Maybe we like to torture ourselves or maybe we want to see The Killing live up to its potential, but we’re back watching AMC’s methodical investigation series with lots of interest. Time has passed and Detective Holder (Joel Kinnaman) has a new partner and newfound success at his job, solving seven out of seven cases since the Rosie Larsen case. Holder’s former partner, Sarah Linden (Mirelle Enos) has been separated from society, working at Vashon, one of Seattle’s nearby islands as a ferry stop worker until Holder brings her back into the fold. Underneath all of the cosmetic changes, Season 3 has showed plenty of other reasons why The Killing has our attention again.
12. They turned “The Killing” from a noun to a verb
See what they did there? Instead of trying to circle around the death of one static crime scene, all of the possible leads, and its ripple effect on surrounding parties, Season 3 brings multiple plots together to prevent the acts of a serial killer from continuing. Rather than fill the series with red herrings and wondering if each episode was going to give the key evidence to catch the killer–which it usually didn’t–there are two clocks racing: 1) Catching the killer who has over 15 victims and counting, and 2) seeing if Holder’s new case would give evidence to reopen the Ray Seward (Peter Sarsgaard) case and find him innocent before he is put to death.
A new case means an entry point for new viewers too. The focus is split up equally on Holder, Linden, Seward, and profiling the killer on the loose as compared to Seasons 1 and 2 where Holder and Linden shouldered all of the weight, while the audience were forced to care about someone who may or may not be involved. The difference is that the first two seasons showed a more realistic portrayal of detective work, the third is a more practical production of a compelling television show.
11. Ray Seward
Over four years ago, Seward was found guilty for murdering his wife, Trisha Ann by Linden and her then partner, (lover), and current boss James Skinner (Elias Koteas). He is 30 days from execution and that puts a clock on Linden to find a connection between Trisha and Holder’s new case. But Seward remains a mystery man; he clearly is full of evil and hate, but Linden’s confronted him with evidence that he’s probably innocent–at least of his wife’s murder. We watch him to see if he’ll snap or if he’ll take out prison guard Francis Becker (Hugh Dillon). Seward wants others to know that he’s a psychopath who is not seeking redemption, but he wants to see Adrian one last time (if he truly is his son). The third lead character in Season 1 and 2 was Billy Campbell’s Darren Richmond and sorry, dirty politicians are not as compelling as murderers.
10. Detective Holder. Detective Holder. Detective Holder.
We have a man crush on Joel Kinnaman because he’s 80% of why we tune into this show. His dialogue, mannerisms, character’s randomness, Vegan-Lacto diet, lack of respect for a crime scene (drinking skim milk?) and how he smears his stank all over your face when he’s right. He’s different this season, and it’s not just the wardrobe from Men’s Warehouse. He’s hungry for the hard case, bored by the easy cases where gangbangers kill each other. Holder uses his street smarts from when he was in Narcotics to get further progress. Linden’s thoroughness wore off on him and there’s no sign of a relapse. He’s turned into a real detective, one that’s different than any other seen on TV.
9. Holder’s new partner
Carl Reddick (Gregg Henry) is the lazy, scummy, sleazy detective Holder used to be. He argues with first officers on the scene, complains about the new case because it will mean more work, throws dirt on Linden whenever he can and the guy’s never in need of a snide remark, like this one: “I need to check my balls for lice after going in there.” He’s difficult to trust and that means he’s one to watch.
8. Holder is STILL an equal opportunity hater.
He hates on Reddick. He hated on Bullet when he met her, calling her a “little, baby, butch, bitch ass,” just to put her in her place and then there Mama Dips at the roach motel. “Gimme a smile, Mama San.” We never know what’s going to come out of his mouth and who he’s going to piss off.
7. Better storytelling
We’ve already mentioned the change in series structure, but there’s vast improvements in how each episode unfolds. This started in Season 2 when the writers weren’t trying so hard to give us the “red herring of the week,” only to reach a dead end at the beginning of the next episode. In Season 3, we’re five episodes in and the first “suspect” has appeared, but we don’t necessarily feel like we’re at the end of the rope (plus there is still over half a season to go). Linden has the Seward case to reconsider and we see how it’s playing out in prison. One of the killer’s victims escaped and was saved. It wasn’t the one we all thought it was, but each episode has been a different experience and that keeps it fresh and unpredictable without being annoying.
Another enjoyable aspect is not being stuck having to tell one day’s events in one episode. That structure made earlier episodes maddening as some weeks were so dense while others were extremely sparse. The scope this season is much tighter to the case whereas the mayoral race and Indian reservation ballooned the first two seasons and gave viewers places to tune out or be more interested in tangents, instead of the Rosie Larsen investigation. It’s still a slow show, and it would be nice if we could get two episodes at a time so it feels like the story is actually driving towards its destination instead of crawling to it, but it is what it is, and we’ve grown accustomed to its deliberate pace. The overall writing has improved and that’s the a difference that ultimately keeps us around for the long haul.
6. We care about transient youths living tragic and depressing lives – ok, at least through the television
Rosie Larsen didn’t fit in this category, but she was a youth and wanted to escape and be adventurous. She was tragically in the wrong place at the wrong time. The killer in season three is targeting homeless under-aged working girls that leave themselves open to a dangerous and nomadic lifestyle. No one is actively looking for them, so there was no reason to worry about the authorities cracking down. Geez, talk about depressing. On a social level, it’s uncomfortable to watch teenagers turning tricks with old men, but we must care them otherwise we would have tuned out by now.
5. We also apparently enjoy watching child abuse
There’s a theme of children being squeezed through the foster system, starting with Linden being raised as a foster child, there was the outreach programs mayoral candidate Darren Richmond sponsored, Ray Seward’s son is in the system now, and the detectives are constantly circling through all of the places on the streets where kids hang out instead of being in school. Those who’ve watched Seasons 1 and 2 know how bad Linden was to her son, but this season Danette Lutz (Amy Seimetz) is sure to get a Mother of the Year award with her eye-widening displays of neglect to her daughter Kallie.
4. Jack is out of the picture.
Linden is a bad mother. We got the idea after 26 episodes and the last thing we want to see is Linden trying to earn herself a mother’s day card. Jack (Liam James) is a fun character when he interacted with Holder; we just can’t bear to see him in awkward conversations with Linden. Like in the season premiere, Jack asks Linden why she’s still living in Seattle and she had no answer. When he asks her to move to Chicago and she replies that she would only know him and his father. That’s a way of saying, I don’t want to raise you or be near you. Word of advice, Jack, live with your father for the duration of the season because at least we’ll know you’ll be fed properly there.
3. Holder has a girlfriend and she works for the District Attorney’s office
And she’s nothing what you’d expect. We get to see yet another side of the tough-talking Holder, you know the one that talks mushy and questions Caroline about his-and-hers Sonicare toothbrushes infiltrating his bathroom. Oh and since Jewel Staite played Kaylee Frye on the Joss Whedon’s cult series Firefly there was a nice little reference to it at the beginning of their scene referring to Holder’s tattoo on his chest. But this is the winning exchange so far in season three:
Caroline: I got a new “Untamed and Uncut” on the DVR.
Caroline: Whaaaaaa–Double white shark attacks.
Holder: Oh Snap!
Hope we see more of this Holder with Caroline, just please don’t let her be sucked into this investigation. This isn’t Se7en and we don’t want to see Jewel’s pretty little head in a box.
2. The Rain
Yes, the amount of rain is exaggerated but it is often overcast in Seattle and the rain does more to set the tone for the dreary misery and the loneliness so many of these characters share in common. Besides, most television shows take place in sunny, pretty environments of Los Angeles or Miami, etc. so we respect one that’s willing to set the story in Seattle and not be afraid of the elements.
1. Linden is still… Linden.
When this series started, who ever thought Linden would be the one who breaks the rules, ruffles feathers, and goes off the deep end? There’s so much to learn about Linden, whenever she lets the audience in. Habits are hard to break and she persists on investigating crime scenes dark, seedy places all by her lonesome. On a run, she stumbles on a scary cattle barn and shoot one cow dead to put it out of its misery. It’s symbolic of what she discovers when she finds the pond filled with dead bodies. She had an affair with her former partner James Skinner (Elias Koteas) and rocks the cradle with another tryst to start the season. There’s no hiding her faults this season, Linden admitted it when explaining to Cody she has to end their fling, “I break things.”
Are you watching the third season of The Killing? If so, what’s keeping you watching?