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Before the season finale of The Killing began, I wrote down my predictions for the, you know, killing. I assumed we’d find out the actual killer (or killers) since Sud promised us. My predictions are usually, well…wrong, but I thought this would be fun anyway. Here’s what I figured. So I’m positive a cop is somehow involved, but I’m not convinced there’s only one killer. Since Linden never finds any happiness at all, and she seems to be (for some reason) in love with Skinner, my money is on him. He hasn’t seemed too concerned about the possibility that Seward was innocent, and in fact, he resisted re-opening the case. He’s also got enough responsibility and gravitas to get away with killing if he wants to. I’m also betting that Twitch is somehow involved, for two reasons: He seemed shaken by the Bullet murder, even though he didn’t like her, and he’s been acting weird ever since, and also, I don’t like Twitch. That’s the main reason, I admit it.
A side note about this episode: I think I’m becoming paranoid, due to my Killing watching. I’m so attuned to the red herrings this show dishes out with regularity that now I’m seeing killers everywhere. While I watched this episode, I suspected pretty much everybody that came on screen until the actual killer was revealed, with two people in particular trading spots in my head. Moral of the story: Don’t watch too many crime dramas. You’ll see murderers everywhere.
This isn’t a perfect episode of The Killing (there’s no Bullet in it, for one), but it’s one of the better ones, with fantastic acting (as usual) and a nicely plotted storyline, with just enough twists and turns to be interesting but not so many as to be annoying. I’m not always a fan of episodes that tie up every loose end, but in this particular case, it feels comforting and reassuring. After a whole season of The Killing, with the requisite red herrings every few seconds, I appreciate some answers after a satisfying but frustrating season. And let’s be clear: we do get answers in this episode. Not every scene is a gem, and I still sincerely dislike some of the characters on this show, but for the most part, this episode provides reasonable, compelling answers to the questions I’ve had this season. It’s also worth noting, though, that I spent this episode feeling like a crazy person. I was absolutely convinced that the killer was someone different every five minutes, only to be confronted with new evidence, at which point I changed my mind. (Okay, I see-sawed between two people, but still. Maddening!) For a couple hours, I knew what it was like to be Linden. Ha ha. However, I can’t get through a whole episode without being a killjoy, so I have to register one (major) complaint. The ending. Yeah, it’s dark and bleak, like this show often is. But it seems out of character for Linden, her final action of the season, and it’s unfair to the victims and their families. I promise: I’ll go on and on about it later.
Let’s dispatch with some of the possible suspects before we reveal the truth, shall we? I’ve heard a few people suspect little Adrian, not for any actual reason, but just because you have to suspect everybody on this show. Yeah, it’s not him. No surprise there. But he’s in danger, because it turns out that the killer went to his apartment that night not to kill Tricia Seward, but to kill her son, and now that killer is after the boy again, following him home rather ominously. So no, Adrian is a kid with spectacularly bad luck, but he’s no killer. We knew that, though. I had suspicions about Twitch, mainly because I dislike him (I admit it), but he’s not the killer, either. He’s an idiot, but he’s a happy idiot: throwing his drugs over the side of his new apartment building and cooking eggs. Meanwhile, Lyric has an actual job; she’s slinging burgers, but still. It doesn’t involve peddling her body, so it’s an improvement. Or so I think, until Lyric encounters a john, and it’s made pretty clear that she goes with him. I’m not terribly invested in either of these people, but they’re not killers, and I’m not too shocked. They were outliers anyway. The prison guards, jaded Becker and his more pliant counterpart, Henderson, were also suspicious at various points during the season, the former with his unnamed extracurricular activities and his cheating wife, and the latter with his sudden lack of compassion as Ray Seward went to his (unnecessary) death. But nope, it’s not one of these two, either. Turns out Becker can’t take prison life any more, so he’s taking early retirement, and Henderson is determined to carry on in his stead. (Side note: the death row scenes feel oddly out of place, now that there’s no Ray Seward to snarl and smirk.)
It wouldn’t be a season 3 episode of The Killing without some discussion of Holder’s moronic former partner, Reddick, who turns out to be more useful than I’d previously assumed. It sure does seem like him from the beginning, doesn’t it? The writers sure set us up from the start to believe it’s him. We find out that Reddick lived right next door to the family of the first victim, who, conveniently, was a participant in a police training program, with Reddick as her sponsor. Point one. He was also the one who found the bag of mementos in Joe Mills’s storage locker. Point two. No one can find him when Adrian went missing. Point three. He supposedly talked to Bullet the night she died. Point four. He promised Holder he wasn’t going to report him after Holder beat him up, and then Internal Affairs shows up anyway, meaning Holder is detained while Linden drove around with the killer. Point five. I have to mount this defense, folks, because for a while, I really think Reddick is the killer.
Nope. I can’t believe I’m the least bit surprised, but our killer is another member of the Seattle Police Department: Detective Skinner, also known as Linden’s onetime (and again, in this episode) lover. Oh, ew. It’s Linden, who’s just spent the morning having sex with the newly separated Skinner, who realizes Skinner’s true nature. And let’s be honest: the plot twist that reveals his innocence is pretty contrived. With Holder held up by Internal Affairs, and Skinner aware of Linden and Holder’s suspicions about Reddick, Linden is free to go to Skinner’s house. His wife and daughter show up, and are none too pleased to see Linden. Linden’s discomfort is obvious – until she sees a ring on Bethany, Skinner’s daughter. And it’s not just any ring. It belongs to the last of our wayward teens, Kallie Leeds.
Now, the logical thing, once Linden realizes the truth, would be to call Holder for backup, or Reddick. Heck, any police officer will do. But because Linden is an excellent investigator who makes questionable personal decisions, she confronts him herself, drawing her gun. Skinner has the last laugh, though, no shock there. He tells Linden that he’ll take her to Adrian if she rides with him. I know what you’re thinking: this is a terrible idea. I mean, an awful idea. We’re now pretty sure (it’s The Killing, we can’t ever be totally sure) that Skinner is a crazy, sociopathic murderer, who may have murdered a little boy as well. Getting into a car with him, even if you have a gun, is a bad idea. The idea is doubly ill-advised if the sociopath in question is your lover, who's capable of emotionally manipulating you. And manipulate Linden he does, reminding her that she just slept with him that morning. He also rather gleefully recounts his many crimes, claiming that the first murder was a mistake, but then after that one, I guess he came to like the feeling of murdering, and plus his victims are disposable prostitutes, so he’s been doing the world a favor. They arrive at the lake house, where Skinner shows Linden the spot where he dumped Kallie, and then fesses up to a bunch more bodies (though we’re never going to find any of them, as you’ll soon see). At various times, Skinner seems to want Linden’s approval, whining about how hard it’s been to keep his secret. Seriously, my heart bleeds. Let's be clear: there are a lot of plot holes to contend with over the course of this episode. Skinner refers to his victims as human garbage, but he took a token from one of them to give to his daughter? He had time, between trysts with Linden, to set Angie Gower on fire and then pull out all of her teeth? He went to the Sewards' apartment to make sure that Adrian couldn't identify him, killed Tricia instead, and then didn't look for Adrian at all? For those reasons, some of the Skinner-as-killer storyline feels retconned for the sake of convenience. However, something about the revelation feels right anyway. Perhaps it's because it comes on the heels of Linden having found some personal happiness (with a married man, but we can only ask for so much). Of course Skinner is the killer. Of course. We can't have Linden happy for too long, can we?
You know, I love a lot of this episode. The plotting is interesting and engaging, and the acting is fantastic as usual. Mireille Enos does an amazing job of indicating emotion using her face. But none of this scene makes any sense. Going with Skinner is a boneheaded move, and while I understand Linden’s revulsion at finding out that her lover is a killer, she’s too smart for this. And Skinner’s explanation – that he came to enjoy killing after the first time – rings hollow, with Elias Koteas’ acting feeling pretty rote and not very noteworthy. Koteas plays Skinner like he has all season, with a flat affect and a milquetoast personality. Which would be fine if he wasn’t a murderer. But once we discover his true nature, it’d be nice to see more emotion, more feelings, more something. Aside from a few lines, Enos overpowers Koteas in their scenes, and it shows.
On to my issues with the ending. I’ve already established my dislike of these later scenes. I don’t mind Skinner as the killer; he’s been a suspect all season long, and I can't feign surprise to see Linden’s chance at happiness vanish in a puff of smoke. Who didn’t see her unhappiness coming? But his interplay with Linden feels false, and the end of the episode, when he manipulates Linden into killing him – with Holder begging her to stop, no less, with news that Adrian is alive after all – is borderline ridiculous. I totally get why Linden would be tempted to kill Skinner; anyone would be unhinged after getting news like that about someone they love. But killing Skinner means that his other victims will remain anonymous, and their families will never find any kind of closure. Not to mention the problems going forward for Linden and Holder. Will he cover for her, and claim Skinner was threatening Linden’s life? It might be believable, given what we know about his predilections. But then he and Linden will have this secret to bear, and it might tear their friendship apart. Will they be honest and torpedo Linden’s career, also sending her to prison?
I don’t know if The Killing will get a fourth season (this show is always on the bubble, and even a cancelation doesn’t mean a cancelation). I’m not sure if the show’s writers know, either. But how can we proceed into another season with this ending? Linden and Holder, and their partnership, are the lifeblood of this show, which is why we got them back together almost immediately, and there’s no point in a Killing without the two of them together. I don’t see how that’s possible, now that Linden has murdered an unarmed – albeit loathsome – man. And if there isn’t going to be a season four, how can we end on such a depressing, bleak note?
Wait a second – this is The Killing. Despite the frustrations, the strange plotting, the dark camera work, and the sometimes turgid dialogue, I want another season of this show. I just want Bullet back, somehow. Of course we can end things like this. I just hope we don’t.
Notes & Quotes
-- The opening scene, in which Linden is running through the woods, is a nice nod to the first episode of season 1. It’s also a great bit of foreshadowing for a later conversation, during which we find out about Linden’s time in the foster care system.
-- Linden: “Sorry, I don’t have very much. Do you want coffee?” Story of Linden’s life here, folks.
-- “Skinner: “Sometimes I think that people like us, we’re just supposed to be alone.” This seems…true. Especially for poor Linden (see the end of the episode).
-- Bullet’s funeral is heart-shredding. First we have the un-Bullet like photo. The only people in attendance at the church are Holder (because Bullet was his CI), Danette (because Kallie was Bullet’s friend), Lyric (because she and Bullet were sort of friends), and Bullet’s parents (nice to see them, at least). A bright spirit like Bullet should have more people mourning her.
-- Holder: “She helped me with things. We were sort of friends. Bullet would’ve hated that photo.” Danette: “That’s the way her folks want to remember her, the way they imagine her to be, not the way she was.” Oh, my soul.
-- Becker “Don’t get too comfortable here. I spent half my life in this place. You’re just as much a prisoner as the rest of them.” Yeah, no kidding. Listen to him, Henderson.
-- Holder expects Linden to be halfway to Chicago, and then it’s never brought up again. Is she visiting Jack or moving there?
-- Holder: “Oh? So this is for real, then? Detective Linden? Not gonna peace out on me, leave me to crime fight with jack-ass Jablonski?” Linden: “Well, you’re my ride, so I guess you’re stuck with me.” Holder: “Good. I mean, not that I need you, but it’s good.” Hee hee. Love this scene.
-- Reddick: “How many solves do you think I’m gonna get with a guy that looks like fat Hitler?” Okay, that’s funny. Reddick doesn’t want to work with Jablonski either.
-- Holder: “What do you want to do, let the state hang another guy who didn’t do it?” Word. Got that, Linden?
-- Linden: “I’m sorry, Holder. He wasn’t coming to the apartment to kill Tricia. He was coming to kill Adrian.” Enos’ delivery of that line is truly chilling.
-- I’m not sure it’s a good idea for Holder to mention “banging someone’s mama” to the IA investigators.
-- Love how the slo-mo shots of Skinner’s neighborhood (ice cream truck, sprinkler, boy on bike) take on a sinister cast after Linden decides he’s a suspect.
-- Skinner filed the complaint against Holder. Love the scene in which Holder confesses to having put a bomb in Reddick’s car. Joel Kinnaman is hilarious.
-- The scene during which Skinner describes how he likes knowing how his victims feel during the last seconds of their life is truly chilling. (Too bad the rest of Koteas' acting isn't as good.)