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How The Final Season Of The Killing Killed One Of Its Most Devoted Fans
Why Stephanie Green can't with the unmitigated disaster that is the finale of The Killing's last season.
When The Killing first came out, my husband and I devoured it like wild dogs falling upon on a raccoon carcass. WE LOVED IT, and we wouldn't hear a bad word spoken against it. This steadfast position occasionally caused arguments at parties -- we have one friend who claims The Killing is and was "the worst show on television," which, come on, Seth, no it's not -- but we stood by The Killing and its questionable choices throughout its first three seasons, never wavering in our belief that it is fundamentally a Good Show.
I would never claim that the first three seasons of The Killing were perfect. I can acknowledge that there were problems, some of which were outlined earlier this week by my esteemed colleague Matt Debenham: yes, there was at least one highly unsatisfying conclusion to an entire thirteen-episode season of television. Yes, there were so many red herrings throughout all three seasons that one could accuse the show of treating its audience unfairly. Yes, the show relied a bit too heavily on shots of sad-faced Mireille Enos running full-tilt through misty woods and then stopping to gasp/cry at water's edge. But despite its missteps, The Killing was a Good Show. The acting was solid, the stories were compelling, and the atmosphere was sufficiently creepy to send pleasant chills down my spine as I watched.
Given our devotion to this show, when we learned that it had been picked up by Netflix for a fourth and final season, my husband and I were on it, snarling and yapping for a piece of its slightly gamey, red-herringy meat. We sat down and watched Season 4 over two nights, parceling out three episodes per night, like responsible adults. After the first three episodes, we turned to each other and said, "Hey, this is good! This is a really good season so far!" We felt reassured and gratified that the show was not letting us down in its newest incarnation as a Netflix Original. Into the fourth and fifth episodes of Season 4, we were still smiling knowingly at each other, reviewing with smug certainty all of our old arguments about why this show is Good, naysayers be damned! Then the sixth and last episode happened, and I lost my faith in The Killing.
What, you ask, could have been so atrocious about this one final episode as to make me forsake this show altogether, even going so far as to call it, and I'm paraphrasing here, "a worthless piece of trash"? Here, let me count the ways!
You could spot the twists coming from a mile away, except for the ones that made NO DAMN SENSE
As I watched Season 4, I got the sense that the show thought that it was being incredibly clever and sneaky with its plot twists. It seemed to be saying, "Guess what, dumb idiot viewer? You know that kid who's being all nice to poor, damaged Kyle? He's actually BAD!!!" Yes, show, we know. We saw that one coming. If there's one thing three prior seasons of this show had taught me, it's that if someone is nice, they're actually bad, and if someone is mean, they're actually good. So we know that if the show is focusing on AJ and how he's standing up for Kyle, he's actually BAD.
The other plot twists were equally poorly disguised. I saw the whole Lincoln-banged-Kyle's-mom thing coming from 'round the bend way before that happened, and the whole Colonel-Rayne-is-actually-Kyle's-mom thing, as well. It sort of takes the fun out of guessing the plot twists when they're made obvious to anyone who's even sort of paying attention (which can fairly describe how I watch most television). What I didn't see coming, however, was the Big Plot Twist, the one that was revealed in the final episode, and that was meant to "resolve" the mystery of what really happened to Kyle's family.
The Big Plot Twist makes no sense whatsoever
We learn in the final episode that Kyle DID murder his whole family, after all! He also brought along two of his military school compatriots/tormenters, AJ and Lincoln, for good measure, because why not? And then, after the deed was done, his secret mom, Colonel Rayne, plus her lackeys AJ and Lincoln, went to great lengths to cover up Kyle's crime, except when AJ and Lincoln decided to begin harassing Kyle again to bring his tortured memories to the surface, because THAT MAKES SENSE.
Let me take a minute to unpack all the ways this storyline is utter nonsense. First, let's start with the fact that Kyle had no real motive to kill his family. Okay, so his mom was kind of a molester, so maybe he had beef with her (no pun intended), but why the hell would he slaughter the rest of his family? All the show gives us is that his dad was kind of mean, his sixteen-year-old sister got more attention than Kyle did, and his youngest sister was a sparkling angel without a mean bone in her body, so -- sure, kill them all! We're meant to just accept the show's claim that Kyle is a psycho who snapped even though we're shown no evidence of Kyle being a psycho at all until he's actually blowing his family's brains out.
The precipitating event leading up to Kyle's decision to kill his family seems to be a bunch of turds at his military school screaming at him to kill his mom (after they make him masturbate to a photo of her, which, okay, gross). So, they yell at him to kill his mom one time and he just DOES? And it's not like he snaps right then and there and runs all the way to that ugly glass house and commits the crime in the heat of passion. No, he has time to think about it, plot it out, and bring along his enemies as witnesses. All of which leaves me with one main question, which can be stated thusly: HUH?!
The aftermath of the crime makes about as much sense as the crime itself. After Kyle returns to The Citadel, or wherever, instead of keeping their damn mouths shut and encouraging Kyle to forget everything so that they won't be implicated as accomplices to a quadruple homicide, AJ and Lincoln start tormenting Kyle so that he'll remember everything about that fateful night. The show fails to offer even one reason for why these idiots would want their psycho classmate to remember all of the details of his terrible crime, AT WHICH THEY WERE PRESENT. We're just supposed to accept it, like, "Well, evil kids will be evil, obvious negative consequences for their own lives be damned!"
Here's the thing, though, show: if you want me to believe that Kyle's a psycho, drop some hints that he might be insane earlier than a flashback during the final episode, during which we see him murdering his family in cold blood. This character seemed completely well-adjusted and normal (albeit a bit socially isolated) during all six episodes of the season, with nary a clue that he was actually capable of murdering people he loved -- including his six-year-old sister, supposedly his favorite person in the world. If you're not going to give us some inkling that all might not be well under the surface with Kyle, then at least give us a compelling motive for why a normal kid would suddenly snap. None of these things happen, and therefore I’m not buying any of it.
The resolution of the series made me develop a rage migraine
Okay, so accepting that the writers messed up the one crime on which this entire season hinges, maybe they could redeem themselves by giving us a satisfying conclusion to Holder and Linden's story(ies)? NOPE. Instead, they give us a time-jump six or so years into the future that, apart from being improbable, is utter schlock and makes me want to write angry, hand-written hate mail to everyone who was involved with this embarrassment.
One of the things I had consistently enjoyed about this show was the dynamic between its two main characters, Holder and Linden. They were mutually supportive while still being (somewhat) professional, and there was never a trace of sexual tension between them. They were colleagues and sort of friends, and they had each other's backs without things ever getting schmoopy between them. Sure, as the series progressed it got to be annoying how they'd trade off falling to pieces every other episode. Linden would go on a crying jag followed by a predictable, bitchy "I don't want to talk about it so lay off me" phase; then she'd get over it, and then, like clockwork, Holder would start drinking or doing drugs again, and act like a complete dick, and then he'd get over it, and so the world would turn. But there was never any hint that Holder and Linden actually wanted to take their professional relationship further, like, into the bedroom, and I liked that. These two characters were able to care about each other without that emotional investment being tied up with any sexual interest. IMAGINE THAT.
And then, as I mentioned, the finale happened. The show fast-forwards six years or so and reunites Holder, who's now a dad to a precocious little girl and has his shit very much together, and Linden, who's now some sort of sad-clown vagabond. Linden has apparently returned to Seattle just to say hi/state her belief that Holder is her "home" and that she loves him. Wait, what? As I watched the scene during which Linden makes it clear that she wants to BE WITH Holder, like, mommy and daddy-style, I looked at my husband with blank confusion, thinking that surely this has to be one of those dream sequences that Linden's going to wake up from in a cold sweat, right? RIGHT? On top of all of the other things this final episode had shit on, surely the writers weren't going to shit on the Linden-Holder dynamic, too?
Yeah, no. The writers, in their wisdom, decided that the best outcome for these two effed up cops would be for them to get together, after years and years spent apart, because apparently there's no one else in the world for them each to have disastrous relationships with. Listen, I'm not saying it couldn't happen, physically. I mean, no matter how gross they try to make Joel Kinnaman look, he's always got that sexy meth addict thing going on, which I find irresistible, and Lord knows Mireille Enos has a great head of hair, but these two characters -- you know, the ones the show has spent developing over FOUR seasons -- would never bone each other. It just wouldn't happen. The closest these two would ever get to sex would be sharing a vegan donut in a car while tailing a perp. For the show to pretend that there was some long dormant sexual -- nay, romantic -- tension between them, at this late stage, is offensive to me as a viewer and former fan of this show.
So, in conclusion...
Maybe I shouldn't be so hasty to throw the baby out with the bathwater and write this entire show off as so much hokey, poorly executed nonsense thanks to its terrible series finale. But if I'm going to continue to support this show, or recommend it to anyone, I can only do so with some giant qualifications tacked on, the most important of which is that the series finale is a load of hooey and should be burned in a ritual fire. Sigh. You let me down, The Killing. You let me down big-time. I don't know if we're going to get past this, but a retraction and sincerely worded apology letter would be a good first step. Until then -- and this hurts me more than it hurts you -- I'm reluctantly joining the naysayers club.