The Killing Season 4 Review

5 Aug


“Always the one with a conscience.”

Although oftentimes, its themes have been shrouded by questionable writing and lazy contrivances, The Killing has always been about family, about the fraying and strengthening of relationships in the face of loss, of grief. It all began with the Larsen family members and the toll Rosie’s loss and the subsequent investigation took on them, and it ends with a look at St. George’s Military Academy and, for one last time, Sarah Linden and Stephen Holder.

If there’s a weaker aspect to the final, six episode run, it would be the former, but that’s just keeping in line with most of the rest of the series. The cases have always paled in comparison to the central Linden-Holder dynamic, one so wonderfully acted by Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman, and that’s the case here. The writers do attempt to draw parallels, though–too many, I would argue–between the two threads: Linden-biological mother to Linden-Kyle to Rayne-Kyle to Linden-Jack to Holder-daughter, with a common theme of family, or at least family-esque feelings. In the end, the point is clear: the relationships these characters have built or are attempting to build are the only things keeping them tethered to reality, keeping them from completely losing themselves as the world bears down on them from all sides.

There’s a ticking bomb hanging over the season in the form of Skinner’s body, and as Reddick gets closer and closer to finding it, Linden and Holder both start to unravel. Linden breaks down in her house, sobbing into her pillow and vigorously rubbing away blood on her walls and frantically searching for a missing shell casing. Holder lashes out at his sister and at Kallie’s mom and at those around him in NA, and that last one in particular comes back around to bite both of them in the ass (due to Reddick’s informant). They’re both hanging over the edge, one push away from completely imploding and destroying the relationships they’ve built up.

So, they both throw themselves into the Stansbury case, one which is fairly compelling but gets too dark just for the sake of it and too repetitive. It’s surprising for a six-episode season just how much it feels like we’ve been hit over the head with scene after scene of pain or Kyle rushing to Rayne or Rayne ordering the cadets to behave themselves. I’ll cut it some slack, though, considering it’s difficult to bring up and solve a new case in six episodes; in addition, we’ve all seen how the Rosie Larsen case turned out, so perhaps some time constraints suit this show better.

The most interesting aspect of the Stansbury case is the Linden-Rayne dynamic, not Kyle masturbating over his mom’s picture or the Itsy Bitsy Spider slapfest in the showers (that sounds more upbeat than it really is). Here we have two women heavily invested in this case–one because the suspect is her son, the other because she needs something to occupy her mind and eventually feels like she needs to protect that suspect–facing off with each other, and what results is a stand-off in which no one can really land any blows. “I know women like you, alone in the world…” Rayne says to Linden at one point, a phrase later used against her; they have very different ways of operating, yet they have more similarities than they could ever imagine. They’re simultaneously confident in their abilities to outmaneuver the other and in worlds of hurt when it comes to their families, and in the end, neither wins; Rayne finds some sort of peace in taking the blame for Kyle’s actions, but she’s in jail, and Linden solves the case and doesn’t go to jail, but Skinner gets off free (or, as free as you can get when you’re dead).

“Grab every piece of life, every piece of it, and never be ashamed of anything because, no matter what happens to me, you were always my best thing,” Linden says to Jack before he leaves, and she seems to not only be speaking to her son there, but also to herself. The case isn’t only tearing her apart; it’s tearing her away from Holder. She pulls a gun on him in the finale, and we can see the pain in her eyes and the rage and the desperation in her voice, and we can also see the disgust in Holder’s expression, the disgust that his partner would suspect him of taking the casing and ratting her out.

Of course, after all’s said and done, they’re the two people who understand each other the best. There’s a beautiful shot of them standing on opposite sides of a mirror, two people who reflect themselves, two people whose relationship has been tested but is still strong. And, after the time jump in the finale, we see that they’re both in better places. When Linden goes to visit her partner at his new job (plus, his daughter seems to be getting along very well with him), he advises her to look at the world around them, to realize that this isn’t a city of death. She takes a drive in a scene reminiscent of the opening credits, with a few differences: there are rain-soaked windows, but it isn’t raining, and it’s not nighttime. It’s a nice way to delve into Sarah’s mindset, to convey the way the drive and the partnership begin to lift the weights that have been on her shoulders from Day 1.

She returns to Holder, and although we don’t know whether things get romantic–thank God we don’t get a kiss, because I wouldn’t like that at all–it seems as if everything’s perfectly clear. Sitting in that cop car, smoking cigarettes, is where Sarah Linden and Stephen Holder belong, and nothing will change that. So, Sarah smiles–a rare sight–and instead of it signifying that something’s wrong*, it instead signifies that everything’s right.





-Linden’s difficulty in navigating St. George’s speaks to her character: the mindset there is exactly the opposite of the way she handles things, in that it’s all about sacrifice; Linden, on the other hand, is fiercely independent. That element of sacrifice, by the way, is echoed in the end for Rayne’s fate.

-*This is in reference to something Reddick says after she tries to wiggle her way around his questions; she smiles, and Reddick says something along the lines of “She smiled at me! What’s wrong with her?”

-The car being pulled out of the water is a nice callback to the beginning of the Rosie Larsen case (remember when that case was interesting, for all of 3 episodes?). In addition, the finale opens in the same way the pilot does–with a different Linden mindset, of course–with Linden running, and the line of cops searching is reminiscent of the pilot as well. Also, that joke Linden makes. Lots of callbacks.

-I’m not a huge fan of Linden and her biological mother being thrown in there at the last second, but I like the last scene of theirs together: them retelling the story of the parade/pinwheel. It’s not a moment that’ll solve everything, but it’s a moment of peace.

-Oh. Hi, Richmond. I like the scene there; Linden seems to be at her most peaceful when she’s confessing, but Richmond gets his own form of revenge by telling her that the murders won’t be pinned on Skinner.

-That Bullet callback in the finale…man, that hurts.

-Jewel Staite’s fantastic throughout, and although it’s disappointing that things don’t work out, it was probably inevitable that it wouldn’t, anyway. Hopefully, Caroline is happy.

-I really enjoyed Reddick this season. He wasn’t a bad guy at all, as I’m sure some shows would make him out to be.

-The Kyle stuff in the academy gets way melodramatic very fast, but there’s no denying that Tyler Ross is very sympathetic in the role. In addition, the actors who play AJ and Lincoln are great with what they have.

-Here’s the final song of the series:

Also, Chopin’s Nocturne in C-Sharp Minor is played by Kyle in episode three and is used to open four.

-The cinematography and direction has been fantastic throughout the series, even in its not so great stretches. I really like the Stansbury house set in particular and the way the colors contrast, and once again, Demme’s shot of Linden and Holder on opposite sides of the mirror is sublime.

-Well, that’s it for The Killing. It’s had its ups and downs and fair share of criticism, but I’m glad it gets to end its story on its own terms. Favorite episode of the series? Probably “Six Minutes”.

Photo credit: Netflix, The Killing,


2 Responses to “The Killing Season 4 Review”

  1. JustMeMike August 6, 2014 at 4:58 pm #

    Well done PB –

    I’m still digesting this last episode.

    About the cinematography – I really liked the slow moving aerial shots which served as the transition of both time and place. Yes, they were repetitive they brought forth the tranquility that exists outside when you step away, and ‘above’ the fray. While often the transition was bringing us toward a cauldron like St. George Academy, or the Stansbury home, or even Linden ‘set apart’ home, it serves as respite.

    And the closeups. One of my readers liked the aspect of the closeups which seemed to come with far greater frequency in Ep 5 and Ep 6 than earlier. You know closeup are really a dual mechanism, or perspective.

    On the one hand it brings us right up close to the actors or character and we see everything – a tremor, a tic, and a quick insight in that instant when the characters eyes change according to what they’re thinking.

    On the other hand, the closeup pushes everything else out of the picture. The loss of the depth of field which creates a blurred and indistinct background gives us only the character to focus on. I think it heightens the intensity and is a very powerful stylistic choice.

    I was also asked (in an email) what was Colonel Rayne’s relationship to Kyle Stansbury. I think it was sufficiently murky until Ep 5 when Linden read from a report that she had lost a child.

    I was wrong about Det. Reddick too. In my post I said that we were underestimating his police skills which seemed obscured by his generally boorish behavior. But he turned out to be smarter than we thought as well as better than we thought.

    Last thought – the unraveling of both Linden and Holder because of the external and internal pressures on them was just so well written and acted.For me this was the highlight of the short season.

    • polarbears16 August 7, 2014 at 3:31 am #

      Thank you for those insights about the camera work. Stylistic choices have always been fascinating to me, and like you said, they help get across characterization and themes.

      Agreed on the unraveling. Linden and Holder have always been the most interesting aspects of this show, and I really like that the writers tested their relationship before bringing it all back around in the end.

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