The Killing Season 3 Finale Recap: The Killer Is...

The Killing Season 3 Finale RecapWarning: If you have yet to watch the Season 3 finale of The Killing, hop on over to another TVLine URL. Everyone else, jump on in!

To me, The Killing has always been more about the journey (of Linden and Holder methodically working and charmingly vibing) than the destination (of solving the titular homicide).

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Oh sure, executive producer Veena Sud & Co. tested us — and how! — by dragging out the “Who killed Rosie Larsen?” storyline for all of Seasons 1 and 2 (and cooking up enough red herrings to feed the entire population of Seattle for a year). But Season 3’s meditative march toward taking down the Pied Piper — the brutal serial killer of teenage prostitutes (and perhaps the wife of wrongfully executed Ray Seward) — has been an altogether different animal. The implicit promise of a resolution at the end of 12 episodes has allowed us to bask in the sad, sombre, overcast mood (punctuated with bursts of Holder’s cheeky humor). Along the way, we’ve been treated to some of the most subtly powerful (or should we go with powerfully subtle?) acting work on the small screen all year.

And yet in tonight’s back-to-back finale installments — “From Up Here” and “The Road to Hamelin” — the time arrived to recount the evidence against a certain member of the Seattle Police Dept: Yep, Detective Carl Reddick, Holder’s former professional partner and Linden’s frequent verbal sparring partner. As Linden and Holder outlined to their boss, Lt. James Skinner, the proof was damning (albeit circumstantial).

* Reddick initially tried to dump the case on the hapless Jablonski
* He used to live next door to the Pied Piper’s first victim
* He took Bullet’s final calls to the precinct, before she turned up murdered
* He let the only survivor of the serial killer, Angie, slip out of the hospital before she’d met with a sketch artist

But — whoops! — maybe they shouldn’t have shared with Skinner and Skinner alone, a fact Linden learned when she stopped by her boss/lover’s home to discuss the case and the subsequent disappearance of little Adrian Seward, the boy whose mom had been presumably killed because he’d seen the murderer from his tree-house perch several years back. When Skinner’s family arrived home, Linden spotted his daughter sporting the gaudy turquoise ring once owned by missing teen Kallie — tying everything together in one bloody (convenient) (horrifying) (slightly contrived) knot.

The season ended with Linden holding Skinner at gunpoint as he took her on a verrrrry long drive to the secluded lakehouse where he was allegedly holding Adrian. But it turned out the boy was merely camped out at his dead mother’s gravesite. After a long night of head games, though, Linden gave Skinner the Old Yeller treatment, putting a bullet into him — much to the shock of her just-on-the-scene partner Holder. “No!” he cried. “No, no, no.” And just like that, we cut to black.

The ending was so abrupt, in fact, I half wondered if there’d be some kind of epilogue after the final ad break. But nope, this is how The Killing ended, not with crisp certainty, but with typical fuzziness. (Whether the ending is just for now or forever, we won’t know until AMC announces either a Season 4 pickup or an ill-advised cancellation.)

And yet as much as I hope we’re treated to the Further Adventures of Linden and Holder, I’ve got to be honest: The two hour finale was a letdown after an otherwise outstanding season of television. To that end, let me jump in and offer my picks for the three best and worst aspects of the finale — plus the resolutions of several key subplots:

Three Biggest Finale Complaints
* Haven’t we seen the “But the lady cop was sleeping with the killer the whole time?” plot development on at least a dozen throwaway Lifetime movies? And in this case, Linden is a fantastic detective with incredible instincts, which makes the math even harder to work through. On some level, it felt as though the show’s writers ended up pinning the murders on the least likely character (aside from Linden or Holder) for mere shock value, rather than having our fearless duo’s detective work from the last several months pay off in any significant way. The overall effect was like having your Mensa-member child score a 70 on his math test. “Kid, you could’ve done better!”

* OK, so let’s say that we’re buying Skinner as the killer. And let’s say that we’re also buying that Linden agreed to take the car ride on the off chance that Skinner was truly leading her to a kidnapped Adrian. If Linden’s sole motivation at that point was saving the boy she’d promised to protect, then why in the world did she respond to Skinner’s “you loved me, Sarah” nonsense by stumbling out of the car, turning her back to the killer, vomiting on the dusty shoulder of some almost-abandoned road and giving Skinner an opportunity to kill or incapacitate her? And speaking of which, how come Skinner didn’t at least bonk Linden over the head with a rock and run for the border, instead of inexplicably handing her a tissue? It would make more sense if McDonald’s tried to market the McGriddle as 100% organic.

* My other pet peeve from the finale was that final red herring of Linden and Holder finding a photo of Reddick with his arm around the first Pied Piper victim on her family’s living room wall — and then discovering Reddick used to be the dead girl’s neighbor. Combined with all the other coincidences above — plus that bandage on his hand during his fight with Holder and his discovery of the killer’s trophy collection — that photo felt like one detail too many for it to not end up being Reddick in the end. Who’s with me?

Three Best Moments of the Finale
* The Linden-Holder chemistry never fails to delight me, and this week found the duo at their absolute best. I loved Linden commenting on Holder switching from his tattered grey hoodie to a darker and more stylish counterpart: “You look nice. I see you changed your thingie and shaved, kinda.” But even better was Holder figuring out Linden’s affair with Skinner and teasing her with his serial-chiller charm: “Oh c’mon Linden, I don’t gotta be my sleuth par excellence to see the cat’s got a hand in the jelly jar — and it ain’t the first time, neither!” he giggled. “You’re a human being! I’m just as surprised as you!” Everyone honk your horn and yell “Oh snap!”

* It may have been a brief scene, but Bullet’s funeral — with Danette and Holder briefly connecting in a distant back pew, banished so as not to remind the dead girl’s family that she didn’t turn out to be the awkwardly normal kid in the memorial photograph — really moved me. “Bullet woulda hated that photo,” sniffed Holder, keepin’ it real. But as he later noted, pit-bull fierce as Bullet was, “She was just a little kid. They all were.”

* OK, so I didn’t love the twist of Skinner as the killer, but man, Mireille Enos said so much without a single word during Linden’s moment of realization. Her panicked, widening eyes, juxtaposed with the ice cream truck, the kid on a bicycle…I just dug how it all played out, before the music dissipated and all we were left with was the ominous sound of those lawn sprinklers. (Also really creepy, Skinner’s subsequent confession to Linden: “Their eyes — when they know it’s the end: They look at you like…like…like no one else. When you go past the pain and past the animal terror, there’s nothing else in the world like it.”)

Crucial Resolutions
* Our final shot of the prison found Becker cleaning out his locker and calling it quits, while warning Henderson not to get too comfortable on the job. Spend enough time in there, and “you’re just as much a prisoner as the rest of ’em,” the bald (former) badass grumbled.

* Lyric scored a job at a fast-food joint, but despite that nifty new apartment of hers, found herself wandering the rough streets again. As we left her, she leaned in toward a car window and exchanged shy smiles with an on-the-prowl john. Twitch, meanwhile, learned to cook eggs — and after finding an old baggie of drugs, took it to the roof and shook it into the wind. Who’d have thunk he’d be on the most promising road among our kids when it was all said and done? Danette, for her part, continued to wander aimlessly, still shellshocked that her little girl won’t ever be coming back, and offering free haircuts to Lyric in what was perhaps an attempt at cosmic restitution for her maternal shortcomings.

* Holder apologized to his ADA girlfriend for his outburst after Bullet’s death, and to his surprise, she hugged him and welcomed him back to her life. “We had a fight. It happens,” she smiled. And me, not being a Linden-Holder ‘shipper, smiled right along with her.

* We learned that both Kallie and Angie (the girl who’d initially got away) were murdered by Skinner. While Kallie’s body was never found, the sight of her ring on Skinner’s daughter’s finger was all the confirmation needed; Angie, meanwhile, wound up shot dead and burned in an abandoned vehicle after Skinner tried to tie up loose ends. But it was her corpse, of course, that started our crime-solving duo on the path that would ultimately lead to Skinner.

And with that, I turn it over to you: What did you think of The Killing‘s Season 3 finale? Do you buy who ultimately dunnit? What about Linden shooting her former lover instead of letting him rot in a jail cell? Take our poll below, then off in the comments!

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