Season finale review: ‘The Killing’

A quick, belated review of “The Killing” season finale coming up just as soon as you interrupt my family bowling night…

When I reviewed “Six Minutes,” I noted that even if Veena Sud and company botched the ending again, I would ultimately feel that season 3 had been worth my time in a way the first two seasons mostly were not. The side stories about Holder’s friendship with Bullet, and the lead-up to Ray Seward’s execution, were both vastly more interesting character arcs than anything the show had done previously. Bex Taylor-Klaus was a tremendous discovery as Bullet (and made us care more about the investigation than anything with the Larson family, even before she became the killer’s latest victim), and Peter Sarsgaard’s work in “Six Minutes” was mesmerizing. My ultimate issue with the Larson seasons is that they didn’t provide enough of value outside the plot to justify how terrible the plot was. This year, the character work was good enough that I don’t feel like a chump for having sat through these 12 hours.

That said, they blew it on the resolution. Again.

For all the lessons that Sud very obviously learned from the first two seasons, she never was able to kick her addiction to red herrings. Now, any lengthy mystery is going to present false suspects; that’s just the way the genre works. But the particular way that Sud deploys them (which would be, for all I know, identical in style to how the Danes did it on “Forbrydelsen”) quickly turns into self-parody. It’s not just that we’re given one suspect after another who turns out to be innocent, but that Holder, Linden and the show itself immediately latch onto the idea that this person must be the one who did it. Whatever is the newest piece of information Sarah Linden has been given becomes the only thing she believes in anymore, and it always makes her look gullible and the show seem desperate to trick us. This morning, I reviewed the British series “Broadchurch,” which is very similar in structure to the Larson arc, and which presents a wide array of suspects. But on that show, neither the cops nor the show ever commit fully to the idea that this latest suspect, absolutely, positively has to be the killer, and as a result, nobody’s intelligence feels insulted when the truth comes out and the investigation moves on to someone else.

The way “The Killing” is structured, Linden and Holder not only constantly look like fools, but the audience has by now been conditioned to disbelieve anything they’re told right before the very end of the case. So when the detectives realized that Carl must be the killer, fairly early in the finale, I realized that they had to be wrong – and, therefore, by process of elimination (and the fact that the writers hadn’t given Elias Koteas enough to do to justify the hiring of Elias Koteas) that it was going to be Skinner. And by the same property, once Skinner told Linden that he had Adrian, it became clear that he didn’t. Linden gets hoodwinked one last time, allowing her ex-partner and lover to commit suicide-by-cop, and allowing Linden – who was smiling and joking around with Holder in the early parts of the two-hour finale – to go back to being perpetually dark and damaged and tearful.

The ratings for this season have been non-terrible, and the reviews have been deservedly better, so I wouldn’t be surprised if AMC orders another one. And if it does return, I may sample it again (depending on time of year), but it’ll be with the understanding that I shouldn’t pay the slightest bit of attention to the plot.

What did everybody else think? Did you find the resolution satisfying or frustrating? And how did you feel about season 3 as a whole?