Now, that is what I call an episode.
The Killing’s strength has always been its characters. It’s when it comes to plot that it tends to get tangled up. Its loose ends wrap around the characters' ankles and pull them down. That speech that Holder gave Linden outside the prison nailed the biggest problem I’ve been having this season. Adrian tells her that he saw his dad the night of his mother’s death and Linden immediately storms out to her car, even though she knows that once she leaves the prison she won’t be able to come back. Seward will die without her being able to see him again. Holder, who’s been on a bit of a bender, still has his wits about him enough to stop her, “After all this, you just walk away?” Linden tells him that unless she’s being played, she can’t understand why Seward was there that night. A frustrated Holder responds, “Go in there and ask him. This is like a pattern with you, you know that? You’re always leaving, running. Because if you did, then you’d want it, need it, and then you’d get hurt.” Then he broadens out his argument to include himself as well: “We never stay, and in the end, we lose everyone.”
I know Holder is mostly referring to their shared inability to make relationships work, but it’s also a very accurate way of describing the way they’ve functioned in their jobs this season. Time and again they would narrow down a suspect or witness, ask them a couple of questions, leave before making any real progress, and then fail to do a proper stakeout so that the person inevitably slipped through their fingers. Maybe this was the show’s way of acknowledging this. In any case, as dark as this episode was, it was a relief to see Linden sit down and have a conversation with someone. I would’ve been happy with her talking longer than two minutes to anyone, but it was an especially appealing bonus that that someone was Peter Sarsgaard.
Seward has had to navigate around quite a few potholes to get where he was last night. His violent rage at the beginning felt out of character, even considering his very extreme circumstances (I’m talking about the stuff with the priest), and his interactions with the other prisoners never worked for me. But aside from Bullet’s, Seward’s individual story line was the one I’ve been most invested in, and that certainly was the case last night. For a show that prides itself on unexpected twists, having Seward actually hang before the season was over blew the Aunt Terry reveal out of the water. That moment when Seward sees the door leading to the gallows was one of the most haunting I’ve ever seen on television. The image of his shoulders physically seizing up will stay with me for a long time. Up until the very last second, I was expecting to hear a telephone ring, signaling a stay granted from the governor. The hanging itself was very hard to watch. Becker’s reaction, especially, was quite humanizing. There was one point that I couldn’t help but think about after, though. After the gallows’ door opens, Seward’s neck doesn’t immediately break. He’s still alive, which is what he was afraid of. It’s truly terrible. But also, those guards, they weighed him twice. In the Killing universe, it really does seem that the only qualification you need to become a member of law enforcement is to demonstrate some level of incompetency. (I’m sorry.)
While the recently surfaced generic silver wedding band with a scratch on the inside could not have made for flimsier evidence, it was the kind of detail I was willing to overlook if it meant we’d get to see hope return to Seward’s eyes again. I still think Linden could’ve mentioned to the attorney general, since he was on the phone anyway, that Adrian ID’d Mills. She wouldn’t have been technically lying and, as several of you pointed out last week, Mills could’ve lied to Callie’s mom about being in Alaska that week. I did love that scene where Holder styled Adrian’s hair so that it resembled his own. Watching Holder spin gold from that bit of government-issued hand soap was like being in the presence of a taller, hotter, way less warty Rumpelstiltskin.
Last week, I took Mills’s guilt at face value. Part of me, I think, had red herring fatigue. I just couldn’t imagine another false suspect being served up to us so closely on the heels of the priest episode. The show also cheated a bit. I wasn’t buying it was Mills until I heard the conversation he had with Callie’s mom. You know the one where he was all, “They look at me like they want me to put a stop to the pain, so that’s what I do.” Now that the wedding ring evidence has been thrown out there, though, I’m 100 percent onboard with the theory that Carl is the killer. He was the one who turned up with the box of rings. I think it was also him who uncovered Mills’s car. When Holder came to his house, he had that suspicious Band-Aid on his hand, which is the equivalent of a cough in a TB-era film. Those never happen by accident. He would’ve known where to find Bullet, since she called the precinct (although that seems rather risky of her to have done if she knew it was him) and the show made sure to point out that she must have put up a fight before she died, which would account for why Carl would have a wound he’d want to hide. Or maybe Twitch, as one of you pointed out in the comments, helped him out somehow in exchange for that wad of cash that we saw. Even Carl’s grumbling makes more sense now. He was trying to get his partner to stop digging so hard. Going back a few years, Carl could’ve been one of Seward’s wife’s johns that he met while on patrol. It all fits.
As we round the bend to the finale, Linden has more motivation than ever to clear Seward’s name. If she were to finally talk to Adrian about the meaning behind his drawings, I would not object. Even if the answer is unsatisfying, it will feel like the greatest itch ever being scratched just to hear her ask.