The Killing Season 4

5.3 Overall Score
Story : 4/10
Acting: 4/10
Setting: 8/10

Movie-like cinematography | social commentary | male victim

Comfortability in the teenage model | tacked-on ending |dissolved side plots | lack of complexity in solving the case

*This review is spoiler-free, for the most part. You won’t find out who the killer is but near the end there is a critique on the series finale. 

Reader, while the next sentence may lead you to think otherwise, I assure you this is not a love story.

I was on Tinder the other night, with no actual intention of meeting up with guys. Think of it as Omegle but with faces, and without being visually harassed. I usually always swipe left. While I never partake in dating sites, I got this app as a social experiment after I did some reporting on Tinder’s gay older brother, Grindr. I really wanted to talk, I guess and this guy was 45 miles away. We matched.

He wrote to me, “Hi!” and I said “Hey.”

“What are you doing?” I knew that I wouldn’t get an enthusiastic response anyway but I told him the truth.

“I’m watching The Killing on Netflix.”

“Netflix is the worst”

Oh so you’re one of those guys, I thought. OK, humor me about how we’re too plugged in and how you want to take me out to an obscure theatre that only plays French cinema. “Why?” I asked.

“IDK… The Killing seems like a stressful show.”

This person, whom I’ve been speaking to for 2 minutes, summed up my whole relationship with the show without ever even watching it. It’s like he knew the entire disappointment that was Season 3, and he knew how I felt only two episodes in to Season 4.

“You’re right. It IS a stressful show. BRB,” I grabbed my can of Pringles and paid close attention to the 4 hours I had left.

It seems The Killing came back, this time picked up by instant-stream powerhouse Netflix, just to finish the story. It seemed sloppily thrown together. “OK, let’s give the few fans we have left a real ending. What is The Killing anyway?” I imagine these were the thoughts going on around Showrunner Veena Sud’s mind while writing Season 4.

Fans of the show could never rest easy because The Killing is not an easy show to watch. The subject matter has been done before (Twin Peaks; Top of the Lake) and after a strangely similar first season to Lynch’s TV hit, the show has to prove it’s still innovative. But here’s the problem: AMC never seemed to believe in the power of the show, and that hindered it. Every season loomed with the threat of being the final chapter. Viewers were disappointed at the end of Season 1 because Rosie Larsen’s killer wasn’t revealed, but it continued and didn’t reveal the killer until the Season 2 finale (unlike Twin Peaks which caved to impatient viewers and revealed Laura Palmer’s killer midway through its second season, leaving the rest of the show to be uninteresting until the very end). Then AMC cancelled it... until they brought it back, with critics talking lots of talk about the show “reinventing” itself, “repairing” the damage that’s already been done and “promising” to live up to its potential – the potential critics constructed for it, as if this was their show.

Season 3 was a long shot. With a new case and loose ties to Rosie Larsen, I wondered where the show was going. Is The Killing going to turn into a semi-procedural cop show, with no unifying theme in the series? Sure there were little strings that somewhat held the fabric together – Detective Sarah Linden’s history with mental illness, themes of adoption and finding home, the ominous trees that kept making their way back into the story. These strings found their way into Season 4, but sadly, it wasn’t enough.

Season 4 picks up off where Season 3 ended. Linden has just shot Lieutenant David Skinner after she found out he was the Pied Piper. She goes home, cleans up and it’s pretty obvious she’s not going to confess. When she feels like she might cave in, her partner, Stephen Holder mentally slaps her, telling her to get it together. He tells her that Skinner was on his knees when she shot him; there’s no way she can say it was self-defense. They couldn’t stage it as a suicide either since there were two shots. These guys are fucked, and that’s the first riding point of the season.

Then there’s another case: a multiple homicide in one of Seattle’s modern cube houses. The house is so white and untouched it’s clinical, until haunted by theatrical blood splatter disrupting the harmony. There’s a dire message that this now means that this house was lived in. At first it seems like a murder suicide, but the presumed-killer, Kyle Stansbury, only son of the Stansbury family who were found dead, somehow survived a gunshot wound to the head.

The season then rides on Linden and Holder trying to find out who the real killer is in the wake of Kyle’s memory loss.

The show deals with memory in an interesting way this season. Story-wise there’s the use of dream sequences, something that The Killing hasn’t done before. Since this is unfamiliar territory with The Killing, I can’t help but wonder the reasons why they’re using it. Dream sequences are cheap metaphor shots. In a season with only six episodes as opposed to the 13-episode first two seasons and the ten-episode follow up case, it seems that the case can’t afford to be as complex and in lieu of plot twists and multiple suspects – we have horror-movie dream sequences. Both Linden and Kyle have dreams involving guns, which are a heavy visual theme anchoring the season.

What I will give the season credit for is the social commentary it makes. Season 3 made us question the death penalty and homeless youth situation in the United States, and for that I appreciated the show despite being upset with how things turned out. Season 4 is equally important because it deals with the relevant topic of mass violence. With tragic incidents like Sandy Hook, the 2012 Aurora shooting and the 2011 Tuscon shooting in our recent fabric of American violence streamed before us on the news, this season of The Killing has a message that it wants you to understand. Every season draws me in because it’s like a game of Clue. Of course, the show never reveals the killer until the very end and in this case storylines cross and the answer may not be one that we are comfortable with knowing. That’s certainly the case with Linden when she says “There are no bad guys.” There’s only life.

Kyle Stansbury and the backdrop of St. George’s Military Academy are powerful characters. The school in itself is a character in this show because it’s represented as a union of troubled boys, faceless except for a few, blindly following their leader Margaret O’Neal and adhering to military rules in unnecessary settings in order to forget their lives outside of the academy.

the killing season 4

The boys in the school are represented by the seventeen metal soldiers both Kyle and O’Neal posses. Metal killing machines engrained with order – that’s where we find Cadets AJ Fielding and Lincoln Knopf.

the killing season 4

Without going into spoilers, the relationship between the boys in the school is confusing and psychologically tolling. Here’s where The Killing makes its case on hazing and the dangerous domino effect it creates.

While I did appreciate that the show focused on a male victim instead of the favorite teenage-girl-in-trouble trope, it’s fault is that it still narrowly focused on cases with teenagers. While these are poignant, in retrospect they become a bit stale and comfortable. The stress this show creates is not because of the show itself. If this were the case, it would be another Breaking Bad, and AMC would have never dropped it. The stress, as stated before, is externally created and superfluous. I don’t want to feel calm when watching a detective show. I want to constantly be surprised. I want to feel like I’m solving the case with the detectives, but not being played. I don’t want to watch this show at 11 p.m. on Netflix to wind down. This was what the season was for me. The plot wasn’t as convoluted and new characters were shut down easily (like Kyle’s female friend who appears only for glimpses and is gone after her interview) – but what do you expect with only six episodes?

Apparently a lot of back and forth assholery between Holder and Linden. Seriously way too much lashing out went out this season and for no reason. I understand the stress of being caught for Skinner’s murder but this was excessive and annoying. Then there was the 1-episode side-plot of Holder using drugs again, but was promptly dropped because there was no time to delve in further on that topic. So we’re left assuming he stopped using, or not? I don’t know. Character development wasn’t a priority this season, it seems.

the killing season 4

After the killer was found and everything conveniently played itself out (again, no spoilers, you’ll have to watch for yourself to see what I mean), we’re propelled forward about 5 years or so into the future. Linden’s been travelling a lot, according to her vague statement. She has a new scarf. Good for her. Holder is some sort of teacher. He’s not together with Caroline anymore, and as expected, he’s a good dad.

The Killing deflates like a sad balloon three days after a party when the following ensues: Linden talks about how she never felt at home anywhere, but now she realized home was always in the car with Holder.

Are the writers messing with us? This is a lame excuse for a romantic ending. The Killing is not a romantic show and the two detectives never displayed any romantic tension between them in the past. It’s unfounded and the will they/wont they guesswork erected in the last 5 minutes of the series is silly and makes the entire series seem pointless. There I said it. I just had to get that off my chest.

I told you this wasn’t a love story, even if one was tacked on at last minute. I’m sorry. It just could never work out.


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Author: Claudia Marina View all posts by
Journalism student at the University of Florida. Sally Draper is my spirit animal. I love writing about TV and how it affects culture. Occasionally I watch bad TV, but reviews make it better.

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