[This is a review of The Killing season 4, episode 6. There will be SPOILERS.]
Right away it was clear that, with its series finale titled ‘Eden’, The Killing would be making a push to send its characters on a figurative journey to a place they had never known – i.e., in search of peace within themselves and with the rest of the world. That’s a little rote for a cop show, but fine, whatever. What wasn’t obvious was how, in the stretch of time detectives Linden and Holder spent driving around Seattle with the windows up in their state-issued Chevy Caprice, chain smoking cigarettes and bickering constantly about vices, poor parenting choices, and the veracity of whatever red herring they were chasing at the moment, true love apparently blossomed.
Now, the Internet is a vast, strange place, so there is little doubt a contingent of viewers have carved out a niche somewhere, shipping Linden and Holder at one point or another. After all, Mireille Enos did shoot Joel Kinnaman a wry smile on more than one occasion that might easily have been misconstrued as something more than a mild appreciation for Holder’s tendency to refer to every woman he encounters as “mamacita.” So, it could be argued that, along with all the tension riding along with the two detectives as they worked to solve the murder of the Stansbury family (and the other cases they basically managed to bungle in the previous three seasons), some of that tension would naturally manifest as the sexual variety.
As such, the ending of the Series That Wouldn’t Die is basically a happy one – in that two broken people come the realization that being broken isn’t so bad, so long as there’s someone to be broken with. Or, more to the point, that the person standing across from them is the right fit because he or she isn’t constantly reaching for the psychological super glue to try and repair years of emotional wear and tear. But for a series that had worked very hard to present its damaged characters essentially as a reflection of the victims (and in some cases, the perpetrators) of the crimes they were investigating, the sharp right turn into heretofore unfounded romantic territory felt more than a little unearned.
Perhaps things would have been different if Linden’s return to Seattle, to find Holder happy in fatherhood and helping others overcome their own addictions, hadn’t been a simple coda tacked on to a finale that already had two dramatically inert climaxes. Had the audience been given some clue that Linden’s cross-country travels over the past six or so years were all done in search of a connection that was apparently as deep and resonant as the one she had with her partner – you know, the guy she, among other things, pulled a gun on and accused of colluding with Reddick (Gregg Henry) to see her charged with Skinner’s murder – maybe the sight of the two former detectives ending up with each other would have felt like the logical culmination of a series that had inexplicably lasted four seasons.
But Moonlighting this is not. The only question resembling a “will they or won’t they” situation between Linden and Holder was more along the lines of “will they ever change out of their lumpy sweaters and unwashed hoodies?” Nevertheless, as inconsistent as it was, the sheer incongruity of The Killing‘s final moments at least felt somewhat inevitable. That is to say: that ending in particular may not have been expected, but given the series’ history, some sort of eye-rolling conclusion certainly felt unavoidable.
This was a program that often presented itself as one where character came first; the conclusion to season 4 left little doubt that simply was not the case. With just six episodes to wrap up what was essentially the story of Sarah Linden and Stephen Holder, The Killing puzzlingly inserted another overwrought homicide storyline to compete with the potentially engaging (though not at all original) idea of two detectives attempting to get away with the unlawful killing of a lawman, who was himself a killer. So, while it’s hard to imagine anyone wanted to watch Venna Sud’s Low Winter Sun, Linden and Holder are not Agnew and Geddes; there’s at least something behind them that makes you want to care about them. And something to that effect had begun to germinate around the cover-up of Skinner’s execution, before Col. Rayne (yes, in a series notorious for its stylistic misrepresentation of how much it actually rains in Seattle, a character was given the surname Rayne) and her killer cadets came in like a cloud of locusts to consume what little storytelling crop this series had to offer.
And while it’s understandable that a performer as well regarded as Joan Allen would lend some credibility to the final season of a show running low on such standing, even the combined efforts of Allen, Enos, and Kinnaman were unable to overcome the inanity of what was essentially the season’s A-plot.
For starters, this is 2014, how are television shows still using amnesia (temporary or otherwise) as a plot device? What’s more, Kyle’s amnesia, which was caused by a bullet to the head that miraculously didn’t kill him, only drew out the inevitable, so that his issues with maternal abandonment and his subsequent social alienation could be made into a parallel with Linden’s own troubled childhood – complete with ‘East of Eden’ reference – and the recent reunion she experienced with the woman who had given her up decades prior.
While the correlation between the two explains Linden’s reaction to Kyle’s plight, what it ultimately said about her character that the audience didn’t already know – or the B-plot of Reddick investigating Skinner’s death, for that matter – is very little. The murder of the Stansburys and Col. Rayne’s involvement in it was, frankly, not compelling, and yet it dominated the season’s narrative so much so that when Billy Campbell returned as Mayor Darren Richards, to sweep Skinner’s death as well as his crimes under the rug, and to knowingly frame an innocent man for a policeman’s crimes, it was as though the Netflix binge-watch mechanism inadvertently shuffled ahead five episodes.
As disappointing as the season was, you have to hand it to The Killing. Like its broken characters, this broken drama kept plugging away, trying to achieve that one story that would validate all the bad choices it had made in the past. Instead, just like Linden and Holder, try as they might to keep it together and to keep the show going, it seems those behind this series might find they are better off the moment they step away.
All four seasons of The Killing are available on Netflix.
Photos: Carole Segal/Netflix