Linden and Holder reunite when a hooker's murder bears striking similarities to Linden's Achilles' kill three years prior
The Killing 301
Credit: Carole Segal/AMC

Like Rosie Larsen, The Killing was dead in the water a little less than a year ago. But if two seasons of plodding sturm und drang have taught us anything, it’s that you can’t keep a good Holder down. So, as season 3’s two-hour premiere began, the recovering addict had cleaned up in every sense of the word: He was practically mainlining milk, he’d outfitted himself in a smart three-piece suit and a natty trench coat, and he was shooting for sergeant status. Alongside his new partner — a grunting, it’s-just-a-job sort of fellow named Carl Reddick — Holder was assigned to solve the murder of a teenage prostitute named Ashley Kwan. Reddick wanted to pass off the case, which was labor-intensive and unlikely to bring them any glory, but Holder couldn’t let it go. It seemed he was still feeling the influence of his dogged former partner.

Speaking of whom, Linden had quit the force, fallen back on a minimum wage job as a ferry officer, and taken a younger lover named Cody. She was smiling and playful in this new life — perhaps half a step above the complete numbness and emotional isolation that we’ve come to know as her comfort zone — but a letter from the Washington Department of Corrections made it clear that no quantity of afternoon delight could free Linden of her past.

Which brought us to Ray Seward, the murderer Linden put away three years before — and whose case had single-handedly driven her to the loony bin after his son Adrian drew countless crayon sketches of a bleak, tree-lined landscape (partial blame on Linden, who kept the damn picture and looked at it at every.possible.chance). Ray was 30 days away from his own execution and forebodingly silent at his hearing. Once transported to his cell, he asked for the prison chaplain. But Ray wasn’t looking for absolution or comfort, he just wanted to shed some crocodile tears, lure the old guy in, and bash the chaplain’s head in order to feed his own sociopathic bloodlust. In case you didn’t get what a freakshow Ray is, during a visit with his lawyer, he mocked his own hanging with a phone cord.

Ray was also the reason Holder paid a visit to Linden this rainy Seattle day. With some time separating them from their tumultuous partnership, they easily chatted about where their lives had taken them and how they’d cleaned up and quit the cancer sticks. It was a pack of lies, of course, but Holder’s ribbing about Cody being practically the same age as Linden’s son Jack was a particular highlight (not to mention the fact that he used the phrase “Dial 1-900-LINDEN,” thus reminded me why I agreed to take on this recap). Getting down to business, Holder explained that his new case reminded him of the Seward case. He said he wanted to check out the file, but it was missing. Linden insisted it must have been misplaced (translation: it’s in my linen closet, and I look at it every day). As Holder said goodbye, Linden advised, “Not every case is worth it.” As Holder headed to his car, Linden looked back and saw he’d left the case file on her bureau.

Back in the city, Holder met his match in a scrappy lesbian street urchin named Bullet. Though Bullet was butch, she didn’t appreciate Holder calling her “little man.” As Bullet’s anxious baby-hooker friend Kallie watched, they traded barbs (my favorite: when Holder said he didn’t eat processed food, Bullet mocked that it was to preserve Holder’s “glowing skin,” and the cop replied, “Even the Taj Mahal needs upkeep”). Bullet inevitably crossed the line with an actual threat, and Holder picked the punk up by the collar to make it clear who had the upper hand here — humiliating Bullet in front of her crush Lyric in the process. Holder walked away, but it was clear these two were far from finished.

Meanwhile, Linden was toasting Reggie’s marriage to her partner Ellen when she had an epiphany that police work was the one thing she truly loved. Convenient timing since Jack was heading off to Chicago to live with his father. Linden took a run to clear her head, only to stumble upon a barn full of dead cows. (File under: “Only on The Killing…”) I suppose the barn was technically almost full — there was one cow still struggling with its last breaths. Linden arrived home to find Cody looking at the brutal pictures from Ashley’s case file. Instead of explaining herself (or, indeed, saying anything at all), Linden grabbed a gun and headed back out to put the cow out of its misery. Back at home, she took down the Seward file and confirmed that this morning’s M.O. was eerily similar to the crimes for which Seward had been declared guilty.

Over in the Jungle (basically Seattle’s Skid Row), Bullet won a lottery at a Christian shelter called Beacon House, securing a bed for the night. She offered her spot to Kallie, but Kallie claimed she could stay at her mom’s house (a few scenes before we’d met Kallie’s mother, a semi-functioning alcoholic hag who told Kallie she’d ruined her life by being born, so it was pretty clear this was a lie). So Kallie headed into the night and jumped in a stranger’s car. Stop me if you know where this is going…

NEXT: Linden and Holder do a little soft-shoe

Later that night, Linden couldn’t stop herself from visiting that morning’s crime scene. She then skulked in to the SPD to return Ashley’s case file, only to be caught by Holder. They began dancing around the truth: She didn’t object when he claimed he “forgot” the case file at her place; he didn’t blink when she insisted she hadn’t really looked at it. Showing her hand, she immediately began analyzing the differences between Ashley’s case and Seward’s. Holder speculated today’s perp was a trophy collector, that he’d snapped his vics’ fingers taking their rings.

Speaking of rings, when Kallie disappeared, she was wearing a ring Bullet bought for Lyric (who was spending the day shacked up with her aspiring model boyfriend Twitch). Bullet was displaying a picture of his friend as she searched for Kallie the next morning at the police department. Before Bullet and Holder crossed paths again, Reddick had been giving Holder a hard time about reconnecting with Linden (he called her a bad first partner and made some lewd implications about their partnership); Holder promptly displaced his irritation on Bullet and he took notice of the ring. A bit later, Bullet in turn displaced her frustration on pimp named Goldie, who was trash-talking some of the street girls. The two punks came close to blows, and Goldie even pulled a gun in a show of bravado — but it was only that, a show. In the end, Bullet walked away and continued looking for Kallie.

Elsewhere, Linden paid a visit to James Skinner, her former partner who was now head of the SPD’s Special Investigations Unit. Though she hadn’t admitted it to Holder, his tip about the rings had resonated. The girl in her case had her finger snapped postmortem just like yesterday’s vic, but they’d never made anything of it because they couldn’t find the ring. Now Linden wanted to follow up on the connection. Disturbingly, she learned she wasn’t the first reminder of Seward’s case Skinner had received today — Seward himself had called just moments before and invited Skinner to the execution: “He said bring my wife, the kids, and a bag of Ding Dongs.” (Further proof of Seward’s psychosis: He’d finagled this phone call by spotting spit-up on the shirt of one of his guards — Henderson, a new father — then manipulated the poor schlub into granting him a phone call by claiming he needed to talk to his lawyer to arrange one last visit with his kid before the execution.) “Those aren’t the actions of an innocent man,” said Skinner. Linden: “I just want to make sure we’re executing a guilty one.”

And today in “Linden’s Life Sucks” news: Skinner’s wife stopped Linden on her way out and pretty clearly conveyed that Linden and Skinner had had an affair back in the day, then told Linden she never wanted to see her again. A bit later, Linden told Cody, “I break things” as a way of ending the relationship. Hasta la vista, cougar bait. We hardly knew ye!

Back in the pokey, Henderson was in hot water with his supervisor Becker, who went to Seward’s cell to vengefully read the details of execution by hanging to Seward. Unsurprisingly, Seward was not upset in the slightest. Maniacs tend not to be.

NEXT: A Linden-Seward face-off, plus the big reveal!

Holder and Reddick visited Beacon for info on Ashley. The house head was incredibly unhelpful, but an entire shot was dedicated to his forearm tattoo of Ephesians 1:7, so… more on that later. Afterward, they headed to a motel where Ashley had tricked before her death. The receptionist insisted in three-pack-a-day husk she hadn’t seen Ashley recently; when Holder said he knew that wasn’t true, she blamed Kallie and said the teen had been causing a racket in the hotel parking lot the night before. In the midst of all this, Holder continued to be super-awesome, implying he and Reddick were partners in more than one sense of the word; he called Reddick “my bear” and said, “Once he gets on that vibrating bed, he can go for days.”

Holder wanted to follow up on the Kallie lead and talk to the kids on the road back to the Jungle, but Reddick told him they’d been off the clock for 45 minutes already. Like Holder last year, Reddick didn’t see the use in wasting any effort. But now the student had become the master, and Holder was as fixated on this case as Linden had been on… well… every case Linden ever worked.

Cut to a brief scene between Linden and Reggie. As Linden once again trotted out Adrian’s drawing, Reggie basically said nothing she could say would stop Linden from diving headfirst back into madness. And so Linden visited Seward, who showed no remorse for his crimes. He insisted Skinner was a liar and took particular exception at the fact Skinner had called him a coward during the trial. He then relayed the gory details of how he’d sawed through his wife’s neck while looking her in the eyes. Skinner should come to court to look him in the eyes, he insisted — then they’d know who was the real coward.

Linden didn’t blink. She asked Seward what he’d done with his wife’s ring, and he vaguely claimed he’d pawned it. She pulled out Adrian’s sketch and held it up to the glass. It was the first time we’ve ever seen Seward pause from his psychotic agenda. He dropped his head and weakly called to the guard before putting the phone back to his ear one last time to tell Linden, “I don’t have a son.”

Meanwhile, Holder went to visit his girlfriend (Firefly‘s Jewel Staite, who as noted by Jeff Jensen in his review, awesomely pointed out Holder’s “SERENITY” tattoo). Holder noticed she’d bought him his own toothbrush, and they had a cute chat about getting more serious. She told him she’d DVR’d a TV show about shark attacks, then went to the kitchen to microwave some popcorn. He stood there with perhaps the first genuine smile we’ve ever seen from him. Note to Holder: This one’s a keeper!

In a less pleasant domestic situation, Lyric found Twitch “investing” in his modeling career by dyeing his hair with products he’d bought with all $60 of Lyric’s savings. This meant Lyric would have to walk the streets that night so they’d have money for the next day. She was pathetically willing to go along with it. At that point, Bullet busted in, still searching for Kallie. Twitch suggested Goldie might have taken her in, so Bullet went to the pimp’s place. Goldie snuck up on Bullet with a knife before punching her, pinning her down, and telling her, “You’re just a little bitch who needs to be broken like the rest.” Then he unzipped his pants…

The next morning, Linden visited Adrian’s adoptive home. He was still unaware of his father’s execution, and Linden decided to hold off on telling him for now. She turned to leave and saw the latest version of the boy’s sketch as Adrian’s adoptive mother noted obliviously, “He’s been drawing again.” Linden recognized a burnt-out building Adrian had added in and went to a remote island to confirm her hunch. After holding the picture up to the skyline for a good, long stare, she wandered through the woods and discovered a number (15, I’m guessing) of corpses that had been tarped and bogged down in a pond. Only now, since the water had receded, the decomposed bodies were on full display. And thus, Seattle PD’s very own Odd Couple had its next case.

And that’s it for the season 3 premier, Killing fans. What did you think? Will you tune in next week? Do you like the changes to the format? Did Peter Sarsgaard sufficiently creep you out? Is Holder still the absolute best? (The answer to that last question is a resounding YES.)

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