Monday, August 05, 2013

Looking for Redemption in All the Wrong Places on "The Killing"

Just When You Thought Sarah Linden Would Finally Have Her Shit Together....

(Spoiler Alert: Come back later if you didn't see last night's episode of "The Killing")

No TV show does dread better than "The Killing."
Maybe it's those always-cloudy days, not to mention the drizzle in Vancouver (masquerading as Seattle).
Maybe it's because the rare moments of happiness on the show are quickly followed by portent, implied danger or untimely demises.
It's a cocooned world where the promise of redemption is dashed by dark secrets. The chrysalis struggling to break free of this world is Detective Sarah Linden, played by the mesmerizing Mireille Enos. You root for Linden because she's as good an investigator as she is lousy at being a mom and picking men. More on that in a bit.
"The Killing" wrapped up its third season last night, which was something of a TV miracle after it had been canceled after season two by AMC following the Rosie Larsen debacle. Then content-hungry Netflix rode in to the rescue and paid for exclusive streaming rights, which allowed Fox to charge AMC less per episode and give "The Killing" new life.
Hence season three, for which viewers hungering for quality TV drama in the summer owe Netflix a huge debt of gratitude. For "The Killing" delivered its best effort yet. Showrunner Veena Sud didn't piss off viewers who saw their investment in emotional energy squandered in season one by an unnecessary cliffhanger.
Season four should be a no-brainer for all involved. Sud got it right, though maybe too right.
With last night's finale, we finally saw how the dueling plots of the investigation of the serial killer offing teen prostitutes and the impending execution of Ray Seward (a gripping Peter Saarsgard) were linked.
A lesser show might have revealed this sooner, but "The Killing" this time rewarded our patience.
There was not one false note in the reveal that Linden's boss and sometime lover, Lt. James Skinner (Elias Koteas), was the killer of the girls. We found out Skinner had framed Seward for the murder of his wife, which led to Seward's hard-to-watch hanging in the penultimate episode.
In the finale, Seward's son, Adrian goes missing, soon after Linden and Holder realize it was Adrian--not his mother--who Skinner was after. Linden realizes Skinner was the killer after seeing his daughter wearing a ring that belonged to one of the victims.
After confronting him, Skinner claims Adrian is still alive but will only reveal where he is if Linden goes with him for what turns into a long drive to his lake house, during which he unfurls what's inside his sick mind. Linden is at once seething over what she is hearing and nauseated (literally) that this is a man who she had thought--as recently as that morning after a tryst--that she could make a life with and actually become happy for more than a fleeting moment.
But Adrian is not at the lake house. Skinner instead hints Adrian's in the trunk of the car. And dead (he's actually found hiding by his mother's gravestone). Linden shoots Skinner in the chest. Her partner, Stephen Holder (consistently the show's best-written character played by Joel Kinnaman) had gone to the house after piecing together where Skinner was headed. He tells Linden that Adrian is alive and that Skinner brought her to the house for her to kill him. That should be that. But Linden is too damaged. A lifetime of betrayal and disappointment has caught up to her. One more shot metes out final justice.
In a way, it makes sense. Linden and Holder can't ride off into the sunset. By my count, it was sunny about twice during the show's three seasons.
Still, Linden was in bad need of a reboot. Instead, she chose to become one with the abyss. This presents a problem in the putative season four. The secret she and Holder must keep will hover over any procedural surrounding the next sicko they chase after.
Their pathos--Holder is a recovering drug addict, among other issues--has always existed side-by-side with the murder probes and frequently intersected. But the thread of cop-turned-cop killer threatens to overwhelm all else. Having such an event serve as the locus of a program is what faces AMC's newest offering, Low Winter Sun. It's a premise that threatens to be more tiring than compelling as viewers wonder how long can this be sustained. The answer: not long at all, and the British version on which "Low Winter Sun" is based was only a miniseries.
As for "The Killing," this season affirmed it merits the benefit of the doubt. Root for Sud & Co. to get it right. Sarah Linden deserves no less.

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