The structure of dramatic scripted storytelling is changing. Sure, there are still your typical formulaic procedurals in existence, but increasingly, networks are willing to take chances on more psychologically complex and cinematically stunning stories, no longer willingly confining them to a traditional episode order, either. FX has delivered a successful anthology series franchise in American Horror Story; the miniseries has been a revitalized format all across cable; and this pilot season has seen a number of new series orders for intentional limited (6, 13, 15 episode orders) from major networks. And then there’s AMC’s The Killing, a series that concluded a long arc story at the end of its second season and is starting with a clean slate for season three. You can’t quite put it in any of the above boxes, and yet, you’ll find that you don’t want to. The relentless rain within the series has washed away the audience’s need to label or define; two seasons of slow pacing and painstaking police work has laid the path for what the process will be this time around. The case may be flashier, but the characters hit much closer to home, making the third season premiere the most gripping and tense piece of television you will see this summer.
The Killing picks back up with Linden (Mireille Enos) and Holder (Joel Kinnaman) separately, as the Rosie Larsen case tore them apart, and in the case of Linden, also tore her career apart. He has a new partner now and a new case on his hands, while she is working “for minimum wage on the ferry.” She tries to keep her head down and just go to work, even when her old work begins to haunt her (in the form of letters from a death row inmate), but like a drug dealer luring a client off the wagon, he just can’t stay away. Soon enough, she is poring over case files and obsessing about a new dead woman.
Rather than follow the trail of one simple murder, the third season of The Killing links two decades-separated crimes, implying they may have gotten he wrong man the first time and therefore have a serial killer on their hands. Ray Seward (the steely Peter Sarsgaard who certainly deserves awards acclaim already) certainly isn’t innocent, as he cons guards, beats priests, and awaits his government-sanctioned death. He keeps his secrets of just how evil he may be close to the chest but he commands fear nonetheless. Still, there is one marker of his brutal crime (murdering his wife) that mimics a young prostitute’s recent murder. It may be a long shot, but it’s enough to send Linden down the rabbit hole.
There are a few moments in the beginning of the premiere where we are allowed to see a lighter, happier, almost go-with-the-flow Linden. It’s completely jarring from the woman we came to know for the last two years—a brief glimpse into what a “regular” life with Linden would be, and honestly, we couldn’t wait until that moment had passed. It’s just not who Linden is. It may be who she wants to be, and Enos does a remarkable job of capturing the internal struggle for Linden as she contemplates whether potentially derailing her life that is finally getting on track is the smart move. But it doesn’t matter what smart move is in the end; it matters what is right for Linden and true to her character. Of course that is for her to pick apart a case she thought she closed years earlier.
Linden is still equal parts the best and worst example of what someone fighting for justice should be. Her obsession borders on mania at times, and she certainly gets so personally involved its at her own personal detriment, but no one fights harder for the truth. It’s not just about booking a suspect but getting the right suspect for her. We should only wish every cop worked and fought as hard for the victims as Linden.
This season of The Killing puts women much more front and center above and beyond Linden, though. On the one hand, you have some brutal crimes being committed against them, with “lost girls” of sorts going missing and then ending up dead without anyone even really looking for them. But they are not just faceless, nameless girls from the wrong side of the tracks or whose bad decisions have finally caught up to them to the audience. Instead, we are allowed to journey with them—at least a couple of key ones—to see the strength it takes to live when the rest of mainstream society casts you aside.
Bullet (Bex Taylor-Klaus) is the best example as the self-appointed protector of a small contingent of these runaways and street girls. She has no problem playing mama hen whether it means offering to give up her bed in a shelter to someone else even less fortunate or going toe-to-toe with pimp Goldie (Brendan Fletcher). But Bullet’s tough guy act is just that: a persona she has adopted to protect herself, as much as her piercings and shaved head are to keep people away, too. Taylor-Klaus does a remarkable job of leaking Bullet’s true, underlying vulnerability to the audience to remind that underneath the big coat and the even bigger mouth, she’s just a little girl, too, and a scared one at that.
The girls Bullet protects—from cherubic Lyric (Julia Sarah Stone) to the tragic Kallie (Cate Sproule)—have experiences that don’t seem all that different from Linden’s—who we know, too, had a trouble in her youth—and they internalize just as much. In a way she should be a role model for them, even if she’s still something of a cautionary tale to the audience, but they are kept so separate in the start of the season, it’s up to the audience to see the subtext. Once you begin making the connections between characters, the rich tapestry of this story truly reveals itself, regardless of how far from solving the actual murders you still may be. The whodunit? murder mystery element is really just one small part of The Killing, and the more you see of the supporting characters, the more you realize that mystery element may be the least interesting part of this story.
The Killing returns to AMC on June 2 2013 at 8 p.m.
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