Linden and Holder's luck appears to run out in the wake of an episode centered on parental failings and fears.
As implied by the episode’s title, we open with a dream. Kyle is overjoyed to see his 6-year-old sister Nadine in his dorm room. As if her night terrors have abated, she asks, “Are the monsters gone?” And then a trickle of blood slowly inches its way down her forehead. It’s no public stoning, but it’s pretty unnerving to behold.
Kyle flees to Col. Rayne’s house, where she’s doing a little late-night solo waltzing (not a euphemism). It remains unclear why the writers have chosen to layer Rayne with these frilly adornments: She bakes cakes! She will judge your office décor! She’s a foxtrot aficionado! Beyond injecting her very masculine-dominated life with an antidote of feminism, they certainly all seem to add up to a domestic life that Rayne will never have but allows herself in which to indulge in only the most intimate circumstances. And Kyle, with his sensitivity and love of the arts, seems to be presenting a simpatico relationship for her. It would be kind of beautiful in its sadness if it weren’t tinged with an underlying feeling of being fundamentally off.
Speaking of being fundamentally off, Lincoln Knopf finds himself in the midst of a street corner Q&A with Linden and a much-worse-for-the-wear Holder. Knopf is his usual charming, eloquent self, talking about Linda Stansbury’s short tennis skirts that “barely covered [her] snatch,” bragging about blowing animals’ heads off, and just generally being gross. After Knopf claims the gun he’d brought to school was in his room at his parents’ house, Holder went tit for tat with graphic tales about prison hazing rituals.
In Knopf’s bedroom, the partners find a soft-porn treasure trove of posters altered so that bikini babes’ eyes and mouths are covered in duct tape and or otherwise disfigured. If I were a detective on this case, my first question would be, Is he seeing anybody? After seeing Holder acts so erratically aggressively rude with Mrs. Knopf that she threatens to file a report, Linden confronts her partner: “Are you using again?” He jumps out of the car and visits a church. It would appear that not 24 hours after denying the existence of God, Holder is a man in need of something to believe in.
In case children bleeding from the head, tales of prison gang rape, and examples of the male gaze through an S&M-warped prism weren’t disturbing enough, Fielding gathers St. George’s new cadets for the annual Slap-Happy Sing-Along Day. In a brutal rite of passage, the boys are tasked with pairing up and each singing a line from a nursery rhyme then slapping the stuffing out of their partner. Despite the thrashing Kyle gave Knopf a few days back, he’s apparently reverted to his “incapable of violence” factory setting. When he asks to leave, then outright refuses to participate with Fielding (his superior), Kyle is reteamed with Knopf, who practically cracks his knuckles in anticipation. He sings line after line of the “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” pausing only briefly for Kyle to defer, before smacking Kyle. After a few rounds, Kyle is bawling, his right cheek welted from Knopf’s smacks. Humor me for a minute here: Is Kyle almost too innocent? Does it strike you as Primal Fear-level passivity. Given what we know about Kyle’s abusive family, his tendency to internalize his feelings, and his ability to deliver a beating when prompted, might he be the spider? Is he just rearing back before the strike (whether it’s unintentional or not)?
NEXT: A pair of lovely Linden-Holder exchanges (one in a gas-station bathroom, no less)
Things continue to get worse for Linden, who—after being rebuffed from searching Knopf’s dorm room by Rayne—finds that Reggie has made dinner for Jack despite their plans for a mother-son dinner. The rub: Everyone assumed Linden would flake like she has so many times before. Feeling out of control in basically every area of her life, Linden lashes out and accuses Reggie of being judgy and disappointed, but insisting, “You don’t know me. You’ve never known me.” Reggie replies tersely, “That’s the problem. No one does.”
Over at St. George’s, Kyle sits in on an incredibly ill-timed lecture about SEAL Team 6’s takedown of bin Laden, which the teacher describes as “essentially a home invasion.” Adding to Kyle’s anxiety, he finds a hand-drawn floor plan of his own home in his book, with red X-es and the names of his slain family members. Add in the barking of his teacher, and 3…2…1, commence panic attack.
Elsewhere, it’s a new day for sobered-up Holder. He apologizes to Linden and asks for her guidance on how to “not f— up” his kid. Though the last episode saw Linden happily discussing parenthood with Holder and predicting he’d be a good dad, it’s safe to say she no longer trusts her internal compass on this topic. She looks to her most recent learning moment and says, “You’re here, that’s what matters. It’s kind of the only thing that matters—that you show up.” She adds, “You’ll be all right.” Holder admits, “Everybody thinks I’m some piece of s— tweakhead, but you seem to think I’m something better.” Linden smiles maternally, “You’re 1-900-ROCK-STAR.” Point, Linden. As much as the sassy banter between Linden and Holder provides relief from the show’s grittier milestones, it’s these emotionally nuanced exchanges that showcase not only the surprisingly rich relationship these two share despite their short partnership, but also the range that Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman bring to the table.
The understated revelations continue as the partners search a gas-station bathroom. Holder explains that the monastery he jumped out of the car to visit yesterday was one he’d frequently after getting clean. In turn, she talks about her own, much less hopeful, beliefs: “God and angels and heaven and all that? Nah. But Hell? We’re in it.” She adds wryly: “Only 49 more bathrooms to go.” Outside one of those bathrooms the detectives run across a homeless man wearing a discarded St. George pendant. Bingo.
Further investigation by the CSI reveals a tooth shard, but Linden is pulled away by a phone call from Jack, who called Linden’s biological mother in hopes of some sort of reunion. Linden isn’t prepared to release 30 years of abandonment and bitterness, though. A tense, terse back-and-forth reveals that Linden was “a happy little girl” who loved parades. The more you know….
Linden returns to the car to find Jack smoking a cigarette (chip off the old block), but she doesn’t notice because she’s too infuriated by his ambush. Jack says he wanted to give Linden “back a piece of [her] life that was missing,” but his motives go deeper. He admits that his stepmother has effectively kicked him out of the house, and he’ll have no one if something happens to Linden. She promises nothing will happen. Two things: 1.) Impossible promise and 2.) Does anyone really have anybody on this show? It’s not exactly Full House; besides Reggie, who’s contended with her own issues, there hasn’t been a single example of a family unit that could be described as anything other than FUBAR. In the world of The Killing, families tend to be more of a liability than a boon. If the show had been given another season or two, I wouldn’t have been surprised if the Killer du Jour’s gaze turned to Jack at some point. But I digress…
Linden and Holder head to the hospital to follow up on an injury Linda suffered. The doctor makes it clear that Kyle was at fault, even though charges were never pressed. The head over to St. George’s to follow up, and Kyle unexpectedly reveals that his mother pushed him to be sexual with her… until he broke her wrist. Before Holder can goad him into confessing more, Rayne arrives and kicks them out. On the way, they spot a Burgundy Corolla matching one that was frequently parked outside the Stansburys’ house and that was seen at a gas station between St. George’s and the Stansburys’ on the night of the murders.
NEXT: Two guns, one smoking
That night, Kyle returns to his dorm to find the same map he saw earlier with a gun placed on top next to a note that advises him to “Finish what you started.” He sneaks into Rayne’s office to call Linden, only to be intercepted by Knopf. Kyle frantically brings Rayne to his room, but the gun, floor plan, and note are gone. Rayne locks him in for his “protection,” which is pretty much the beginning of a horror movie—especially when Linden learns that the Corolla belongs to Rayne herself. The calls are coming from inside the house!
Tying together many threads from this episode, Reddick’s junkie informant reported Holder’s NA testimony that he’d been involved in a murder. With very little effort, Reddick discovers that Holder placed a call from the tower near Skinner’s lake house and that Linden had requested a photo of a car that turned out to be Skinner’s. A conversation with Mrs. Skinner about her husband’s sexual proclivities ended with announcing she’d seen Linden toss something into the lake.
As night falls, Linden calls Holder, who flatly tells her to come to the lake. She arrives, and they behold rows of bodies wrapped in red bags—bodies that would have been the triumph of their careers if they’d only found them a week earlier. Now, Skinner and his car are also in that water gravy… though not for long. In a nice visual flourish that ties together the two arcs on the series so far, we get the full panorama, first with the body bags flanking Holder and Linden ( season 2 nod), then with the car rising from the water in front of them (like the beginning of Rosie Larsen’s case). Though Holder is guilty by association, the camera zooms in on Linden for the final shot of the episode. This is her war, and she is steeling herself. Did it need to take four episodes to get to this point? Probably not, but now we’re in the home stretch, and it is on.