Just hours after Linden's fateful decision, she and Holder scramble to cover their tracks, even as a quadruple homicide brings them back to the beat.
Credit: Carole Segal/Netflix
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It occurred to me about 35 minutes into the premiere of the fourth (and final) season of The Killing that a move to the commercial-free Netflix format would allow up to 17 minutes more brooding. And boy do Veena Sud & Co. take advantage. The Killing was always moody at best, trudging at worst. This is the show that managed to stretch out a single whodunnit over two seasons (much to the ire of fans who’d been promised a one-and-done crime drama). Then, after its miraculously revivified third season, The Killing proved that it could juggle riveting interpersonal drama and solve a series of expertly executed crimes. But, in the wake of Sarah Linden’s impulsive (and deeply personal) execution of justice, would the series be able to tie up all the loose ends in a mere six episodes?

Based on the pacing of “Blood in the Water”… it’s unclear.

Season 4 begins with 15 minutes (a.k.a. a quarter of the premiere’s run time) devoted to Linden and Holder dealing with the aftermath of Linden’s decision to kill Skinner, her boss and former lover… who also happened to be a psychotic serial killer. In her pristinely white bathroom, Linden scrubs and stares at her bloodied hands, then takes a long, hard look at herself in the mirror and finds that she’s obscured by a fog of steam more hellish than cleansing. As she purges herself (or, more specifically, her bloody clothes) in the fire, Holder approaches. He witnessed Linden’s fait accompli and, being a recovering junkie accustomed to lying, immediately sets a cover-up plan in motion.

But, this was no clean, clinical dispatch. It was a crime of passion, a murder. Unlike James “Pied Piper” Skinner himself, Linden is no calculated killer. Heck, even street-hardened Holder isn’t really. So, despite the many, repeated conversations they have to nail down every last detail, there’s bound to be incriminating evidence scattered to the wind—and, perhaps most damning, emotional repercussions. But for now, they panic at what’s visible to the naked eye: a splatter of blood on Holder’s coat. No, this would not be as cut-and-dried as they hoped.

No surprise, then, when Linden makes the mistake of awkwardly smiling at Holder’s ex-partner Carl Reddick, the ornery hobgoblin of the Seattle PD is immediately—if casually—suspicious. Holder struggles to maintain his casual demeanor as Reddick peppers him with brass-tacks questions about his and Linden’s whereabouts the night before and other details of the case. Meanwhile, Linden firmly assures a young boy named Adrian, the Piper’s sole living witness, that justice has been served… she just pins it on presumed Piper (and legitimate slimeball) Joe Mills to divert attention from Skinner. Adrian seems convinced, but the Reddick dilemma is poised to linger like a bad smell.

Holder and Linden both return home to rest, but rest is not in the cards. While Holder’s silent anguish stands in stark contrast to his girlfriend Caroline’s groggy sweetness, Linden lays down only to remember with a start that she and Skinner had sex the day before. To the drug store she goes. But that’s a tangible consequence, one that can be addressed with a pill or a doctor’s visit. More gnawing—and more responsible for Linden’s absolutely haggard appearance—are the psychological ripples of her actions. To wit, when the partners return to the office, Linden is confronted by the pictures of the very girls she betrayed by killing Skinner. Her justice comes at the price of theirs.

NEXT: A new case begins

With Reddick tasked to dot the Is and cross the Ts on the Pied Piper case, Linden and Holder begin a new investigation into the brutal homicides of wealthy, 57-year-old architect Philip Stansbury, his 49-year-old wife Linda, and their daughters, 16-year-old Phoebe and 6-year-old Nadine. Their 17-year-old son Kyle, a screw-up on break from military academy, is presumed to be the killer who tried—and failed—to turn the gun on himself. Among the troubling details at the glass-house crime scene: pools of blood and a piano with its wires cut.

As the partners wait in the hospital while dealing with their own complicated dynamic (Linden chides Holder for “handling” her), Linden notes a Goth-ish girl being rejected from visiting the ward and crosses paths with Colonel Margaret Rayne, the superintendent of Kyle’s military academy who enjoys letting her hair down and spinning around the ballroom in her spare time, and who also deems Kyle “incapable of violence.” Needless to say, Linden and Rayne are primed for conflict. None of them would get to flex their muscles that morning, though, because Kyle’s doctor bars them from seeing him after surgery. As they examine the case, another incriminating piece of evidence emerges as a junior cop brings Linden a blown-up image of the car that had been following Adrian—Skinner’s car. Suffice it to say, Holder’s insinuation that Linden might be too personally invested to be objective doesn’t go over well. The man has a point, as Linden returns home and foolishly clasps a pair of shell casings in her hands before having a bed-wrecking (not to mention disturbingly uncharacteristic) sobbing jag.

Holder heads to Caroline’s apartment to find his own personal stakes mounting. She’s pregnant. After a mini-outburst from Holder, she admits she could have eased into the news a little better. He quips tensely, “A little foreplay never hurt anyone.” Caroline: “We did more than that. That’s the problem.” And that’s exactly the kind of dynamic that makes me hope these two crazy kids will make it work. If anyone can deal with Holder’s many faces, it’s Caroline.

The next day, Holder comes a-knocking on Linden’s door to deliver the ballistics. While not everything makes sense, including how the gun used to kill all four Stansburys was not the same one Kyle turned on himself, Holder has taken all the steps to keep the ball rolling on the investigation. He swags, “Even minus my Joe with a kiss of hemp milk, I’m a 1-900-ROCK-STAR.” (Man, I really hope Netflix has snapped up this number and 1-900-LINDEN. I would pay at least $1 a minute to listen to a Holder-themed phone line.) Holder’s phone rings, and they’re off to the hospital to see Kyle, who inconveniently has a case of amnesia; unfortunately, it’s the murder night-specific kind, not the sexy Justin Timberlake kind, and there’s no way to anticipate when he’ll recover his memory.

While they wait out the days until the doctor discharges Kyle, Linden and Holder head to St. George’s Academy to investigate. Col. Rayne is predictably prickly and protective when asked to allow the detectives into Kyle’s quarters, so Linden’s drops some mythology on her ass, noting the ironic element of St. George’s myth: The dragon he slew had been fed the townsfolks’ children. With a subtle, permissory nod, Rayne walks away as Holder smirks, “Linden the repressed Catholic… it fits.” While Linden grills fellow cadet A.J. Fielding about the irregularities in Kyle’s room, Holder does his thang and syncs up with token academy trash-talking, sneak-smoking bad seed Lincoln Knopf. Per Knopf, “No one even knew [Kyle] existed.” He also mockingly nicknames Holder “The Real Slim Shady.” It’s no “Bugs,” and Knopf is no Bullet, so it’s a pretty satisfying moment when Holder gives him a swift smack in the eye at the end of their chat.

Back at the hospital, it’s more bad news for Kyle, whose parents dictated in their will that he would be on his own financially from age 18 to 35 when his trust would be released. Though they named Rayne his guardian (an odd move in and of itself), he’s pretty much alone in the world. After crying himself to sleep, he gets a visit from Fair Isle sweater aficionado Sarah Linden. Oh joy. They discuss literature and biblical lore, specifically John Steinbeck’s East of Eden and the collective forgetting of the Tree of Life from “Genesis.” Kyle tells Linden, who it’s worth noting is not only basically a complete stranger but also a dour-as-they-come potential antagonist, “The book’s about finding your way back home to Eden, about not belonging anywhere.” Because you apparently don’t just talk about the weather on The Killing, that’s the small talk portion of the conversation, and Kyle cuts to the chase: “You think I did it.” He insists he’s “not a monster,” which causes Linden to take pause since she has quite recently possibly become one herself. Kyle continues to evade and grimace and refuse to answer, instead saying he misses Nadine. Linden says she knows what it feels like to miss someone, and good gracious is that statement loaded. She decides to give Kyle a break for now. As she leaves, the camera focuses on his massive head scar—the gruesome wages of whatever war was happening in the Stansbury home before we came on the scene. And, since this family mystery is not exactly a musical romp on a Greek isle, there surely was one.

NEXT: Ring the alarm?

And now it’s time for the Linden-Holder Story Hour. Tonight’s edition showcases “The Tale of the Dying Cow.” Moral of the story: Linden is a mercy killer… a clumsy one. Those shell casings aren’t going to destroy themselves, girl.

Holder also realizes his redemption won’t tee up itself. Arriving home, he slips into bed with Caroline and proposes: “I want to be there for you, to have a baby. I want to be a good man. I want to be a good man. Marry me.” She tearfully accepts because she loves him, she’s carrying his baby, and it’s a proposal that sounds good on paper. And I don’t doubt all those things are true for Holder, too. Still, it feels like a bit of a disservice to their relationship, a bit of a grasp at straws to counteract all the wrong in his world present, past, and sure to come. And, as we’ve learned in three seasons of this complex, conflicted series, those kind of Hail Marys don’t just happen when you want them to. Real life is a bloody, brutal mess.

Speaking of which, Linden heads back to the Stansbury house to survey the Rorschach-esque murder scene once more. Instead of inward, she finds herself gazing outward. She calls Holder (foreshadow-y metaphor alert): “You can see into their house at night. It’s a glass house, you can see everything.”

And whattayaknow? When Linden gets home, one of her precious shell casings is missing. As she searches, there’s a knock on the door. It’s not Holder but Skinner’s daughter Bethany, wearing the unmistakable ring her father gave to her from one of his final victims. Linden closes the door on her and backs away as Bethany raps on the door, screaming for her father. Linden’s life is becoming that glass house: Everything is—or eventually will be—seen… even on the darkest night.

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The Killing
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