[Warning: Spoilers for everything.]
Oh, man. I seriously held my breath for the first half of the finale because I was sure that somehow Linden was not going to survive it. The scene in the next-to-last episode where she tells Jack goodbye in the car at the airport, after nearly screwing up the drop-off again, felt final and foreboding, like it might be the last conversation she had with her son. She tells him everything that’s important, and that she tried, and that she doesn’t want him to worry about her. She’ll be fine. She’ll see him in the summer. When they hugged and he got out of the car, my stomach dropped and I really did think that somewhere in that last hour still to come, Holder would stand alone. I’m really glad I was wrong. What we got was infinitely better.
I saw the first four hours of the fourth season in a marathon, and then had to wait for the last two hours. I think that was a good thing because it gave me time to process. It wasn’t a perfect final season, but it was a perfect series finale. I love that Jonathan Demme closed it out. He also directed last year’s excellent episode, “The Reckoning.”
As for the case, it got really convoluted there at the end but what I *think* we were left with was that Kyle was hazed (in a gag-inducing nasty scene) to the point that he snapped and went home to eliminate the source of all the drama in his life. The two fellow classmates–AJ and Lincoln–who made his life hell in the aftermath of the shooting, actually drove him there and flipped out and ran screaming from the house as soon as Kyle fired the first shots.
They haul ass back to the school and tell Rayne, who, it turns out, is Kyle’s biological mother. After Kyle had wiped out his parents and younger sister, he sat down at the piano and waited for Nadine. She asked him if the monster was gone, and he said yes. Then he told her to close her eyes and he shot her, too. Then himself, but he missed. He confesses all this to Linden, who gives him refuge after AJ and Lincoln try to kill him. She finds him back at his house, calmly sitting at the piano, and she tries to get him to not admit anything because Rayne has already confessed, but he tells her anyway.
There are a couple of disconnects in his story. In the flashback, he’s playing the piano when Nadine finds him, but he’d told Linden the piano wires had been cut earlier by his other sister in retaliation for outing her about the pictures, so that was an error or a lie. He also tells Linden he was the monster, so I didn’t know if that was a secondary confession that he’d been abusing Nadine (I’d like to believe it was not). As for Lincoln and AJ brutalizing Kyle when he came back to school, even with his amnesia, that made zero sense to me. It was a wicked gamble, given that they saw exactly what he was capable of if he snapped back in the other direction.
I was disappointed, but not surprised, to find out Kyle had done it. I wish we had the full story there, other than that he was a mistreated outsider inside a family that was never really his own. It was an interesting twist that Rayne killed AJ and Lincoln before they could implicate her or Kyle, and then she confessed anyway. I also realized we were never explicitly told that Kyle’s dad was his dad, only that Rayne gave him her son to raise and she didn’t realize until too late what a terrible mistake that was.
While all that winds down, Linden and Holder are dodging the ticking clock on Skinner’s autopsy as Reddick tells them flat-out he’s going to present his findings to the Commissioner. That threat does enough of a number on Linden that she actually pulls a gun on Holder and accuses him of taking the last shell casing from her house as insurance against her. He’s incredulous, and hurt, and done, and he silently walks away from her.
But we see that he’s still torn about what to do for Linden, and when he tries to confess it to Caroline during her ultrasound, she tells him she doesn’t need to know what he’s done. And then it’s not on Holder to have to do anything.
After Linden listens to Kyle’s confession, she makes her own to Reddick, admitting what she’s done. Then the room fills with the brass, including the Mayor (hi, Billy Campbell!, who is still seething at her). He tells her what the actual story is going to be–Skinner was a suicide, and Joe Mills killed the girls. When she protests, they are firm. They leave her to it, and she stands to face the two-way mirror, defeated, knowing Holder is on the other side of the glass, and he is. She leaves her badge on the table and walks out.
Sidebar: I sort of saw this coming when Reddick just let Linden talk and didn’t bait her. He makes a dig about the one with the conscience being the weak link, but he lets her off fairly light. He also tells her Holder wouldn’t give her up.
With Skinner’s case closed, Holder goes to Callie’s grave and apologizes to Danette. Then he walks over to Bullet’s grave and leaves her necklace on her headstone. Linden packs up her house and finds the lost shell casing on an air vent and is relieved, but remorseful about how she doubted Holder. She surveys her island view one last time and drives away.
Cut to black and we pick back up with Holder walking a young girl to her bus stop. They talk about her birthday party and he puts her on the bus, telling her he’ll see her at her mom’s. He starts a rehab meeting, apparently in charge. Healthy. Free. He steps outside for a break and then we get the scene that so many shows have tried and failed to deliver.
There sits Linden, nervous but smiling.
He smiles softly and then beams. “1-900-Linden. Dial and you shall receive.”
She stands up and walks to him and they make small talk, easing their way in. He tells her about his daughter, Kalia, and shows Linden her namesake tattoo. She tells him about Jack, and that she’s been on the road. He asks her if she found the elusive bad guy. She answers there was none. There was only life. He tells her at least they tried and they should get credit for that. He asks her why she’s there, not letting her off. And she tells him what he’s meant to her.
“I never had a real house to grow up in, you know, a home. I never belonged anywhere and all my life I was looking for that thing…you know…thinking that it was out there somewhere and all I had to do was find it. I think maybe that home was us. It was you and me together in that stupid car riding around and smoking cigarettes. I think that was everything. I’m sorry. I should have known that you were the one person who always stays. You were my best friend.”
“Why don’t you stay? Stay.”
“I think that this city is the city of the dead for me.”
“Close your eyes. Maybe you will see what’s really there. Standing right in front of you It ain’t ghosts, Linden. It ain’t the dead.”
She worries about her parked car and he doesn’t argue. He tells her goodbye, and leans down to take her into a hug (their first, if I remember right), and they hold onto each other until she pulls away. She walks down to her car, and in a moment I love, he follows her to the street and watches her drive away.
Then we drive with her around the city (to “Peace of Mind” by The Jezabels). She stops at the waterfront, looking across at the city as we’ve seen her do several times before. But this time she sees it differently. She lets it all go, and she smiles. Free.
Holder leaves his building and locks up. And there’s Linden again, sitting in her car. He smiles and starts down the steps toward her. She gets out of the car and smiles back, and as he reaches her, the frame freezes, and everything on her face says this will be OK.
And I’m weeping.
I love that an admittedly dark and often hopeless show ended in hope. That two profoundly wounded characters got to the end of this journey and decided to see how it might play out for the long game, as friends, as more, but not as cops.
How fantastic that this turn of events was instigated by a panicked Linden’s visit to her estranged mother (a terrific Frances Fisher) when she thought prison was imminent and Jack would be alone. She finally gets her mother’s version of why she abandoned her, and then went on to have another family (the why of her never returning for Linden even then is not discussed).
Her mother tells her that staying was always her trouble, and she struggled as a single mom. What she doesn’t say, but what her mantel pictures (including one of her and Linden) show, is that years later, when she married and had more children, she found a way to fight through it, and remained married until her husband died. With that conversation, Linden gets an insight into her own demons, her own flight instinct, and that’s with her on her path as she spends the few years away from Holder figuring out that he was it for her. And when she comes back for him, it’s not too late.
I’m so good with how this ends. I can say goodbye to Linden and Holder knowing they’ll be fine, and hopefully together.
You can watch all four seasons of The Killing now on Netflix, and read everything we’ve had to say about it here. [Update: Netflix dropped the show but it’s now also available on Hulu, Amazon Prime, and DVD].
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