It occurred to me about 35 minutes into the premiere of the fourth (and final) season of The Killing that a move to the commercial-free Netflix format would allow up to 17 minutes more brooding. And boy do Veena Sud & Co. take advantage. The Killing was always moody at best, trudging at worst. This is the show that managed to stretch out a single whodunnit over two seasons (much to the ire of fans who'd been promised a one-and-done crime drama). Then, after its miraculously revivified third season, The Killing proved that it could juggle riveting interpersonal drama and solve a series of expertly executed crimes. But, in the wake of Sarah Linden's impulsive (and deeply personal) execution of justice, would the series be able to tie up all the loose ends in a mere six episodes?
Based on the pacing of "Blood in the Water"... it's unclear.
Season 4 begins with 15 minutes (a.k.a. a quarter of the premiere's run time) devoted to Linden and Holder dealing with the aftermath of Linden's decision to kill Skinner, her boss and former lover... who also happened to be a psychotic serial killer. In her pristinely white bathroom, Linden scrubs and stares at her bloodied hands, then takes a long, hard look at herself in the mirror and finds that she's obscured by a fog of steam more hellish than cleansing. As she purges herself (or, more specifically, her bloody clothes) in the fire, Holder approaches. He witnessed Linden's fait accompli and, being a recovering junkie accustomed to lying, immediately sets a cover-up plan in motion.
But, this was no clean, clinical dispatch. It was a crime of passion, a murder. Unlike James "Pied Piper" Skinner himself, Linden is no calculated killer. Heck, even street-hardened Holder isn't really. So, despite the many, repeated conversations they have to nail down every last detail, there's bound to be incriminating evidence scattered to the wind—and, perhaps most damning, emotional repercussions. But for now, they panic at what's visible to the naked eye: a splatter of blood on Holder's coat. No, this would not be as cut-and-dried as they hoped.
No surprise, then, when Linden makes the mistake of awkwardly smiling at Holder's ex-partner Carl Reddick, the ornery hobgoblin of the Seattle PD is immediately—if casually—suspicious. Holder struggles to maintain his casual demeanor as Reddick peppers him with brass-tacks questions about his and Linden's whereabouts the night before and other details of the case. Meanwhile, Linden firmly assures a young boy named Adrian, the Piper's sole living witness, that justice has been served... she just pins it on presumed Piper (and legitimate slimeball) Joe Mills to divert attention from Skinner. Adrian seems convinced, but the Reddick dilemma is poised to linger like a bad smell.
Holder and Linden both return home to rest, but rest is not in the cards. While Holder's silent anguish stands in stark contrast to his girlfriend Caroline's groggy sweetness, Linden lays down only to remember with a start that she and Skinner had sex the day before. To the drug store she goes. But that's a tangible consequence, one that can be addressed with a pill or a doctor's visit. More gnawing—and more responsible for Linden's absolutely haggard appearance—are the psychological ripples of her actions. To wit, when the partners return to the office, Linden is confronted by the pictures of the very girls she betrayed by killing Skinner. Her justice comes at the price of theirs.
NEXT: A new case begins