The Killing Premiere Recap: 'The Light at the End of the Tunnel Is a Train Speeding Toward Them'

the-killing-season-3-premiere-recapHolder’s rocking suits and studying for the sergeant’s exam. Linden has food in her kitchen and laughs freely in the arms of her handsome young lover.

But don’t be fooled: While more than a little time has passed — and been relatively kind to our central protagonists — between Seasons 2 and 3 of AMC’s The Killing, the forecast remains gloomy with a chance of showers, homicide, downward spirals and crippling obsessions. Also, nobody’s actually given up smoking (despite their breezy lies to the contrary). And really, while these behaviors might be bad for our Seattle crime-fighting duo, they sure do make for compelling viewing, no?

In other words, whatever your feelings about the show’s much-maligned second season — personally, I thought it was still pretty addictive — its latest two-hour premiere, “The Jungle”/”That You Fear the Most,” promises to restore AMC’s back-from-cancellation underdog to must-see status.

Let’s cut to the recapping, shall we? First, a little check-in on what our heroes have been up to since we last saw ’em:

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Linden’s Island Life | Linden’s no longer working homicide, instead having found minimum-wage employment working security on a ferry boat to and from the Seattle-area island she now calls home. Jack’s still living in Chicago with his dad, but there’s a new young man in her life — a sexy coworker named Cody — which allows for the premiere’s funniest exchange, Holder imagining a “Can Jack come out to play?”/”Jack’s not home, but would you like to come in?” scenario that leaves even Linden cracking up.

Call Him Sgt. Holder? | Holder’s done away with his undercover-dealer drag and gone all Justin Timberlake: “I be on my suit and tie, suit and tie s***.” (Lookin’ mighty fine, too!) He’s got a cynical new partner who’s more interested in getting credit for solving cases than taking on tough-to-crack murder investigations that might go unsolved. And as mentioned above, Holder’s got his eye on making sergeant (fueled in part by his impressive 7-for-7 solved record).

The shiny happy surfaces of Linden and Holder’s lives, of course, provide a stark contrast to the dark path they’re about to go down. And we know what’s coming, seeing how Season 3 starts with a teenage prostititue climbing into a car with an anonymous john, and later, Holder and his new partner coming to the scene of an abandoned warehouse and finding the girl nearly beheaded, her finger broken violently (and post-mortem) by a killer intent on stealing her ring (as a trophy?).

Here’s where it gets complicated: The lives of Linden, Holder, a group of homeless teens and a death-row inmate (Peter Sarsgaard) all get intertwined in the course of the investigation. Not all of the ties that bind them become entirely clear in the Season 3 premiere, but there’s certainly a suspect or three in the mix.

TROUBLED YOUTH | Early in the episode, we meet two homeless girls — sad-eyed Kallie and androgynous Bullet, the latter who pines away for a third street kid, the lovely but clearly troubled Lyric. Lyric, meanwhile, is caught up with an older guy, Twitch, who’s using her for sex and cash as he plans an escape to Hollywood to become a model/actor/whatever. International bad vibes surround the kids at every turn: Kallie winds up one evening with nowhere to stay — her own mother more interested in keeping a new boyfriend than keeping her daughter off the cold streets — and she gets into that same, horrible car that led to our first runaway’s hideous death. (Her fate remains unknown, but the prognosis is almost certainly fatal.) Bullet, trying to track down Kallie (who’s not answering her phone), winds up getting raped by a malevolent bearded dude who appears to prey on wayward youths and joked about Kallie’s death the day prior. Twitch burns through Lyric’s money in order to dye his hair. None of ’em seem like they’ll turn out to be the killer in question, but it’s conceivable that bearded dude and Twitch will get questioned — as well as the kindly pastor who houses as many kids per night as his shelter can accomodate. (He doesn’t offer them the light at the end of the tunnel, he says, he just tries to pull the kids off the tracks before the trains bear down on ’em).

(THE DRAWING OF) THE FOREST (OR THE TREES) | Remember that drawing that haunted Linden in Seasons 1 and 2 — the stark, bare-branched forest repeatedly drawn by a child who’d been stuck with his mother’s brutally murdered corpse for six whole days? Well, it’s baaa-aack in Season 3. Here’s how: The man Linden helped put away for the crime, Ray Seward, has 30 days till execution, but she’s got so many doubts haunting her that she’s kept the case file locked away in her attic (and finds herself showing up at the home of her pre-Holder partner/possible lover to confess her doubts). The victim of Seward’s alleged crime had her head nearly severed and her ring finger broken — and when Holder “accidentally” leaves the case file for his murdered teen on her kitchen table, Linden sees the connection and even visits the new crime scene (her shoes ruined by “stepping in that bouillabaisse,” as Holder notes). When a visit to Seward in prison uncovers more doubts (his memory seems dubious with regard to taking a ring off his dead wife’s body), Linden heads to a deserted corner of Seattle that resembles little Adrian’s drawing — and there, at the end of our two-hour premiere — she stumbles across a shallow pond filled with tightly wrapped corpses. Suddenly, Linden’s old obsession has new life — and you’d best believe she’s not going to be working ferry security for long, especially when she’s already asking Holder tough questions like why did the teenage victim willingly get out of a vehicle in the creepiest building in the creepiest part of town. (Sample theory: “He knows how to control them because he’s done it before.”)

HOLDER’S TOO GOOD FOR HIS JOB | Nobody seems too interested in taking on the dead teenage girl’s case, but something (a conscience?) won’t let Holder let go — even if he knows it’s going to be a minefield that distracts from that sergeant spot. But who’dve thunk even Linden would dissuade his eagerness. “Not every victim’s worth it,” she tells him, avoiding handing over the Seward file, thinking about her own self-immolated career, and trying not to get her own interest piqued. Holder’s response is a moment of sad perfection: “I never thought I’d see the day I heard that coming from you.” When he finds out the victim’s name was Ashley, and that she was just a troubled 14-year-old runaway with desperately concerned parents, he grabs the case head-on, going so far as to follow up on Bullet’s police report about Kallie’s disappearance. Could this risk his lovely life with a sweet girlfriend who buys him his own electronic toothbrush and DVRs shark-week programming they can watch together over popcorn? I sure hope not. I mean, just because Linden has serious work-life boundary issues doesn’t mean her former/hopefully future partner has to suffer the same fate.

DEAD MAN STALKING | And finally there’s the matter of this creepy Ray Seward. He seems not terrible as he’s transported to a death-row ward, that is until he grabs hold of the prison chaplin’s lapels and beats the man’s skull into the bars of his cell. And then he’s talking up the tired young prison guard with a newborn baby (could that guy or his hardass boss be a potential suspect? too obvs, maybe?) to let him call his lawyer, but instead using the call to harrass Linden’s long-ago partner. Something’s not right with the guy, but if your wife had been slaughtered, your child’s life thrown to shambles and you’d been wrongly convicted for it all, maybe you’d turn a bit sociopathic yourself? (Let’s hope not, and let’s hope none of us every have to find out). I do know Sarsgard’s bland handsomeness and menacingly cheerful tone add another layer of dread to the show whenever he’s on screen.

What did you think of The Killing’s Season 3 premiere? Are you ready to solve another crime with Holdern and Linden? Do you think we’ve already met the killer? Sound off below!