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‘The Killing’ Season Finale Review: “From Up Here; The Road to Hamelin”

The Killing Season 3 Finale
AMC

Just when you thought you were out, ‘The Killing‘ pulls you back in with a two-hour season 3 finale, revealing (surprise!) that things aren’t quite done yet, and there are still some major revelations about the serial killer case. It’s a bit brazen, and a little jarring, given that the season seemed to be winding down so beautifully.

Well, everyone who had Elias Koteas in ‘The Killing’ serial killer betting pool can celebrate now. But let’s back up a bit — the first hour of the two-part season finale has some lovely stuff. Danette makes peace with Kallie’s disappearance and death in her own way, befriending Lyric and trying to reach out to a girl who was lost so much like her own. And Lyric and her scummy boyfriend even get their own happy ending, with Lyric working at a fast food joint, and her guy playing house — when he finds some old drugs in his jacket pocket, he disposes of them. It’s a fresh start for everyone. The first hour’s title, “From Up Here,” is reflected in characters like Danette, who goes up to the bridge, closes her eyes, and counts to five, just like she did when Kallie was little, but unlike the game they used to play, Kallie doesn’t magically appear when she opens her eyes. The “up there” also seems to refer to Lyric’s boyfriend, taking in the fresh air from the rooftop of their apartment, and Lyric herself, looking down at a seated Danette in the fast food restaurant. From up here, it turns out, you can see for miles and the air is clear.

But there are some people who aren’t finding any peace, and the second hour moves away from these peripheral characters to focus on Linden and Holder, who have discovered a new body — the burnt body of Angie. Someone wants to shut her up, and they quickly discover that the killer is still at large, and even worse: it’s a cop. Though some of the chasing after Reddick (this poor guy) seems like more red herring business, it does provide Linden and Holder with some pertinent information, chiefly in regards to that treehouse Seward build for Adrian, which happened to give the kid the perfect vantage point (again with the title, “From Up Here”) overlooking the serial killer’s primary dumping ground.

But the biggest reveal is, of course, that it was Lieutenant Skinner the whole time. I’m not sure I entirely buy the plausibility — it was awfully convenient that he showed up at the beginning of the season to oversee the precinct, just as Kallie Leeds went missing and the case started to pick up some steam, but it’s not entirely implausible either, given that he would likely want his fingers on the pulse of this investigation. What doesn’t work is that it feels so rushed and tacked on, where the stuff with Pastor Mike and Mills had more breathing room and built some breathtaking moments of tension. Once again, the writers of ‘The Killing’ just can’t let it go until they feel as though they’ve pulled one over on you at the last minute, and just like season 2, it was someone we were staring at the whole time. Up until this final episode, the show had been firing on all cylinders, and it’s not that I question the choice to make Skinner the killer — I just question why it had to play out at the 11th hour, like a race to the finish line. ‘The Killing’ is at its best when it allows these stories to breathe and doesn’t get bogged down with contrivances and convoluted plotting, and it takes more time to choose its misdirects carefully, seeing them through to their inevitable conclusion with grace.

There is little that is graceful about the third act in “The Road to Hamelin,” which finds Linden going for yet another car ride with someone dangerous. But it’s even worse this time because she was having an affair with a killer and had no idea who he really was. Koteas is wonderfully creepy, telling Linden that some part of her surely knew about this side of him, and that is, in part, why she continued the affair. And Mireille Enos continues to give us an outstanding performance as Linden struggles with whether or not to shoot Skinner, even after Holder tells her that Adrian is alive and safe and Skinner is just manipulating her.

The final episode calls to mind two other prominent bits of pop culture: ‘The Shield,’ in which Clark Gregg’s serial killer character explains to Dutch that he kills because of the look in the eyes of his victims, that special look that can only come about in their final moments, after the terror and after the begging — it’s basically the same speech Skinner gives Linden here, followed by a send-up of David Fincher’s ‘Seven,’ in which Linden must battle the rage and despair inside of her that’s driving her to want to shoot this murderous psychopath in the face. And like Brad Pitt in that movie, she pulls the trigger, knowing that she is forever changed.

It’s also sort of a strange way to end the episode, but I have to admit, I’m into it. Whether or not ‘The Killing’ is picked up for season 4, we just watched a detective (and her partner) evolve over the course of three seasons, with all the real-life horror she faces every day taking her down this path to confront the idea that she allowed this horror into her bed without even knowing it, unwittingly compromising her own integrity and moral compass. In that moment, the gun is an extension of Linden’s psyche, and it’s just been itching for some sort of release.

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