THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD…
When it comes to The Killing, I’m a bit of an apologist.
I actually enjoyed the infamous first season, up until I came to find out that we would not find out who killed Rosie Larsen at the end. At some point along the way, despite what folks behind the show and FX would later claim, a promise was made publicly to clear up the mystery. By not doing so, the show endangered what good will was left following what many saw as an overly-brooding, overly-rainy, overly-twisty season.
The second season picked up right where the first left off and very few folks stuck around to sit through another 13 episodes before the storyline was solved. There was little doubt that the show would be cancelled. And yet…it somehow wasn’t.
Turned out, it was great for those of us who stuck with it because the third season made good on all of the potential the show had to offer. The mystery was more interesting, the writing was tighter and the themes were gripping. Even if it became clear who the Pied Piper was before the big reveal, it still made for a strong mystery and surprising ending. Shame then, that the show really, really, really would be cancelled without letting us find out what happens to Holder and Linden.
But then….it came back. Again. Somehow. Still not sure how or why (and the lack of any post-release buzz seems to bear out those concerns). But having watched the six episodes that wraps up the Linden-Holder Saga, I’m glad it happened.
Much like Season 2 picked up where the first one left off, Season 4 picks up immediately following the end of Season 3, when Linden shoots James Skinner a.k.a. The Pied Piper. As you’d expect, Holder helped her get rid of the body and hide the evidence. So long as they stick to the script, they’ll be fine, or at least they think (in reality, they both know how futile their scheme is). They barely have any time to plan as they’re thrust into a new murder case involving the grisly shooting of a family of five. Only the teenage son, a student at a local military academy, survives. Was it a murder-suicide attempt, a robbery attempt gone bad or something else altogether? Being The Killing, there are enough twists and red herrings to keep you guessing.
Of course, that last sentence might confirm what you don’t want to hear. But trust me, it pays off this time.
Part of what works for the show is the six-episode season. The show is forced to cram two pretty sizable mysteries (who killed the Stansburys & will Linden and Holder be caught?) into a pretty small window and it forces every plot chess move to count. For American audiences groomed on short attention span murder mystery resolutions, this season doesn’t test your patience as the first two seasons did. Plus, the added factor of dread as the truth bears down on the two “heroes” raises the stakes beyond anything the show has done previously.
Two episodes in, I found myself wanting to dislike the military school plot. I think because I found the cover-up plot much more fascinating and critical. However after the initial false leads, the depth of each character started to develop and it became clear that this wasn’t the cut-and-dry mystery it seemed to be. The final reveal might be exactly what you thought it was going to be, but the show does a really solid job convincing you to change your mind along the way.
As for the central plot of whether or not Linden & Holder will get away with killing Skinner, I found the resolution to be pretty spot-on. Unlike Buzzfeed, which would have rather seen the characters (and perhaps the entire city of Seattle) swallowed up by a black hole of darkness, I think the show found the perfect way to let the characters make their journeys without sacrificing reality.
The fact that, for a couple episodes, you actually start rooting for Reddick to catch Linden & Holder, speaks to the quality of the writing, acting and Gregg Henry’s likability.
That Holder decides to stay loyal to Linden speaks to who that character is. That Linden decides to come clean and sacrifice herself speaks to her journey (which got especially dark at times this season). And the fact that they do indeed “get away with it” thanks to some shady back-room dealing by Mayor Richmond (good cameo usage alert!) is exactly the kind of summation the show needed. Linden & Holder do the right thing and the seedy “city of death” that they’ve been trying to save ultimately saves them…in a practical yet horrific way.
Perhaps, as Buzzfeed suggested, the characters deserved a darker fate. But I think the fact that the underbelly of Seattle, which was revealed as the overarching villain of the series, does something sinister in order to redeem our heroes, is dark enough.
As for the flash-forward coda, in which a got-it-together Linden and got-it-together Holder end up getting-it-together, well, I admit I thought it was a terrible mistake. At least at first. When it became clear that Sarah was implying she returned to be with Holder, my wife and I looked at each other with pained faces. Oh no no no. This isn’t right. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be. Sure, the two almost-kissed in Season 3, but it seemed like a better-off-as-friends type scenario.
Then Linden explained how, inside their police car, it was the only place she felt comfortable, and it started to make sense. Then she leaves Holder again, seemingly for good, and it still makes sense. And then, in a really smart way to tie things back to the beginning, Linden drives through Seattle. She passes by all of the sites we see in the opening credits of the show. The Space Needle emerging from under Aurora Avenue. The skyline as we approach from West Seattle. And eventually the (made-up) grassy hilltop across Elliott Bay where we see the iconic shot of Sarah looking out at Seattle. At each part along the way, the rain clears so that, unlike in the credits, we see Seattle clearly. She sees Seattle clearly. For her, it’s no longer the city of death. That part of her life is over.
And then I was totally cool with her and Holder getting together.
Good for The Killing for making the most of its second life. And third life. It got the chance to end of its own terms and, whether you feel like that’s fair given the number of beloved shows that were cancelled unjustly, they did it all the same.
Of course, The Killing will always be judged by the way it failed to live up to it’s initial hype. As most of the show’s audience left long before the excellent third and solid fourth seasons, it’ll be remembered as less than its whole. That’s okay, those of us who stuck around got to see the best version of the show.
In the words of Stephen Holder, “We’re gonna move forward, and leave this shit behind. So eat your fucking muffin.”
Follow me at @NunesMagician