The Killing: Third Time’s the Charm

There’s a cardinal rule in writing for television: Do not mess with the fans. If season three of AMC’s The Killing is any indication, the execs of the moody procedural have learned their lesson. Somehow, the network was able to resuscitate a drama criticized for being a twenty-hour long episode of Law & Order and transform it into one of the most compelling shows on television.

To re-cap: Season 1 of The Killing ended by infuriating viewers who were hoping for a resolution to the murder of teenager Rosie Larsen. By the time all questions were answered at the end of the second season, viewership suggested that everyone had stopped caring whodunit. AMC canceled the show, and after a year of deliberations including rumors of a Netflix re-boot, the network announced The Killing would be back, with the promise of a fresh storyline.

If you’re like me, you didn’t stick with The Killing—despite the ending of Season 1, and that rage-inducing, character-assassinating twistfor answers. (Let’s face it: After twenty-four episodes, our chances of a satisfying resolution to the Rosie Larsen murder were as good as Detective Linden cracking a smile or remembering to feed her kid.)

For me, the biggest draw of The Killing was the quiet intensity of Detective Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) and her partner, Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman). The Killing has always been a drama carried by its two complicated and troubled leads, despite weekly attempts by the writers to make us invested in the lives of the sketchily drawn victim and her family.

If The Killing’s Achilles' Heel in Seasons 1 and 2 was that viewers were never fully invested in Rosie Larsen or her killer, the re-booted show demonstrates an awareness that that its strength lays in the dynamic between Linden and Holder, and how the bleak realities of detective work affect their psyches. Season 3 is a sharp departure from the previous two seasons in that the writers seem to have tapped into the intensity Enos and Kinnaman bring to the screen separately and as a pair. Gone are the screen time-sucking subplots involving the Larsen family and councilman-turned-mayor Darren Richmond. Instead, we’re given a compelling new cast of supporting characters, and most importantly, a ticking clock.

In the months after the resolution of the Rosie Larsen murder, a case from now former-detective Linden’s past comes to haunt her.  (Remember the eerie drawings of trees done by a young child who witnessed his mother’s grisly murder?) The man convicted of and sentenced to death for the crime is Ray Seward (played by the spectacular Peter Sarsgaard).

But did Seward really kill his wife? Linden is unconvinced after the Seattle PD investigates a string of murders with an identical MO to Seward’s, murders he couldn’t have committed from death row.

Linden and Holder not only have to stop a serial killer who’s targeting homeless and runaway teen girls—they have to prove Seward’s innocence before his impending execution. Sarsgaard’s performance as Seward ranges from gut-wrenching (he has a panic attack while being weighed in preparation for his hanging) to hard to watch (I’m thinking in particular of a scene involving a razor and a tattoo of his son’s name).

The nuances of the relationships—Linden and Holder; Holder and a troubled, street-smart teen; Seward and a possibly sociopathic prison guard—add color to an already compelling storyline without overwhelming it. It’s a balance Seasons 1 and 2 never successfully navigated.

That’s not to say this season is perfect. The plotting still suffers from obvious red herrings, although none are as egregious as those in the first two seasons, which often stretched across episodes. Still, the execs have done an incredible job putting Linden and Holder at the center of a subtly thrilling drama where no one is promised a happy ending.

What do you think? Does this season of The Killing deserve fan forgiveness? Will Linden stop Seward’s execution in time? And who is the “Pied Piper”?


Kara Taylor poses a completely different set of questions in her sassy mystery debut Prep School Confidential. (Unlike Rosie Larsen, teen queen Anne Dowling is never incidential to anything.) Read more about it in our Fresh Meat coverage, and to enter for your chance to win copy, make sure you're a  registered member of the site, then simply leave a comment below.

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Kara Taylor is the author of Prep School Confidential, which she wrote during her first semester of graduate school, in between pulling all-nighters and listening to her dad say writing isn't a real job. Now, she lives on Long Island and writes full time.  You can learn more about her by visiting her website or following her at or on Twitter @karataylor_.


  1. Albert Tucher

    I must be the only viewer who didn’t fly into a rage at the end of season one, although I found the wrap up of season 2 disappointing.

    But yes, I agree that this season is the best

  2. Christine LaRue

    I’ll admit to being more than a mite ticked at the end of Season 1, but not enough to forego the second season. Liking the current season a lot!

  3. Mary Ann Brady

    I’m new to this series and can’t wait to begin watching!

  4. Marlyn Beebe

    I’m one of those who gave up after Season 1. Perhaps I’ll give it another try; I do think Mireille Enos is amazing!

  5. Charles Fraker

    I have no idea about The Killing but the book looks interesting. Sign me up!

  6. Andrew Beck

    This season on the Killing has been fantastic, with great performances from Enos, Kinnaman, Sarsgaard and the young actress who plays Bullet.

    What was character assassinating about the end of Season 2 of the series. I rather liked the twist as to who really was responsible for the death of Rosie Larsen, it made the story all the more heartbreaking!!! But it didn’t need to be dragged out for two seasons, no matter how much I liked Linden and Holder. Didn’t like all the rain though!

  7. Marjorie Pawley

    Would enjoy reading the Prep School Confidential-sounds interesting!

  8. Bill Jankun

    Looks interesting

  9. susan beamon

    I got so bored by episode 3 of season 1, I neer made it to the end or watched season 2. Thought I’d watch season 3 because they promised it would be different. Season 3 was better, and interesting. Just forget the first 2 seasons completely.

  10. Betsy Whitmarsh

    I haven’t watched the series, but I am interested to check it out now!

  11. Karen Terry

    I watched from the beginning. This season to me is pretty good. Sarah has lost everything, but she hasn’t given up. You feel for her. She is a very good investigator and she can admits when she is wrong. Holder maybe flawed, but he is a good partner for Sarah. I kind of thought that he had feelings for Sarah. She is so flawed that I think there was some chemistry there, but she wouldn’t allow it because she hasn’t gotten her life together to taken on Holder’s problems too with an relationship. Seward may have been innocent of his wife’s murder.

  12. sue brandes

    I love this show. I am one of the faithful that have stuck with it every week. I think this season is just as good. One of my favorite shows.

  13. Kathy Fannon

    I’m looking forward to the book based on the show-due out in January by one of my favorite thriller authors, Karen Dionne. And the Prep School book looks good too.

  14. Andrew Kuligowski

    Kara, I haven’t watched your show yet. (Don’t take it personally … I usually watch baseball, then switch to hockey, then back … only their playoffs overlap – or turn it off. I get my fiction from READING.)

    As such, with the “Fresh Meat” post coupled with your comments above, I am intrigued, and would LOVE to get a copy of the first book in your new series.

  15. Bob Alexander

    The show left me looking elsewhere. I never go back.

  16. Michael Papagermanos

    I have absolutely fallen in love with this season of “The Killing”. This latest episode was quite possibly one of the most powerful hours of Television, ever. Absolutely thrilling and full of despair, and at the same time as it played with your emotions, as both Enos and Kinnaman were perfect in it.

    I watched all of Season 1 and 2. Although not as disappointed as some people, I believe “The Killing” has found it’s voice and I hope there is a Season 4.

    A lot of people are missing out.

  17. lynn anderson

    Not a viewer of the show-I’d rather spend my time reading.

  18. Shannon Scott

    I felt cheated at the end of Season 1 and was over the series by the end of Season 2.

  19. L L

    Sounds like an interesting show

  20. lindem

    May have to change my mind about watching this show after reading these comments,. Gave up on it but will try again and hope foe the best!

  21. betsy shipley

    One of the best dramas currently on tv that many don’t want to know about or even care about. July 28 was one of the most intense 60 minutes that I have sat through and the act should certainly be awarded a first prize for his performance.
    Since many of us enjoy this series, could we do a letter writing crusade to both the president of AMC and to the producer Veema Sud asking that they produce a 4th and 5th series?
    Personally I enjoy this much more than Walking dead or Breaking bad. The Killing has more substance which is what I enjoy.
    betsy shipley

  22. Denise Sachs

    This sounds very good.

  23. Jessica Wu

    i wanna read prep school confidential. hope i win

  24. Vicky Boackle

    looks great.

  25. lynette barfield

    Sounds good to me. Would love a copy.

  26. Dawn K


  27. Colleen Welander

    This looks sooo good.

  28. Daniel Morrell

    sounds like a fun one!

  29. Ed Nemmers

    I would love to read the work of Kara Taylor!

  30. Valeen Nielson

    I’m embarassed to say that I didn’t know about this series, but now I’m excited to start watching it! Now a book too!

  31. kathy pease

    Thank you for the great giveaway please count me in 🙂

  32. Katherine M in Austin

    I have to admit that I gave up on Season 1, even though I considered Linden a great character. I never even gave Season 2 a look, but I tried the Season 3 premiere and have been pulled into the story.

    Looks like the prep school might be interesting.

  33. Francine Anchondo

    Sounds awesome 🙂

  34. peter gladue

    I like that this book was written while she was still in school., I like to win/read this

  35. Mihaela Day

    I haven’t watched the series

  36. LeAnn Knott

    Never started this series so would like the chance. Looks a little out of my norm!!!

  37. Daniel Vice

    This would be great

  38. Shawn Andree

    This sounds great. Don’t know much about it yet.

  39. Leohauoli

    Just finished season 1 on Netflix

  40. Buddy Garrett

    I haven’t seen the show but it sounds interesting. I would love to read the book.

  41. Karen Koziczkowski

    Tonight the 2 hour finale. I LOVE this show and the characters, and actors are great. I can’t remember his name but I think the killer is either Holder’s new partner , or Linden’s Old Partner, the one she had an affair with.

  42. Susan Smoaks

    This sounds like a good one, thanks for the chance to win!

  43. cassandra mccann

    I would love to win

  44. Heather Cowley

    I’d love to see what she pulled off during graduate school. Count me in!

  45. Sand Lopez

    I love this season! Way better than season 2.

  46. Lisa Pecora

    I have not seen the show but both the book and the show seem to be good!

  47. Michael Lee Smith

    The Shows cool!!!

  48. Karen Koziczkowski

    I think the killer is Skinner, Lindens old partner and now is her boss and also Holders boss also. that why he just now pulled Holder off the case to be investigated by IA Inernal Affairs! Linden is blinded to Skinner because of her love of who he thinks he is. Shocker for her. Will she go off the deep end again?

  49. ron frampton

    think i will watch the show !

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