Linden and Holder struggle with the guilt and stress of covering up Skinner’s death while Reddick grows increasingly suspicious as he looks into Skinner’s disappearance. The situation is complicated when Caroline announces to Holder that she is pregnant. Meanwhile, Linden and Holder deal with an unnerving case in which an entire family is slaughtered, all except their black sheep son Kyle who suffers traumatic amnesia of that night after a near fatal gunshot wound to the head. Kyle has to deal with harassment and suspicion from his peers at the military academy while the headmaster, Colonel Margaret O’Neal, is unusually protective and secretive over Kyle and his situation.
In a cliffhanger from last season, we found out in a not-so-surprising twist (if you are at all a fan of Elias Koteas’ work, you probably saw it coming as soon as he was introduced as a regular cast member) that James Skinner, former partner and current lover of Sarah Linden, is the Pied Piper serial killer. In a fit of betrayal and rage, Linden shoots Skinner dead and she and Holder are left to cover up the crime. The series opens with Linden and Holder cleaning up, disposing of evidence, and getting their stories straight. It is clear that Linden is in shock, and both their cool exteriors are betrayed when Linden spots a blood stain on Holder’s jacket and they both freak out. Fortunately, Skinner had supposedly just left for vacation in Aruba for two weeks, which is meant to buy the pair some time before his absence is noticed. Unfortunately, Skinner has a dedicated daughter who immediately grows suspicious when she doesn’t hear from her father after a couple days and starts asking questions. Bethany Skinner gets Reddick involved, who is not only interested in Skinner’s whereabouts, but also notices the correlation between Pied Piper victim Kallie’s distinctive ring and Bethany’s current jewelry selection. Reddick knows that Skinner is the real Pied Piper, but now must prove his suspicions that Linden and Holder are involved in his sudden disappearance.
While Linden for the most part holds her cool and gives nothing away, there is a big part of her who just lost the man with whom she was in love. Not only did he turn out to be a serial killer – which is not only a betrayal of Linden’s trust but also makes her question her judgement for not having realized sooner – but she has to deal with the guilt and trauma of having killed him. Despite all reason, she misses Skinner and his grieved by his loss. She is disgusted by her intimate relationship with him – tearing the sheets from her bed and purchasing a morning after pill for safety – and yet she is heartbroken by the smell of him that still lingers on a pillow and pictures of them together on his phone. Linden is moody and frequently argues with Holder, Reggie, and Jack. Linden is also panicked by guilt every time she sees Skinner’s daughter Bethany, unable to bear having taken a father from his daughter. At the same time, Linden comes to terms with all this through the case she works with young Kyle, who is suspected of having killed his entire family. While the loss is no great burden to anyone, even to Kyle who was unloved and mistreated by most his family, Linden identifies with Kyle’s struggle and his terrified guilt over having become the monster. Linden, more than anything, hates that she’s become the monster. In the end she confesses to her crime, saying that Holder had nothing to do with it. Mayor Richmond makes a surprise appearance and tells her that the “official” finding are that Skinner killed himself and was not in any way involved in the Pied Piper killings, saying that if it were to come out that a trusted leading police official were known to have been involved in so many deaths, that it would mean disaster for the city. Linden, once again appalled at bureaucracy and the lack of justice, quits her job, packs up her house, and goes on the road.
Holder, being the kind of partner he is, knew he didn’t have any choice but to help Linden after she had killed Skinner. While at first he seems like the cool one, easily engaging in normal banter with Reddick without any of the awkwardness Linden displays, their roles are soon reversed once he learns that Caroline is pregnant and he’s going to be a father. He worries about the kind of father he will be, and how his sins will affect the life of his child. He becomes wracked with guilt over his deeds, goes back to using drugs for a night, and then vaguely confesses himself at an NA meeting – which of course is how Reddick confirms his suspicions that Linden and Holder killed Skinner. Holder starts acting out toward Caroline, his sister and her kids, and even begins to argue with Linden. Their partnership slowly crumbles in mistrust and accusations. Reddick thinks that Holder is the weak link in their partnership, offering him a deal if he informs on Linden. Holder, despite his indecision and guilt, ultimately tell Reddick to get lost. While this renews the trust between the partners, too much has been said and they go their separate ways. While Linden loses herself on the road, Holder gets a job as an NA leader and spends his time being a dad to his daughter. The relationship between Caroline and Holder predictably does not last and they share joint custody.
Reddick may seem like a slow witted asshole, but he’s actually a pretty astute asshole with a suspicious nature and decent instincts. Reddick surprised everyone this season by working out rather quickly that Skinner was the Pied Piper and that Linden and Holder knew it too. And even if Reddick didn’t immediately suspect them of foul play, he knew right off that the partners were hiding something important. I love that he was the first one to notice that something was different, and it was because Linden smiled at him. He really went about his investigation in a rather workman like way – even if he did simply stumble upon information he didn’t know he was looking for – adding up the pieces and talking to the right people to fill in the blanks. It is because of Reddick that all those young girls finally got their justice, even if the identity of the real Pied Piper will never be publicly known. In the end he did a decent thing by offering Holder a way out, even if it was partly to take down Linden at the same time. Of course, it was an impossible choice for Holder and Reddick simply misjudged the strength of his friendship with Linden. And that’s the real reason Reddick will never be a great detective. He misjudges people and has poor intuition for human behaviors, emotions, and relationships.
Of course, the real mystery of the season is the death of the Stansbury family and the chance survival of their only son Kyle. He is found with a gunshot wound to the head after an act of suspected murder/suicide. The problem is that Kyle awakes at the hospital with no memory of the night in question, mourning the loss of his family despite his uneasy relationship with most of them, and seriously doubting his own innocence. With no evidence to hold him, he is allowed back to the military academy under the guardianship of his headmaster Colonel Margaret O’Neal, a tough, disciplined, and lonely middle-aged woman who finds herself feeling increasingly maternal and protective toward young Kyle. It turns out that Kyle is a black sheep everywhere – in his home life and among his classmates – and had a very lonely, harassed life with his family. His mother would make Kyle touch her, his father hated him and was constantly disappointed by Kyle’s attempts to earn his approval, his sister acted like he didn’t exist. Only his little sister made his life bearable, as she was as ignored and lonely as he was. Even if he was capable of killing the rest of his family, he doubted he could ever hurt his little sister. Unfortunately, while Kyle works to find his way through grief and doubt, there are secrets being kept at the academy and questionable activities between his conspiratorial and sadistic classmates. Kyle finds his life in danger as he begins to remember the details of the night his family was killed, so he escapes the academy and seeks the help of Linden. As Linden ties up the final threads of the mystery, Kyle remembers what happened to his family. Snapping under the sadistic hazing of his classmates and encouraged by their desire for bloodshed, he rampages through his family’s home and kills them one by one. When it came to his little sister, he killed her because he couldn’t bear to see it in her eyes: that he had become the monster. Afterwards, he tried to kill himself but failed. Kyle is arrested for the murder of his family.
Margaret is a complex, tough as nails woman who has no problem ruling over the lives of two-hundred troubled boys. He demands obedience and respect, but she is lonely and has a hard time connecting with anyone as a human being – she relates by being a soldier. Her relationship with Kyle is a mysterious one. On one hand, she seems to feel a growing responsibility and affection for him. On the other hand, she is clearly keeping secrets from him and conspiring with his classmates – which may or may not be in Kyle’s best interests. At first Kyle grows to trust her, feeling she is the only person he can turn to and who will understand him. And at first, she is that person for him, making his grief bearable and guiding him through his doubts. But when she doesn’t believe him about a taunting gun and floorplan of his house accompanied by a note encouraging him to kill himself, he begins to suspect her reliability. When he finds the gun in question in her office cabinet, he turns on her, running from the academy and seeking asylum with Linden. Linden arrives at the academy with a warrant just as Margaret shoots her two conspirator students in the head, preventing them from giving up on their “plan” and revealing their secret to the police. Margaret confesses to killing the Stansbury family, but Linden is confused as to why she killed the two students if she was just going to confess. It is revealed that Margaret is Kyle’s birth mother (which is not really a big shocker to anyone who was paying attention), and Linden realizes that she is merely taking the fall for her son, who really killed the Stansbury’s that night.
Linden and Holder
Throughout the entire season, the tried and true partnership of Linden and Holder is tested to the limit. They must trust in each other infinitely to keep each other’s secret and rely on each other to get through their growing guilt. The longer the season progresses, however, the more they bicker and bite and hurt each other, preying on each other’s weaknesses, secrets, and past mistakes in order to hurt the other. For the most part they make up and move on, only to fight again. Of course, they don’t hate each other, they hate themselves for what they’ve done and what it could mean for those they love. Holder turns to drugs, confesses himself at an NA meeting, and finds himself seeking guidance at church. Linden turns back to her smoking, insomniac, food fasting ways and lashes out at those who love her most. In the end, all they have is each other, and even then too much has been said and too much healing needs to be done. After Linden tries to confess to her crime and let Holder off the hook, she leaves town without saying goodbye. Maybe five years later, after everything is wrapped up and lives have changed, Holder is leading NA meetings and sharing custody of his young daughter. Linden unexpectedly drops by on her way through town to surprise Holder. They are desperately glad to see each other, easy and yet awkward at seeing each other again. While Holder settled down, Linden spent her time traveling and finding herself. When Holder asks what she’s doing there, she takes a deep breath, preparing to confess herself. She says that all her life she’s been looking for an allusive home, never realizing until it was too late that home was her and Holder, smoking cigarettes and driving around in that stupid car. Holder is overjoyed to hear this and asks her to stay. She hesitates, saying that Seattle is a town of the dead for her. They say goodbye with a long, desperate hug. Linden drives out to the field that overlooks the city, thinks for a long time, then drives back to surprise Holder yet again. They smile at each other, happy, and as Holder walks towards her the screen goes black. We are left to assume that they end up together – about which I feel conflicted. One one hand, they are two great characters who work dynamically together and certainly belong together. On the other hand, I hate that there can’t be a show where a man and a woman can work together as equals in a professional relationship without embarking on a romantic relationship. That’s just not how it works in real life, because every man is not attracted to every woman and vice versa.
It wasn’t a bad ending to an endlessly struggling show. Its really a miracle that it got as far as it did considering the obstacles with which it constantly met, and an even bigger bonus that it got a conclusion. There are a lot of shows out there that never get the second and third chances The Killing did to continue that saga and wrap up storylines. In that sense, they didn’t do too badly at all. I must say that I hadn’t ever seen any of The Killing before I got the assignment to recap the final season, seeing it as an opportunity to spend some time watching a show I’d been interested in but hadn’t ever gotten around to seeing. Having seen some of the original Danish series Forbrydelsen, I can say that Seattle is an excellent setting choice to try and maintain the darker tone and atmosphere of the original series (even though most of it was clearly filmed in Vancouver). Of course, more or less following the plot of the original during its first season, The Killing very much went on to do its own thing with sprinkling of plot points from Forbrydelsen. I definitely enjoyed The Killing more than I thought I would, considering that I find most American remakes of European shows to be hopelessly over simplified, condescending, and overly airbrushed. They end up lacking the complexity or character of the originals, turning it into something more mainlined and generic, aimed at the widest audience possible. The Killing didn’t do that. It was its own show, while still staying very true to the nature of its Danish parent. It is incredibly rare to find an American remake that forms and maintains its own idiosyncrasies, takes joy and pride in its unique storylines and character relationships, and yet still honors the original show. I must say, I will miss Linden and Holder driving around in that stupid car, smoking cigarettes, looking for the bad guy of life.