New Thoughts on the Final Season of The Killing

I’m still digesting the last two episodes and the overall Final Season of The Killing. But I can offer some insights. Please consider that these are not meant to be all-inclusive or absolutes. As you all know, they’re just opinions. First the Positives or Pro reactions.

About the cinematography – I really liked the slow-moving aerial shots which served as the indicators of the transitions of both time and place. Yes, they were repetitive, but they brought forth the tranquility that exists outside when you step away, and place yourself ‘above’ the fray. While often the transition was bringing us toward a cauldron like St. George Academy, or the Stansbury home, or even Linden’s ‘set apart’ island home, the aerial shots served as a respite, by breaking the tension. With the silence of elevation with just an occasional bird noise along with some mild musical scoring, it was like a brief easing off the gas pedal emotionally speaking. A chance for the viewer to grab some light and lightness of feeling which always follows the dark and the darkness.

And the closeups. One of my readers liked the aspect of the closeups which seemed to come with far greater frequency in Ep 5 and Ep 6 than earlier. Probably different directors. You know, closeups are really a dual mechanism, or offer an alternate perspective.

On the one hand, closeups brings us right up close to the actors or characters and we see everything – a tremor, a tic, and a quick insight in that instant when the characters eyes change according to what they’re thinking. Like a smile that starts but is halted before it is noticed. Or the downturned mouth. We see with a greater clarity their hesitance to say something, or even we know visually that they struggling with their thoughts. An example that offered a complete silence as a reaction was when Linden pulled a gun on Holder. She needed the release of violence, or a chance at violence because a storm was brewing inside of her. She couldn’t hold on to that thought as she collapsed under the weight of her own action.  Holder’s face conveyed shock, anger, revulsion, and more than a trace of pity. It was straight forward. His partner hadn’t trusted him. His disappointment as well as all the other emotions  were so obvious on his face while he said nothing. He just left.

On the other hand, the closeup pushes everything else out of the picture. The loss of the depth of field which creates a blurred and indistinct background gives us only the character to focus on. The external distractions simply blend in to nothingness. I think it heightens the intensity and is a very powerful stylistic choice.

I was also asked (in an email) what was Colonel Rayne’s relationship to Kyle Stansbury. I think it was sufficiently murky until Ep 5 when Linden read from a report about Rayne that she had lost a child. Only at that point could I realistically link Rayne and Kyle as something other than cadet-student/commanding officer/care giver.

I was wrong about Det. Reddick too. In my post I said that we were underestimating his police skills which seemed obscured by his generally boorish behavior. But he turned out to be smarter than we thought as well as a better person than we thought.

Last positive thought – the unraveling of both Linden and Holder because of the external and internal pressures on them was just so well written and acted. For me this was the highlight of the short season. While it isn’t fun watching people fall apart it was interesting for the choices they made as actors.

Linden, even though she often looked frightened, seemed that she could face anything and still not crumble physically. Holder on the hand, internalized so much that he became shifty-eyed, unable to look anyone in the face, especially Linden or even his girlfriend. In short he was cornered, if not physically. he felt cornered emotionally as he was facing having to make choice.

But when he was functioning as a policeman , Holder was whole, and at peace. A unified person, upright, sure of himself.

On the negative side: the seemingly endless series of endings. First at the school with Linden drawing her pistol at Holder, then at the police station when the Mayor arrived and told Linden how the case went down – their version. She’s done, both burned out as a cop, and miserable as a human being. She leaves her badge on the table and all the while Holden is watching and she likely knows he’s watching. And neither can say anything. Their personal problems about what they did may have been swept under the carpet by the suits at City Hall, but the personal wounds have not healed at that moment.

Then Linden packs up and leaves her house. This is when she discovers the lost shell casing that she thought Holder had taken. She drives off. So she’s gone.

Meanwhile, the years pass and Holder is now a Dad. His GF and he have separated/divorced – it’s not clear but Sud said they had married. But what is clear is that Holder is no longer a police detective. He’s running a group therapy of some kind. Linden walks in – and kind of explains where’s she’s been for five years. You think they’re going to pair up seeing that they were so good, and shared their best and brightest moments as cop partners for so long. Holder tells Linden that what she needs is right in front of her. Meaning himself. But Linden leaves again.

Credits roll? Not quite. Linden returns. A new tomorrow wrapped into a final ending.

I wasn’t pleased with the degree of the bullying/hazing at the school. The boy soldiers and the toy soldiers. Each symbolic of something not quite real. Kyle had a great line when he said, we aren’t soldiers – we’re just rich kids sent off to school as a punishment. And the Colonel, still a martinet, right to the end, a career soldier at the end of her career still trying to erase her past by reliving it in her present command.

She was like a junior sized, or light-weight and female variant of Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men – in fact, I think a good part of The Killing Season Four had elements of a Few Good Men in it. Lt. Weinberg in AFGM told it this way:

They beat up a weakling. That’s all they did. They tortured and tormented a weaker kid.

While Kyle Stansbury wasn’t killed by his tormenters, he was driven to committing the unthinkable – the annihilation of his family. So to fit in, and become one of the soldiers, but mostly to rid himself of the torment of being unloved by his own family, he committed to the action that should have never happened. To solve one problem, he created an even bigger problem; and a deadly problem rather than a solution.

Then there was the recreation of the actual killings. Kyle recreated the scene in describing it to Sarah Linden. While we didn’t see much of the shooting, we were subjected to the screams, and that was pretty tough to sit through.

Speaking of which, earlier, when Kyle fled and ran off in the night. It seemed that he was in a forested area and the footing and terrain was uneven, with Lincoln Knopf and A.J. Fielding chasing after him and firing their rifles. They seemed in a wooden area as well. But the next day, we watched the troop scouring an area and it seemed as if they were on a grassy knoll. Yet they found a shell casing on the ground. That seemed incorrect to me.

When Holder went to the cemetery looking 1) to apologize to Kailey’s Mom, and 2) to put a bullet casing on the grave of Rachel Olmstead, once know as Bullet – we saw a couple walking a dog in the background, four separate times. The last time was as Holder was leaving, and in that moment the couple was in the same shot and much closer. Too close based on the time of the last sighting and how far they were from Holder. This isn’t anything to be critical about, but it was something that I happened to notice.

But likely the two things that surprised me most was when each of the lead characters did something inexplicable. For Linden it was returning to the lake house. Then tossing the phone into the lake.  It seemed a bit off to me. The explanation offered by Veena Sud, the show runner, was that it was stupid. She added that none of us are a Sherlock Holmes or an Agatha Christie. Sud said that Linden returning to the lake house was to put an end to her ties to Skinner.

Holder on the other hand confesses (indirectly) at his support group meeting. Yes this too was stupid but again it is tied to a cleansing or a ridding of an overwhelming weight.

From another perspective, Sud and the writers made each of these acts visible to others (Mrs. Skinner and the CI who then told Reddick). I though those bits of conveniently time coincidences seemed somewhat sketchy to me.


So it appears that the door has closed on Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman for these roles. Clearly these last six episodes, a mini-season if you will, were quite impactful. I won’t be forgetting this show any time soon.


4 thoughts on “New Thoughts on the Final Season of The Killing

  1. I also liked the photography, close and far, the music, the actors’ powerful performances. And I thoroughly enjoyed the storyline, as I did last year, right up until the final episode. Unfortunately, the ending, which was stretched thin and sentimental, did not satisfy me,

    I simply do not believe Kyle did the crime. As with Skinner’s guilt at the end of Season 3, I feel the writers cheated us. They simply did not connect the dots and tell the truth. Personally, I will always believe that Reddick was the pied piper and that Kyle’s father killed his wife and daughters.

    But in defense of Veena Sud’s artistic vision, I have to say that for five and a half hours, I was totally enthralled. The Killing is a drama masterpiece with a single tragic flaw. A less than perfect ending. As if Hamlet killed the King because he suddenly lost his temper.

    So the horrific crime came down to a temporary loss of sanity caused by an overly masculine hazing practice. Sorry Ms. Sud, fool me twice, I won’t forget.
    But, I will remember Linden and Holder long after the details of this awful murder scene fades away. Even with the wrong ending, The Killing is the best detective series you will see this year.

    • Thanks for the commentary.

      FYI – after watching this 6 part series conclusion, I went back and watched The Killing Season One and am at Episode Six of Season Two I had never seen either of the 1st Two seasons. So for me, watching the earlier shows now, is to re-experience Holder and Linden once again as in another opportunity to enjoy what I very much liked in Season Four, but some how did not notice in Season Three.

      I believe, and of course this is old news, that Sud’s game plan is and was to present possible scenarios (meaning someone who might be the killer, and then run with that for a while, before changing and misdirecting the viewer again.

      While I can readily see how you could think and believe that Reddick was the Pied Piper in Season Three, I see no reason for Mr. Stansbury to have killed his wife and daughters, at least from the perspective of motive. Yes he had means and opportunity, but no clear motive, in my opinion. He also would have made double and triple sure that Kyle was dead rather than just unconscious. If Stansbury was to kill at all, I see it more likely that he would have killed Colonel Rayne and Kyle rather than the rest of his family and himself.

  2. While Mr. Stansbury had more than one affair, Mrs. Stansbury seduced young boys, even attempting to seduce her son. Given the stress of his failed marriage to a nympho seductress, the realization that his elder daughter was beginning to stray in a similar direction, and the fact he tried to enforce tyrannical control at home where he allowed no music and barely permitted conversation, it’s much easier for me to believe he is the one who snapped, not Kyle.

    If I had written the script, I would have used the destruction of the piano as the key clue: In a fit of rage, Stansbury destroys the piano and murders his wife, Kyle is wounded attempting to protect his sisters, who are subsequently shot in the face to destroy their sexual attractiveness, and finally, Stansbury kills himself.

    Maybe I’m just more imaginative than most viewers, but this scenario seems far more believable than the murder by hazing solution presented in Sud’s version.
    Sud is a grand master at concealing the murderer’s identity until the last possible second (she did this with great skill for all four seasons), but when she finally reveals who is guilty, she fails to make her case.

    For me, The Killing became a better show each year. Kept taunt with only six episodes, Season 4 was the most satisfying. Given another Netflix renewal, I believe Sud would have satisfied even her harshest critics and obliterated any trace of imperfection in her nearly perfect murder series.

    • Yes, that could be an acceptable motive for Stansbury. And yes I hadn’t considered that. But given that Stansbury was absent for nearly the entire 6 episodes; if in fact he had done the killing, then you or Sud would have had to present a different show. One that brought Mr. Stansbury into greater focus, and eliminated much of the St. George Academy stuff. Which is not to say that the St. George stuff was not intriguing.

      But to have Mr. Stansbury as both the killer and the suicide – still overlooks the fact that Kyle was not assuredly killed. Which may have been the sub-surface idea behind your ‘script’ as opposed to Sud’s. Give Kyle’s instability and problems, he could very well have been charged with the crimes even if innocent.

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