Let’s start off this review with a few disclaimers. Despite its many flaws, I like The Killing. I wasn’t in an uproar when, at the end of its first season, the show failed to tell viewers who killed Rosie Larsen. I was happy the show came back for a second and, despite a brief cancellation, third season.
In the third season finale, Detective Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) killed her lover/mass murderer James Skinner (Elias Koteas). I was so not okay with leaving those characters and the world of The Killing forever with that ending. I was delighted that the show rose from the dead one more time.
So I started watching the fourth and final season of The Killing, truly happy that Netflix revived the show for one last hurrah and optimistic that a shortened, six-episode season would suit the series. One of the reasons I’ve remained a fan of the show is because Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman) is one of my favorite television characters ever. This season promises a darker Holder, who—while still smoking and eating vegan—must now live with the guilt that he’s complicit in the cover up of a murder.
“Blood in the Water” picks up a few hours after Linden killed Skinner. She’s in the shower washing the blood (and the guilt) off her body and burning the clothes she was wearing. “We’ve got to keep our stories straight,” Holder tells her. “No one’s got to find out. No one’s got to know what we did.”
The only problem with this not-so-full-proof plan is that they’ve left a trail of evidence behind them. Before Linden knew Skinner was the killer, she had a cop run the partial plates on his car. Adrian, the young boy whose mother was murdered and whose father was put to death for the crime, remembers that Skinner was following him and remembers that Skinner was actually the person who killed his mother. Skinner’s daughter Bethany remembers that her father left the house with Linden. There’s the dead girl who Joe Mills couldn’t have killed because he was in custody at the time. And perhaps, most importantly, Bethany is still wearing the ring of a dead girl—a trophy prize Skinner gave his daughter and the piece of jewelry that gave away his guilt to Linden. At the end of the hour, Bethany is banging at Linden’s door screaming for her father. I’m guessing she is not going to go away quietly Let’s hope Holder and Linden hid the body well.
Both characters carry their guilt in different ways and their partnership is in a precarious place. Linden, who seems this close to a nervous breakdown, sobs into the sheets that still smell like Skinner, grieving for the man she loved, now knowing that he wasn’t who she thought he was at all. Enos was really fantastic in these scenes—her emotional instability was palpable.
Holden wrestles with what this cover up will do to him while learning that his girlfriend Caroline (Jewel Staite) is pregnant. At first he handles it terribly (“You forgot to take your pills!?!”), and then handles it wonderfully (“Marry me. I want to be there for you. I want to be a good man.”)
At the end of last season, both Linden and Holder were worried about allowing the wrong man to be charged with the crime. Now they both seem fine with letting Joe Mills take the hit for multiple murders he didn’t commit. And in general, Detective Reddick (Gregg Henry) is a little suspicious of the pair. “What’s wrong with Linden?” he says to Holder. “She smiled at me.” After spending last season as the primary murder suspect, I’m glad to have Reddick back even if I’m worried he’s going to cause a lot of problems for Linden and Holder.
But life must go on and Linden and Holder are put on a brand new case—the murder of the Stansbury family. The parents and two children have been killed. The only person who survived is their teenage son Kyle (Tyler Ross), who is injured in the attack but not seriously. Already the black sheep in the family, Kyle has been sent away to a military school headed by Colonel Margaret Rayne (Joan Allen). “Kyle is incapable of violence,” Colonel Rayne tells the police. She assumes custody of Kyle while Linden and Holder initially think he’s guilty of the murders.
But, of course, it can’t be that simple. The gun that shot Kyle isn’t the same gun that killed his family. That gun cannot be found and Kyle is suffering from short-term memory loss—or so he claims. And something is definitely not right with the Stansbury family. Their will leaves no financial support to Kyle once he turns eighteen—not even for college. So far Allen’s Colonel Rayne is a bit of a mystery. She’s very protective of Kyle and has known his father for twenty years—could there be more to her relationship with Kyle and with the family than we know of? Probably. “Kid’s got time bomb carved in his DNA,” Holder says.
Linden is having trouble getting rid of her gun—the one she used to kill Skinner. Holder wants her to dispose of it and the casings and report the gun stolen. But Linden has left everything on her kitchen table. When she returns home, some of the casings are missing. Does someone know what she’s done?
The juxtaposition of Linden and Holder investigating one crime while simultaneously hiding another should suit the show well for its final run. Like I said, I’m happy it’s back.
Other thoughts on “Blood in the Water:”
•Lots of imagery with the bright red blood against the Stansbury’s all white living space. But I ask you, who has than much white in their house when they have three children? This made me immediately suspicious. Something was not right with this family.
•I really appreciated that exhaustion was the signifier for Caroline’s pregnancy, as opposed to her rushing to the bathroom to vomit. My TV pet peeve is a woman vomiting as a “she’s pregnant” giveaway.
•Speaking of pregnancy, Mireille Enos was pregnant while filming this season, just as she was while filming the first season. That means we’ll be seeing a lot more of those big bulky sweaters.
•The show continues to kill me with its outdated technology. Seriously Linden and Holder are still using flip phones? Can you even buy those anymore? Even my parents, who live in the house that technology forgot, have iPhones.
•And now for the Holder quote of the episode: “Already done mamacita. Even minus my joe with a kiss of hemp milk, I’m a 1-900 rock star.”
What did you think of the season premiere of The Killing? Are you glad the show is back? Talk about it below.
Amy Amatangelo is a Boston-based freelance writer, a member of the Television Critics Association and a regular contributor to Paste. You can follow her on Twitter or her blog.