Diablo” — was a stomach-churning bit of video Sarah watched, as Rosie was, we were led to believe, raped in the Cage by Jasper and a Kris wearing a rubber devil-mask. As an image of pure evil, the devil will always do all too well.

(P.S. Some readers, already Killing-smitten and -starved, wrote in the Comments section here last week to ask whether there was a Killing novel. Nope; but there are some books that have a similar tone to tide you over during the six Killing-less days you endure waiting for the next episode. As I wrote in my lead review of The Killing in the print magazine two weeks ago, that chilly, wet noir feeling is well captured in the work of Scandinavian thriller writers such as Jo Nesbo [a personal fave; check out The Snowman] and the icily good Karin Fossum, as well as Henning Mankell, the object of a fine profile by my colleague Rob Brunner in in the current issue of Entertainment Weekly. )

What did you think of this week’s The Killing?

Twitter: @kentucker

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The Killing

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