There are elements of The Killing that I like, and there are elements of The Killing that I don’t like. After this episode, it became clear that those elements are likely to stay for the remainder of the season, so my enjoyment of each episode will be contingent on the balance of elements I like versus those I don’t like. “El Diablo” tipped the balance in favour of the elements I like.

The most interesting part of this show is evidently the case itself. It could be frustrating to watch a case where no one is cooperating and everyone has something to hide, but I never got the sense that the episode was deliberately spinning its wheels. The show has also done an excellent job of showcasing Holder and Linden’s team dynamics. The easy thing to do would have been to have one of them fail then the other succeed at the same task in order to contrast their different skill sets. But in doing so, the show would have run the risk of portraying the detectives as incompetent. Rather, this episode allowed both Holder and Linden to play to their strengths. Holder is good at manipulating people and being charming to get what he wants, whereas Linden is good at being direct. So, rather than using a humorous but clichéd fish-out-of-water approach, Holder was the one who talked to the teens, and Linden was the one who talked to the parents. The episode also cleverly allowed the two detectives to recognize each other’s strengths and use their different skill sets to their advantage. In the hospital, Holder distracted the nurse while Linden interrogated the janitor, and rather than making a big fuss about it, the show trusted its audience enough to connect the dots and realize that Linden and Holder were beginning to work together as a team.

Interestingly, it wasn’t Holder and Linden’s teamwork that uncovered this episode’s big twist. The teacher, Mr. Ahmed, confiscated Jasper’s phone and found a video of Jasper and Kris sexually assaulting Rosie. This raises a weird question: why did the janitor indicate that Kris was in the basement but Jasper wasn’t? More importantly, I think that this is a red herring, possibly deliberately given to the police by the teacher in order to throw suspicion in another direction. (Yes, I’m sticking to the theory that the teacher did it.)

The second very intriguing aspect of this episode was the political ramifications. As was to be expected, the public didn’t take well to the news that Rosie’s body was found in one of Richmond’s campaign cars. It was fascinating to watch Richmond try to salvage his political campaign, first by discovering the “mole,” then by finally “selling out” to get Yitanes’ endorsement. Obviously, Jamie isn’t the mole and his e-mail account was hacked, so I’ll be interested to see who set him up and why. I’ll also be interested to see how much farther Richmond is willing to stray from his principles in order to win the election. While the political campaign isn’t the main focus of the series, I find it almost as compelling as the actual murder investigation, and it’s one of the show’s elements that works particularly well.

However, there are also elements of this show that don’t work, and they too were on display in this episode. The show’s use of atmosphere was too calculated and deliberate for my tastes. The score was irritating and intrusive at times, as if the producers and composer didn’t trust the material to speak for itself. But the material was strong enough on its own, so the dramatic, moody music often seemed unnecessary. The powers that be want to create a gloomy vibe, but a murder investigation is already a pretty gloomy situation; the dark music and constant rain are unneeded.

Another component of the show that doesn’t really work is Linden. Again, I feel that the problems with her character stem from overdoing the gloomy vibe. Her blankness and lack of charisma, while fitting for the tone of the show, just aren’t fun to watch. Mireille Enos isn’t doing a great job either, often delivering her lines as if she’s reading them. Moreover, I’m simply not interested in her potential move to Sonoma. She’s the lead character of the show, and she obviously has to stay in Seattle until the end; the show doesn’t need to remind us that she has a fiancé waiting for her in Sonoma.

At the risk of sounding callous, I’m also uninterested in the Larsens’ grieving process. If every episode is going to feature some variant of “wife breaks down, husband barely manages to keep it together,” then I have no reason to care about them. The Larsen family scenes drag and take away from the far more interesting murder investigation.

Overall, “El Diablo” was a good episode, solid but not spectacular. Hopefully, in the coming weeks, the balance will shift even more towards the elements of the show that I do like, and those that I don’t like will be jettisoned, or more likely, de-emphasized.

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