DVD Review: The Killing: The Complete Third Season

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While the first season of the police procedural The Killing received a special features-laden Blu-ray release, the second season was consigned to an MOD (manufactured-on-demand) DVD-R release. The show has had a troubled history, initially cancelled by AMC after the second season. The network thrilled fans by bringing it back for a third season, but subsequently cancelled it again. Netflix stepped in to rescue the series, picking it up for a truncated six-episode season that will be available for subscribers to stream beginning August 1.

That makes now the perfect time to get caught up if you happened to miss season three. The Killing: The Complete Third Season has recently been issued by 20th Century Fox as a three-disc DVD-R set. Yes, that means it is again a no-frills package, entirely lacking in special features and subtitle options. This will be an understandable deal-breaker for some, but for those without special needs who simply want a way to see the dozen episodes, it is a satisfactory package.

Killing season 3 bullett (380x253).jpgThe third season took The Killing to a new level. The core relationship between Detectives Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) and Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman) deepens as they investigate a series of murdered teen runaways. Enos and Kinnaman are at the very top of their game, delivering award-caliber performances. At the season’s outset, Linden is living the quiet life. She’s left the police department and is now working a menial job. Holder develops a hard-earned friendship with a teen informant, Bullett (effective newcomer Rachel Olmstead). It’s not long before the pull of her previous career leads Linden back to the force and she’s soon as obsessed with work as ever.

The presence of Peter Sarsgaard as death row inmate Ray Seward adds an entirely new element to season three. Seward is facing execution for the murder of his wife, but we soon realize Linden has never been completely convinced he deserved his conviction. Sarsgaard is nothing short of mesmerizing, crafting an emotionally deep, unpredictable, complex character who alternates wildly between being sympathetic and utterly despicable. The Killing’s various writers, including Veena Sud (creator of the original Danish series Forbrydelsen, upon which the American version was based), make the brave move of maintaining ambiguities in the Seward character.

Killing season 3 sarsgaard (380x237).jpgThe other thing the show’s creative team learned from the first two seasons was to tell a full story. After the initially well-received, critically-acclaimed first season ended on an unsatisfactory cliffhanger, many viewers felt cheated. They didn’t return for the second season, which was also very deliberately plotted. Though it did finish up the case of the Rosie Larsen murder, it was highly debatable whether or not the story justified two full seasons. With the third season, everything that was great about the initial seasons was retained. But here the incisive writing and visceral acting was utilized to tell a story that more or less resolves by the end of episode 12.

Of course, there is certainly unfinished business to be dealt with, which is why fans have applauded Netflix for allowing Linden and Holder’s story to continue. Though it undeniably helps to have seen seasons one and two, there’s no reason someone completely new to The Killing can’t jump right in with season three. In fact, if you’re at all interested in streaming the fourth season next month on Netflix, The Killing: The Complete Third Season is a prerequisite.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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