'The Killing' brings us the return of Mitch this week in a character-driven episode that feels like it's more about mood and tone than plot advancement or cracking mysteries. But can the ever reliable Linden and Holder survive under the weight of all this week's cavalier melodrama?

Mitch, on her own personal grief vacation, stops at a motel and, under the fake name Anna, decides to take the extramarital affair route in her grieving, seeking the sort of physical closeness she can't bring herself to find with Stan anymore.

Mitch has always been the more interesting of the grief-stricken parents, owing much to Michelle Forbes' acting and her beautiful, emotive face. She always emits a sort of hardened, glass-like fragility that works better with the mood of the show than Stan's gooey-eyed barking. Stan, once a very empathetic grieving father, has become a grating, exhausting character. Brent Sexton is still a great actor, but his scenes are reading more and more like 'Law & Order' witness interviews.

This of course isn't aided any by Yanik's miraculous receipt of Rosie's file from the morgue, which he shows to Stan. Last season Linden mercifully told the Larsen's that Rosie was knocked out when she died and didn't feel a thing, but as Stan discovers in this episode, she was alive and tried to claw her way out of the trunk, which just serves to invigorate Stan's anger even more. This plot development is near-infuriating in its formulation, drawing Stan -- once again -- back into the mob fold when he's already facing charges from the Bennett beating.

As I discussed last week, it doesn't seem logical for a father in his position to rekindle his mob involvement when he has two kids to think of and an absentee wife. It's not frustration with the character's decision, either; irrational thinking as a result of grief or no -- it makes little sense, and Yanik and his mob buddies didn't make for captivating TV last season, either.

In a moment that looks like a commercial on Lifetime for fashionable pepper spray, Terry spies a lurking weirdo hanging around outside as she walks Rosie's brothers to school. If it's a scene meant to depict unease and paranoia, it's just too blatant to be effective. Turns out the creeper is one of Yanik's thugs and just another useless misdirect. It's not that red herrings and misdirection are unwelcome for a show of this nature, and 'The Killing' has done them right at times (the whole Bennett fiasco, in hindsight, was suspenseful), but these silly, quick turnabouts are a major misuse of time.

Richmond realizes he's paralyzed, which brings about images of future Richmond wheeling about and screaming, "I'm paralyzed, damn it!" (If this happens, each of you owes me twenty bucks.) He feels helpless watching the news, unable to tend to his campaign duties from a hospital bed and most likely now losing the election. Gwen decides to cut her losses and move on to D.C., giving us a brief appearance by her father, played by the delightful Alan Dale.

Holder ditches his NA meeting to stop by his nephew's school, but the kid blows him off, so he visits Tyler and gets into a physical altercation, absconding with a bag of meth and spending much of the episode in a will-he-or-won't-he staring contest with his bag of dope.

'The Killing' works best when focusing on Linden and Holder and less on the grieving family; and while that approach has been something of a hallmark for the series, it would probably do well to cut back on Stan, Mitch, and Terry - hell, even more of the Richmond campaign and his new Lieutenant Dan legs would be preferable.

Linden works to solve the mystery of the Manga tattoo and track down Rosie's real backpack, which Holder had swiped when he realized Oakes was up to no good with evidence tampering. She's distracted from her task when someone burns down the site of the shady web hosting service that touted Beau Soleil as a client. It ties beautifully back to Stan and the mob, as the arsonist was driving Stan's moving van and, miraculously, is the owner of the Manga tattoo. Is it a little too easy? Sure, but the simplicity of how the ends come together is a welcome change from Sud's trigger happy red herring usage and half-baked familial melodrama.

Linden is once again distracted from the case when she receives a call from Holder's friend that he's freaking out on the side of the highway. She rushes to talk him down and convinces him to take her to Rosie's real backpack.

'The Killing' does little to advance the plot this week and only minimal character development -- mostly highlighting the familiar -- in what feels like a filler episode. The issues within the series at this point are redundant; like last season, the show is only frustrating in that it has a wealth of potential, the mood is on pitch, and its leads are impeccable -- yet Sud and Co. can't keep away from such easy, banal material and red herrings that dissolve within minutes.