The series title be damned: The Killing has had several lives, getting canceled after Season 2 on AMC only to be brought back for a third season on the cable network, canceled again, and brought back for one more — and this time, everyone agrees, just one more — season, wrapping up the series on Netflix in August.
But four seasons are enough for series creator Veena Sud to tell the story she wanted to tell, right down to the final scene she had planned from the beginning for star Mireille Enos's Sarah Linden. Sud, who was nominated for Emmy and Writers Guild awards for The Killing, talked to Yahoo TV about how lovely it is to end the show on Netflix (hint: cursing is involved), shared details of the incredibly tension-filled six episodes that will wrap up, she promises, all the series' storylines, and expressed how grateful she is that, despite all those cancellations, she gets to end The Killing exactly the way she wanted to.
How has the move to Netflix changed the series? The episodes in this final season will be longer, for one, without the commercials?
There are so many great things for us, in terms of being on Netflix. Definitely, we have more real estate for episodes… we've got more than 15 minutes [extra], for each episode. Each episode runs close to a full hour, which is wonderful as storytellers, and it also just completely serves a story like The Killing, that's so compacted and rich and deep… having that full hour has been so wonderful.
And the other nice thing, that [series co-star] Joel Kinnaman really loves, as did all the writers, is that we can cuss on this [laughs]. And it does feel right, for this world, and the place that Linden and Holder find themselves in the kind of endgame of the series. So there are F-bombs here and there, and even Linden gets one off, which feels really right and real for this world.
Why just six episodes?
Six felt like a perfect number for wrapping everything up. This season, Linden and Holder are dealing with the fallout from what happened at the end of Season 3, we've got the new case, and we're answering every hanging thread in the series, like what will happen to Jack and [his mom] Sarah, does Sarah ever meet her mother [which she does this season]… there's a lot of stuff compacted in each episode. But [six] still felt like the right number, because, again, we've got those extra 15 minutes in each one, so it's basically de facto eight episodes in terms of storytelling real estate.
What can you share about the new murder investigation Linden and Holder will be working on? Does it involve the character played by new Season 4 regular Joan Allen?
They're assigned a new case this season. A picture-perfect family is murdered in a wealthy part of Seattle, and the family is survived only by their military academy [student] son, who was shot in the head but survived the home-invasion-type assault. And he goes to an all-male military academy that is run by a woman named Col. Margaret Rayne, who is played by the fabulous Joan Allen. As the investigation proceeds and the mystery thickens, there is a lot of head-butting between Rayne and Linden, so there's a lot of heightened, confrontational, delicious moments between these two women who live in worlds traditionally occupied by men. They are incredibly fierce. So we get to see the great Mireille Enos and the fabulous Joan Allen go head-to-head, which is a wonderful dynamic.
We're also steeped heavily in that world of the all-boys military academy that caters mostly to the boys who've gone astray of wealthy families in Seattle. And that's a counterpoint to the world of the homeless, runaway teenagers in Season 3. Now we're with troubled kids again, but this time they come from very wealthy families in the city. But they're as deeply troubled and have as many secrets as our kids on the street did.
And, without getting into specifics in the name of avoiding spoilers, this all unfolds alongside this major story from the Season 3 finale.
What's really important this season is that it is ending for Linden and Holder. They both crossed a line they can't uncross. In the past, it was very clear, or Linden wanted it to be very clear, who the good guys and the bad guys were. But because of this thing that happened in the woods, both she and Holder's moral compass has become very gray. They have a secret together, and this secret will test their partnership and will tear apart their friendship as they try to keep it [a] secret. And Holder's ex-partner, Detective Reddick (Gregg Henry), is actually looking into [what happened]… there's something about their secret and their story that doesn't make sense to him.
Gregg Henry was fantastic last season, and it sounds like his role in the story is even bigger in Season 4.
Yes, Gregg plays a huge part this season. Last season, Reddick was Sarah's nemesis… the type of cop Sarah really dislikes intensely, the lazy guy who just kinds of dots his t's and crosses his i's. This season will see a whole new facet to Reddick. He's actually a very smart guy, a very good cop, and now he's bitten into something that he definitely wants to get to the bottom of, especially because it has something to do with his nemesis, Sarah Linden. They say every cop has this one case that stays with them, and eats away at them, and becomes their mission. For Reddick, finding the truth about what happened in the woods at the end of Season 3 has become his mission.
There are three major storylines to resolve in six episodes… these really are going to be tense and intense.
It's a bullet train from beginning to end. It's ending… it's endgame, it's unrelenting, it's Sarah and Holder's own walk through a valley of darkness, and the big question is, will they find their way to the light, out of this valley of darkness?
And it sounds like it's also a question of whether they find their way out with their friendship intact?
Absolutely. Because they have this unholy alliance, they've got this secret, and they have to trust each other, that the other person won't spill. And that trust starts to break apart over the course of the season.
You mentioned Sarah meeting her mom in Season 4, and she's being played by Francis Fisher. How big of a role will she play in the final story?
Well, you know, the abandonment that Sarah Linden faced at age 5 is her primary wound and really is the thing that's made her search all her life for a world she can put into order. There's a reason that she speaks for the dead, and she speaks for dead girls, in particular… because of her own past and her own incredible loss. So, emotionally, for Sarah to find this woman who abandoned her, who caused that first and primary wound, is huge. And to ask her the questions straight on: "Why did you leave me?" It may be a point for Sarah to emerge into the light and find a new path for herself and put that horrible past to rest. Conversely, it could be her fall into a deeper abyss. Meeting her mom and confronting her and having a final reckoning is a huge milestone for this character.
[Related: 'Hemlock Grove' Season 2 Review]
If you look ahead to the end of the series, and people have had a chance to watch these final six episodes, what would you predict their reaction will be? Satisfaction? Heartbroken? Haunted, in a good way, as this show and these characters have left us every season?
If I qualify it that way, it might give [something] away, but from the very beginning, I knew that this is the journey of a woman who, throughout the four seasons, has been walking through darkness, walking through light… walking into the darkest valley of her life and confronting her demons. The endgame of that, the very final moment, is my answer to that.
And is this moment the ending you had in mind all along?
From the very beginning, when I first thought of the show and the character of Sarah — and again, it was always in terms of this woman running through the woods, a woman capable of going into these dark places alone and needing to — there was always a final image I had. I knew where I wanted to see her at the end of the story, and I'm so happy and grateful that I was able to bring her to that point. There is that moment for her; that is how our story ends.
The Killing Season 4 premiers on Netflix on Aug. 1.