The third season picks up one year after the Larson case. Linden has quit the Seattle PD and taken a minimum wage job working on ferryboats. Meanwhile, Holden has become respectable (he wears a suit and tie!) and turned himself into a good cop. As he prepares to take the sergeant’s exam, a gruesome case comes across his desk. A prostitute has been found with her head practically cut off and the evidence is strikingly familiar to a case from three years past. In that one, a man was convicted for =murdering his wife and he sits on death row with just weeks to live. One of the detectives in that old case? You guessed it, Linden.
Holden visits his old partner to get some information about that convicted man, Ray Seward (a chilling Peter Sarsgaard) because the evidence box from the case is missing. Linden is adamant that she wants nothing to do with police work and asks Holden to leave her alone. But Holden knows how to push her buttons and before long, Linden is racked with guilt over the reservations she had when Seward was convicted. She begins to dig up the past, leading to a jaw dropping final scene at the end of the first two hours.
As with the previous two seasons of The Killing, the action cuts away from the two detectives and features separate storylines that relate to the overall story arc. We meet Seward, who puts on a display of a man unhinged. There is serious doubt that he’s the actual murderer from the original case, but he’s hiding something and seems intent on taking his secrets to the grave. There are also a group of teenage runaways who become involved in the case, including a young lesbian named Bullett (Bex Taylor-Klaus). When her best friend Kallie (Cate Sproule) goes missing, no one, including her deadbeat mom (Amy Seimetz), seems to care, Bullett begins a desperate search to find her friend.
Count me among the skeptical who questioned whether The Killing could survive its rough sophomore season. For whatever reason AMC ultimately decided to bring back this show, and they made a smart decision. By the end of the two hour premiere I was cursing because I’d have to wait a week for the story to continue. Linden and Holden are such compelling characters, and Enos and Kinnaman are extraordinary. The supporting cast is almost entirely new, and the casting directors deserve a pat on the back for finding the group of young actors to play the runaways. Taylor-Klaus and Sproule are excellent, as are Julia Sarah Stone and Max Fowler as fellow street punks. Sarsgaard, in his first TV series role, is superb, and Elias Koteas rounds out the cast as Linden’s former partner.
Hopefully series creator/showrunner Veena Sud learned something from the first two seasons and the idea of bringing a case to a close by year’s end. If she and her writing team can maintain the third season premiere’s balance of dread, mystery, poignancy and rain, then this new case on The Killing could prove to be as satisfying a season of television as the last one from Justified. I’ll be watching with my fingers crossed.