Linden and Holder continue to protect their secret as new threats emerge both in the investigation and at St. George's.
In direct opposition to the season 4 premiere’s slow-burn pacing, “Unraveling” opens with a literal bang. And unraveling Sarah is. She and Holder pay a visit to the lab, where frequent gunshots and blood-red-paint-splattering dummies prove incredibly unsettling for the guilty Linden. She certainly can’t offset her nerves with any solid leads in the case. Testing proved that Kyle was on his knees, which could mean he was under the gun or offering himself up in penance. Either way, the lab guy calls it a “scientifically unique situation”—perhaps the best euphemism for f—in’ grisly bloodbath I’ve heard in a long time. Linden is so visibly disturbed, she has to leave abruptly. Holder follows her to the restroom and tells her to get it together. She explains that it’s pretty difficult considering she’s got her dead lover’s daughter harassing her. She conveniently (or, more likely, consciously) leaves out the bit about Bethany wearing Kallie’s ring, so Holder assures her it’s nothing. When another shot blasts, Linden’s visibly shaken demeanor and her second jittery exit of the morning disprove Holder.
Back at St. George’s, Rayne tries to keep control of her flock, using a surprisingly tone-deaf family metaphor considering the circumstances. Outside, Kyle stares at the flag of St. George slaying the dragon, and it’s clear that no one—not even Kyle himself—knows which of the two he is. To wit, one cadet brazenly asks in front of the assembly: “Ma’am, didn’t he do it, ma’am?” And the despicable Knopf walks out with a cig in his mouth and snarks that 6-year-old Nadine “got it right in the face. Too bad, she was going to be one fine piece of p—y one day.” Given the smoke plumes rising from Knopf’s mouth, maybe it is clear where Kyle falls in the saint-versus-dragon equation. At least for now.
Over at the SPD, Linden and Holder listen to the 911 call placed by the Stansburys’ neighbor Emmett Deschler. When they visit Deschler, he’s the kind of weirdo who nonchalantly cops to “eschew[ing] formal engagements and social gatherings,” and who philosophizes, “My home is my camera obscura. I believe that pain and suffering is true art. … Happiness creates a laziness that allows us to forget, but pain teaches us a lesson, which forces us to grow.” Pro tip, EmDesch: Don’t say weird crap like that to homicide cops. Perhaps too preoccupied by her own dramas, or maybe just unfazed by this kind of talk, Linden moves right along, which is hilarious on its own. Bonus points to Holder, who gets in a Velvet Elvis shout-out. (He doesn’t know art, but he knows what he likes, amirite?)
There are some unusual aspects of Deschler’s story, like the 5 a.m. time and his calm tone in his 911 call, but his statement does lead the detectives to the Stansburys’ beach house, just below the main house (and the site of the murder). A housekeeper who lets them in notes the family’s remarkable neatness, saying eerily, “It’s like nobody lived here, only ghosts.” Well, judging by a bag of clothes found in the beach house, ghosts and a baby hooker.
The partners revisit Phoebe’s room to check the clothes in the bag against the ones in her closet—they don’t match. More importantly, they find a stash of sexy, half-naked photos she’s hidden in the back of a frame. Linden quickly figures out the angle from which they were taken and, lo and behold, it visually traces right back to Deschler’s place. They return to Deschler’s home, where he ups the creep factor to 11 as he quivers about his “special” relationship with Phoebe. Holder subdues him while Linden stumbles upon a room wallpapered with pervalicious pictures of Phoebe in various states of Lolita. It’s pretty clear that Deschler will turn out to be a run-of-the-mill pedophiliac voyeur, but it’s certainly effective while it lasts.
NEXT: Holder explores new frontiers of sexual innuendo
At St. George’s, Kyle insists against Rayne’s recommendation that he remain among the general population. Perhaps feeling guilty that she just revealed to the amnesiac that his parents have to be buried closed-casket because of their horrific disfigurement, she allows it. And what a fool move that turns out to be when Kyle is cornered by Knopf and a band of goons in the showers. Because teenage boys are the worst, they actually laugh at Kyle when he accidentally opens his gaping head wound (“b—- is on heavy flow this month”). Kyle finds an unlikely ally in Hall Monitor-type A.J. Fielding, who will later order Kyle to punch the pulp out of Knopf when he and his friends prank Kyle by imitating the dearly departed Nadine then asking, “By the way, how’s your dead sister?” Disgusting. I’d take 10 Ray Sewards over this jerk.
Of course, Kyle isn’t helped by the frequent drop-ins of Linden and Holder (who keeps up this episode’s emerging aquatic sub-theme by euphemizing sex as “late-night Marco Polo”). Long story short, Kyle found Phoebe demonstrating her exhibitionist streak, he told his disbelieving parents, and Phoebe punished him for tattling by cutting his precious piano wires—all of which reinforced Kyle’s identity as The Unloved One in the family.
Once Deschler lawyers up and confirms his alibi, the suspect list once again becomes a party of one: Kyle. Holder is all too willing to pin the murders on him, especially as more about the Stansburys’ dysfunctional home life emerges. Linden insists, “No one talks about family secrets, and you know it. They just stay screwed up.” Holder counters, “Not everyone messes up their kids. It’s a choice how you act.” It’s pretty much the summation of how these two operate. Linden, she of the stoic nature and having some experience with problematic family dynamics, cuts some slack. NA-conditioned Holder believes in complete personal accountability. Neither is wrong, but I’m willing to bet neither is 100 percent right in this situation either.
This constellation of secrets and lies is bearing down on the partners, too. Earlier that day, Reddick had continued his slog through the Pied Piper files… or should I say stumble? Because when he dropped box of files, an 8″x10″ close-up shot of that god-awful blue ring just happened to drop out and grab his attention. Later, when Bethany (the most persistent abandoned daughter in all of history) shows up to harass Linden some more, Reddick can’t help but notice the ring on her hand. Linden’s paranoia escalates at seeing Reddick escorting the girl to his car (what she doesn’t see: he checks in with an informant who confirms Linden and Skinner weren’t where she said they were a couple nights back). Later, another drop of blood appears on Linden’s bathroom cabinet pull at home, resulting in a mirror-punching meltdown. I mean, she’s not exactly cutting off all her hair yet, but homegirl is setting herself up for a third-time’s-a-harm one-way ticket back to the nuthouse. Witness the lingering shot on the mangled reflection of her face. She’s a MONSTER!
Cue an adorable grocery story interlude between Holder and Caroline in which we learn that—despite all his organic, whole-foods, hemp milk-drinking dogma—Holder loves him some Cap’n Crunch. The “Crunch Berries make [him] a better crime fighter.” Not to ruin the vibe, but is there a sugary cereal that makes Holder a better crime hider?
NEXT: Katty shack-up
The next morning, Holder delivers the news that prints all over the house belong to a girl named Katrina Nelson. Not only was she charged at one point for aggravated assault against Philip Stansbury (the charges were ultimately dropped), but she also just happens to have been the girl Linden saw at the hospital two days earlier.
Linden and Holder head to St. George’s to ask Kyle about Kat. They’re interrupted by Fielding, who’s taken Kyle under his wing, and then Rayne. The brewing tension between Linden and Rayne hits its apex as they articulate their incredibly different approaches to life, work, authority, femininity, you name it. There are only a few sentences exchanged, but they are laced with meaning and contempt. It’s really Linden’s (and, to a degree, Holder’s) biggest flaw in this investigation: She operates with an independence that devolves into isolation. It’s what tripped her up with Skinner—he was the only person who was able to crack her self-containment, which was exactly why his blame and betrayal hurt as much as it did—and it’s what’s preventing her from penetrating the ranks of an organization that’s completely about sacrificing your individuality to the corps (a trait in Kyle that Fielding had complimented just moments before Linden’s arrival).
Just as Rayne is threatening to throw down a formal complaint against Linden, Holder ushers her out because he smartly realizes he and Murderin’ Mabel don’t need that kind of scrutiny right now. And, when Linden pridefully huffs at him for corralling her, he explains it was also part of a strategic withdrawal: “It’s like with lions: When you tame ’em, you gotta put ’em on a pedestal, make them think that they’re dominant, that they got the upper hand. They feel safe up there… You gotta make ’em believe that they’re lookin’ down on you, when really all eyes are on them, and you’re the one that’s in control.” Holder thinks they have Rayne right where they want her. Frankly, he probably gives himself a little too much credit, but if we know anything, it’s that Holder is scrappy. When Linden remains silent, he intuits what’s really eating at her and adds, “Stop worrying about Bethany.”
It’s unlikely she’ll do so, though, when Reddick corners her at the SPD and blows open the various lies about her whereabouts on the last night Skinner was seen. In the spirit of The Killing‘s AMC roots, Linden summons every ounce of antihero in her, leans in, and tells Reddick in a measured, menacing whisper: “We were having an affair. I ended his marriage, wrecked his family. He moved out on his child. You wanna know more than that, then talk to him. Otherwise, stay the f— out of my face.” And that, my friends, is one glorious benefit of the show moving to Netflix for its final season. Drop those F-bombs, Linden. Drop ’em like they’re hot.
Meanwhile at the St. George’s dorm, Kat has sneaked in to visit Kyle. She asks, “Do you remember what happened.” Of course he doesn’t, but Kyle’s innocence continues to withdraw with each new revelation, including when he assures Kat, “I didn’t tell them anything about you.” She kisses him on the lips and says chillingly, “They got what they deserved.” With that statement hanging in the air, Kyle sneaks Kat out, unaware that Knopf is leering through a cracked door.
Other last-minute hits: Holder sleeps soundly with a pair of baby shoes he bought from the grocery store, blissfully unaware of how doomed he obviously is; Reddick was not intimidated by Linden and continues to pursue the blue ring connection, as does Linden—all the way to the curb outside the Skinners’ house, where she looks at Bethany ominously.