‘The Playing Card Killer’ Episode 1 Recap & Ending: An Ace Of Cups Created A Stir In Madrid

Serial killer stories from around the world are always to be taken seriously. One would think the technology would be a deterrent, but these people are still out there hunting and killing their victims. They come in different shapes, motives, and MOs, but their goal remains the same. The Playing Card Killer was one such person in the year 2003. At a time when the world could not stop talking about Saddam Hussain, Spain was wrecked by murders, and the killer was nowhere to be found. Will the police catch the killer, or will he fade away as many serial killers do? This Spanish Netflix original digs deep into who the killer is and why he/she carried out this heinous crime.

The first episode, Ace of Cups, begins with a montage of media speculation about the playing card with an ace of cups on it that was placed at the scene of the crime and what it signified. Serial killer or not, the media always remained eager to latch upon the opportunity and create panic. The first two murders happened on February 5, 2003. The first man was found shot dead near a bus stop early in the morning, while the second murder happened inside the bar, where three people were shot, and one of them did not survive. The two gunfire-related deaths in a day created a frenzy in the public and the media. Madrid had never seen such incidents in the past, and the crime statistics of the city lately have been so appalling that it would alarm anyone.

The initial take on the investigation, as per various journalists, was different. The police were thorough with their procedures for the investigation, while the media accused them of clearing the scene of the crime at the bus stop way too early. The first killer was a cleaning employee at the airport, while the second victim was the son of a bar owner. Tensions were forming between the media and the police because the media wanted answers rather quickly while the police were trying their best to investigate at their pace to find a pattern to the killings. The Ace of Cups playing card is found on the victims, and the media speculation began. The police investigation was not affected by the media because they were fully aware of the job assigned to them. They knew there was a situation developing, and it would be smart if the police did not deviate from their plan of action. The audiences were also in favor of the police because, as we have seen over the years, the media takes it upon themselves to become the judge of the situation instead of letting the courts decide.

What Were The Breakthroughs That The Police Made?

The media discourse is never-ending, especially about the card left by the killer. Does it indicate that the killer is part of organized crime or belongs to the world of betting, keeping in mind the popularity of football in Spain? It is understandable why such a topic of concern arises because the people in the city want to remain alert and hope that they don’t become the next victim.

A third murder took place on March 7, 2003. The target was a couple where the man was gravely injured on the face while the woman survived because, as per her statement, the killer’s gun was jammed. He again left a playing card with two cups on it at the scene of the crime. This also allows the audience to understand that the things go wrong for killers as well, and such mishaps provide solid leads to the police. So far, the police were unable to understand the motive of the killer because the playing card pattern was leading them nowhere. This is also making the investigation tricky because there were no DNA samples or fingerprints to work with. After all, the weapon is still with the killer. Though the police investigation was under media scrutiny, they were equally adamant about finding the playing card killer, the name designated to the killer. 

The police’s only key to finding out what the person looked like is through two survivors: bar owner Teresa Sanchez and the woman who survived because of the jammed weapon. With their inputs, the police made a sketch of the man, which was sent out to the media. This is just a common procedure followed by the police in the hope that people will come forward to help law enforcement catch the man.

Meanwhile, another couple is targeted. In this scenario, the man dies, and the woman goes into a coma. At the scene of the crime, the police found another playing card. Unfortunately, the woman also succumbs to the injuries, and the police concluded that there is a serial killer situation, and the people need to remain alert all the time. The police and the citizens want this man to be caught as soon as possible. There is a clear-cut path the police know they must take, which is to focus on the weapon used by the killer. As per the investigative officials in the documentary, it took time for them to recover the bullets from the scene of the crime. The ballistic reports were the breakthrough they were looking for because the playing card initially took them nowhere, which is why the police had to look for another trail left behind by the killer.

The breakthrough, as per the ballistic report, was the 7.62 Tokarev cartridge, which was specifically used by the Russians and eastern European countries. This proves that either the killer was able to acquire this gun from any of those countries or the man himself came from there, which allowed the police to expand their search parameters. The investigation also made the police aware of another murder that took place much before the bus stop killing. The victim was a doorman at a hotel who was also killed by a gunshot, and the same cartridge was recovered from the scene of the crime. The 7.62 Tokarev is the key evidence right now, and the police were at it to find out more about the weapons that use this cartridge and look for people who would be illegally in possession of such arms. This key finding gives the city of Madrid a breather that maybe the playing card killer could be found. But the fear of him being at large still exists, and law enforcement is making sure to close in on the culprit.

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Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan is a cinema enthusiast, and a part time film blogger. An ex public relations executive, films has been a major part of her life since the day she watched The Godfather – Part 1. If you ask her, cinema is reality. Cinema is an escape route. Cinema is time traveling. Cinema is entertainment. Smriti enjoys reading about cinema, she loves to know about cinema and finding out trivia of films and television shows, and from time to time indulges in fan theories.

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