Season 3 Retrospective: The Many Loves of Sarah Linden



The Season 3 Finale of The Killing aired on AMC just three weeks ago.  We hope you have managed to emerge from the fetal position and embrace life again after our beloved heroine, Sarah Linden, did the understandable if unthinkable.  This entry marks the beginning of our retrospective series on The Killing, Season 3, and before we tackle more grueling concepts like the series and its commentary on the death penalty, we thought we would address a moderately lighter subject by discussing our leading lady’s epically bad choice of romantic partners.  Why did she choose these men?  What does it mean for her in Season 4? And, of course, due to fandom demand, what must Stephen Holder do to ensure she does not duck him the next time (Yes, I said next time) he tries to kiss her?  Enjoy and be sure to let us know what you think on Twitter by tweeting @TheKillingonAMC


Greg Linden (Tahmoh Penikett): We first met Sarah’s ex-husband, Greg, in the Season 1 Episode, “Beau Soleil,” and he appeared again in “Ghosts of the Past” in Season 2.  Before his surprise appearance, we knew very little about the father of Sarah’s young, Jack.  We were surprised to learn he was her ex-husband, mainly because the thought of Sarah Linden as a bride is almost inconceivable.  The two battled pretty intensely about Sarah’s care (or lack thereof) for their son, and Sarah reminded him that he (1) abandoned them and (2) never provided any sort of financial support for Jack.  I have a few issues her-First, Greg and Jack knew how to contact one another via cell phone.  Jack certainly must have known his presence would incite his otherwise absent mother. So, Greg wasn’t entirely out of the picture.  They still knew one another mobile telephone numbers.  An outraged Sarah Linden tells Greg that he left her without any financial support.  She specifically uses the word “alimony” which I find odd.  Bear with the lawyer/fan here: Alimony is awarded to a former spouse based upon the needs of the recipient spouse and the ability of the paying spouse to pay.  In my experience, it is most frequently used in situations where one spouse is underemployed, and the other is the primary breadwinner for the family.  If the pair splits, the stay-at-home spouse, the student spouse, the still-working-the-way-up-the-corporate-ladder spouse is totally broke, living a destitute life compared to what they were previously accustomed.  Such a spouse is entitled to alimony.  If Sarah was a police officer, was she underemployed?  Well, police officers do not make a lot of money, but she still earned enough to support herself and her son.  Unless Greg had a killer job and Sarah was accustomed to living like a millionaire, I suspect she would not be eligible for alimony.  I suspect the writers simply used “alimony” when they should have used “child support. “  During all of Season 3, Jack is living with Greg Linden in Chicago.    

What Do We Learn About Sarah: She does not seem to shy away from the word “commitment,” even though we know her to be a runner.  She is domineering in relationships, exhausting her partners with her intensity, her relentlessness coupled with almost emotional reclusiveness.  Greg did not seem to shy away from really battling with her, reinforcing the idea that there really is a thin line between love and hate.  She attempts to exclude everyone that does not chase her during her moments of compelling commitment to her case, even her own son.  Sarah will never tolerate any partner that is needy or not understanding about the requirements of her job, meaning it would not be unexpected to have her most compatible with another cop or criminal attorney.


Rick Felder (Callum Keith Rennie): Otherwise dubbed “Sonoma” by Stephen Holder, Rick Felder was Sarah Linden’s fiancé at the beginning of Season 1, and we also learned he was her psychiatrist during her infamous breakdown over the murder of young Adrian’s mother.  We will admit we are somewhat confused about the timeline of Sarah’s relationship with Dr. Felder.  She was presumably having an affair with her partner at the time, James Skinner, and we suspect his manipulation likely contributed to her emotional instability and subsequent hospitalization.  He most certainly caused her breakdown in the first place by being, uh, the very murderer they were seeking.  A sexual relationship between a psychiatrist and his patient is, at best, inappropriate.  The balance of power between the pair was not equitable-An emotionally broken patient vulnerable and trusting her doctor to piece her back together.  The intimacy of the contact between doctor and patient in this situation certainly leads to temptation at times.  Take it from the lawyer.  It is not that different from a lawyer and client.  It may be delightfully tempting, but it makes for the sort of thing that one loses their professional license over.  Thankfully, Sarah eventually agreed to marry him, although the look on her face as he leaves their presumably shared apartment in the Pilot suggests some apprehension about Dr. Felder as her forever match.  We see the very same expression after Sarah and Felder have sex (Yes, watch your deleted scenes on the Season 1 DVD Set).  She wears her engagement ring in the beginning, but we later notice it is absent in subsequent episodes without explanation.    She avoids him like a pro, reverting to her intense introversion during the case.  He later bails her out of the mental institution at Holder’s insistence, but he walks out on her while she renders the most painful expression of love and gratefulness ever.  Nobody on the planet walks away when Mireile Enos gives you THAT LOOK.  Sayonara Sonoma. 

What Do We Learn About Sarah: She seems to be attracted to men that come equipped with obvious reasons or barriers that prevent them from being a really suitable long-term partner-Her doctor who clearly violated his ethics to be with her, her married partner, her much younger co-worker.  What happens when these relationships go sour, dear Sarah?  You still have to see the creeper every day!  Clearly, Sarah is most apt to have a sexual relationship with someone she sees as a part of her regular daily routine.  She doesn’t strike me as a character inclined to take anyone home from the bar, does she?  Still, she chose rebound Rick after presumably ending her affair with Skinner.  It is certainly never a good idea to marry your rebound, so props to Sarah for ruining that relationship.  It died a slow but certain death.  I suspect that even independent Sarah does not really like to be alone, particularly in bed.  While we know nothing about Sarah’s father, we know she likes older partners, bright, intelligent, and charismatic with something to teach her.  Every woman on the planet has had a relationship/attraction exactly like this. We get it. Oh Daddy!


The Fed: We know that Sarah slept with the FBI agent that provided gang member insight about the Alexi’s tattoo.  Unlike her other suitors, her rapport with him seemed quite harmonious, even flirtatious. It was so unSarahlike that Holder noticed and teased her.  Remember “Dial 1-900-Linden?” This interaction screams booty call, Sarah, but hey, a woman has needs.  He was dark, handsome, older and equipped to teach her something.  See Rick Felder.

What Do We Learn About Sarah: Woman has needs.  She may not wish to navigate the perilous waters  of a relationship, but she is not about to give up sex.  We actually sort of dig this part of her character as such behavior is typically associated with masculine male leads.  Glad to see that Veena understands that the very same needs are very often part of the Alpha female.


Cody (Andrew Jenkins): Cody was Sarah’s much younger co-worker on the ferry with whom she had an affair during the tenure of their working relationship.  We must confess we immediately found Cody to be quite possibly the stupidest man on the planet.  He had Mireille Enos alone in a house on an island willing to do just about anything with him, and he had the gall to suggest they go to town and catch a show.  Seriously?  We wanted to punch him in the throat.  Sarah seemed eager, initiating sex with him in the Season 3 premiere before a visit from Holder who arrived in time to see her lover slipping out the door.  Holder rightfully teased her about her jail bait lover.  After Linden leaves him, telling him that she “breaks things,” Cody shows up, trapping her car with his in her driveway and grabbing her tightly by the arm.  The look on his face during that confrontation seemed very much that of a scorned lover like she had somehow cheated on him with her job.  Linden forcefully insists that he let her go, and after a moment of hesitation, he complies, letting Sarah Linden go for good.

What Do We Learn About Sarah: This relationship is admittedly somewhat out of pattern.  Cody is a much younger choice for her, but I suspect her need to be a different person, living a different life, encouraged her to go for a little variety in her love life.  Cody still fits the pattern of selecting people with whom she much interact on a daily basis.  She is sexually motivated, and frankly, this relationship feels like a protracted booty call.


James Skinner (Elias Koteas): Sarah had an affair with her former partner, James Skinner.  Skinner is a charismatic, older figure, the senior partner in their relationship.  We see Sarah choosing another partner with obvious barriers to prevent a long term relationship.  Skinner is married with a daughter. Further, sleeping with your partner in the police department is surely frowned upon if not completely forbidden.  Oh, and he’s also the Pied Piper.  So, there’s that.  Skinner seems to understand the grueling nature of police work, never begrudging her the need to slip out and investigate her case.  He even seems familiar with a Sarah we have never known.  Did she really sing in the car during their investigations?  That concept seems absolutely foreign to the Sarah we know.  Sarah certainly gravitated towards him throughout the season, but nonetheless, we emerged somewhat surprised to see her fall into bed with him in the finale.  Perhaps we underestimated the power of his pull? Regardless, Sarah could not have possibility imagined she would really find true happiness by inviting the recently separated Skinner into her home for coffee.  Her physical response to his betrayal and emergence as a murderer, a man that likely orchestrated everything cruel and awful in her personal life, left her vomiting on the side of the road and later shooting the unarmed Skinner who was on his knees in front of her.  He effectively destroyed Sarah Linden.  Did he also make her a murderer?

What Do We Learn About Sarah: The intensity of her love is precisely as we expected.  She loves like she hunts down murders-with absolute ferocity.  Such ferocity blinds her to the obvious signs that the relationship will not work for her or, you know, that her lover is a serial killer.  After Sarah kills Skinner, she has an expression of freedom, of relief.  Is she finally free of the demons he nurtured in her? Will she be a different character now?  If so, will she be heroine or villain?


Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman): So, does one aborted kiss mean he makes the list?  Perhaps not under ordinary circumstances, but three years of sexual tension and banter with the leading lady means he is squarely on the list.  While grieving for Bullet, he attempted to kiss Linden.  After a tiny moment of temptation from our leading lady, she smartly ended the kiss before it happened while the collective fandom of The Killing let out an audible gasp.  We literally have not stopped talking about it since then.  The sexual tension between them is that palpable.  Linden’s behavior when Holder was beaten and missing on the tribal reservation, her tears over him, her desperation to find him, and the LOOK on her face when she found him bloodied and battered beneath the tree all suggest that this woman has major affection for her loyal partner.  He has literally seen her at her very worst, and yet, in Season 3, we see he drops his partner, Carl Reddick, to investigate the case with her.  He goes borderline ballistic when Pastor Mike/Mark abducts Linden, even telling Bullet he doesn’t give a shit about her when he learns her lies impeded the search for the lovely redhead.  His sense of humor keeps Linden perpetually on guard, a little grouchy, and occasionally playful with him, a side of her we rarely see.  You jealous? We have said it before but this sexual tension will have to be explored.  We enjoy them without requiring they jump one another’s bones, but something’s got to give eventually.  We asked our most matter-of-fact fan of The Killing whether Holder would be able to keep his promise not to kiss her.  His response?  “Hell no. “ We asked him why.  He said: “Look at her.”  We really cannot argue with that logic.  I mean, look at her!


What Do We Learn About Sarah: She is somewhat unnerved and disarmed by a man with a sense of humor.  Loyalty really matters to her, and Holder’s endurance during her ugly moments has rather effectively bonded the pair.  Although in the past, Sarah might have taken advantage of her painfully attractive partner for a fling, her affection and respect for him now seems to prevent her from taking that route.  So what do we hope Holder will do to protect Sarah Linden in Season 4? First, we know he will do anything for her.  Do we think he would help her cover up her act?  We do.  We actually would prefer to see Holder take the lead, be the dominant partner in the relationship, take hold of the situation and be responsible for helping Linden cover and/or recover from what happened to her.  If he protects her and helps her recover, we hope she will give in to some serious smooching.   The chemistry, friendship, even understanding between them means that they will confront this issue.  We just hope it involves a slightly happier ending for Sarah Linden. 


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