Much has changed in the Seattle of Veena Sud’s imagination since we last visited. It no longer downpours with a laughable ferocity that forces locals to ridicule the show. The series creator, showrunner, and executive producer has apparently spent time in the real Seattle, so that the skies above The Killing are more accurately overcast and bone white, the soul-crushing lack of sun muting every hue and turning nearly every surface the color of moth wings. And the rain’s dialed down to a drizzle that appears as infrequently as Sarah Linden’s child support checks.
Detective Stephen Holder, as we saw at the beginning of last night’s two-part Season 3 premiere, has ditched the black hoodie for a double Windsor. Up for a promotion, he now looks less like a brooding junkie and more like the guy who asks if he can get a dressing room started for you at J. Crew. His new partner is—as all sidekicks in police procedurals apparently must be—a loquacious misogynist whose unbridled banter almost makes one miss Holder’s old partner, Linden the crime-solving mime.
Holder and Detective Misogyny creep through an abandoned factory in what we’re later told is West Seattle to inspect the nearly decapitated corpse of a girl. It took 26 episodes for the cops to solve the case last time a dead teenager surfaced, so this should go well.
Across town we meet a pair of be-backpacked kids—not too unlike the be-backpacked kids who bum smokes at Westlake Center—Kallie and Bullet. Sweet Kallie we fear is not long for this world, even if her fake-out Aurora Bridge moment turned out to be a “I just wanted to get a better look at the water” thing rather than the suicide attempt we and Bullet first assumed. (Tricky!) Bullet, though, is tough. The mohawked stoic is often mistaken for a boy, and seems to relish the confusion. She and her fellow runaways hangout on a nondescript downtown sidewalk and bunk, if they can score a bed on the nightly roster, at a youth shelter in Beacon Hill.
Then, because what this episode needed was more gloom, we drop in on former detective Sarah Linden, orange-vested at the Vashon Island ferry terminal, where she’s enduring self-imposed soft labor and a with-benefits friendship with a tadpole/coworker. Linden is characteristically nonverbal and traumatized by past cases, including, coincidentally, a case that may or may not be related (it is) to the case Holder just stepped into at the West Seattle factory.
So the guy from J. Crew shows up at her Vashon Island home, his tie loosened just so, to pique her interest in his new case with—naturally—photographs of a slit throat. Holder brandishes some one-liners and leaves Linden to her slasher photos and silence.
We also meet Ray Seward, a death row inmate convicted of killing his wife in front of his son, and who has chosen hanging as his form of execution. Played by Peter Sarsgaard, Seward appears to have taken psychopath lessons from Kevin Spacey’s “John Doe” in Seven. He’s calm in that sinister way that let’s you know he could explode any second, which he does soon enough, bashing the skull of the prison chaplain against his cell bars. Seward is also a skilled manipulator. When he spots baby vomit on the uniform of prison guard Henderson /Chief Galen Tyrol he segues to talk of his own son, Adrian, and convinces Henderson to grant him a phone call, because kids.
Meanwhile on Island of the Mutes, Linden shoots a cow. Then she drops in on her old partner, one Lieutenant James Skinner. Skinner!! (Am I the only one hoping there’s at least one moment this season where a scandalized Seattle police boss shouts the lieutenant’s last name a la Superintendent Chalmers?) He’s the cop who put Seward behind bars, we learn. We also learn, from Skinner’s embittered wife, that back in the day he and Linden may have done a lot more together than policing and paperwork, if you know what she means.
Assuming the Rosie Larson mystery of the first two seasons is any indication, Skinner, along with many of the other characters we meet in the premiere, will each spend an episode playing the role of Red Herring: Pastor Mike and his tattoo (“Ephesians 1:7”); Goldie, the pimp with a limp who sexually assaults Bullet; Danette, Kallie’s trailer-dwelling mom who’s resentful of Kallie because Kallie looks at least five years younger than her; Mama Dips, the front desk ghoul at the 7 Star Motel; Twitch, a male prostitute who dreams of Hollywood and perfectly dyed bangs.
The girl whose body Holder investigated at the West Seattle factory, Ashley Kwon, we learn, also stayed at the Beacon Hill youth shelter favored by Bullet and Kallie. Then Kallie goes missing after slipping into a mysterious car, just like Kwon. So we start to worry about Bullet and her friends—even if we’re relieved that this season’s going to be about, in part, the street kids of Seattle and not the political operatives who nauseatingly dominated Seasons 1 and 2. Already the inner dramas of runaways and underage prostitutes seem like a better fit for the kind of show Veena Sud has tried to create since The Killing pilot.
Our anxiety about the runaways blooms in the last scene, when Linden, following a hunch, finds the location that Seward’s son Adrian has recreated in a landscape painting over and over. She approaches a pond and her answer comes into focus: A dozen or more corpses rotting in the shallow water, signifying to Linden, from the look on her face, many things, but just one thing to us.
This is going to be way grosser than the Rosie Larson case.
The Killing airs Sundays at 9pm on AMC.