Stephen Holder: He Who Hesitates Is Lost & Other Thoughts on Season 4

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by Lauren Allison (@ResIpsa422)

Before I formally begin, a few in our wonderful fandom for “The Killing” have inquired about my opinion on some pressing matters for Season 4, and although I admittedly have no idea how Veena Sud and her talented cast and crew will surely surprise us, here are a few things I think (I think):

  • I don’t know if I really believe in happy endings on “The Killing.”  In three seasons, we certainly have not experienced that.  If Sarah Linden is smiling or preparing for a run, gird your loins for the coming disaster.   Please understand I am not proclaiming a heartbreaking ending for our characters.   I do not believe it will be a cliffhanger.  Given the nature of the recent endings, if Sarah Linden demonstrated some personal growth and made the commitment to stop running and fight bad guys in a place “where the clock never stops” with a partner who knows precisely “what she is good at,” it would be a twist of an ending for “The Killing,” but I would hardly bet on it.

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  • I do think Holder will elect to cover for her without her having to ask him to do so.  I think the argument can be made that Skinner was clearly capable of extreme violence, failing to follow her lawful commands, and moving as she attempted to place him under arrest, justifying the use of deadly force as she reasonably believed her life, the life of her partner, and the lives of any other potentially abducted children he might have stashed around his lake property might be at risk if she failed to take immediate action.  Police officers are not instructed to shoot to maim.  Her shots to his midsection are appropriate as are the shots to continue to subdue him when he continued to fail to follow lawful orders.  Given he is the serial killer they have desperately been seeking, that he manipulated the authorities and IAB specifically to detain Holder long enough for Skinner to abduct Linden, I think this is one the Seattle Police Department will be happy to simply have go away.


  • Despite that argument, I think Linden will know in her heart that the shooting was not entirely justified.  Secrets manifest.  I am not suggesting this secret will destroy the partnership, but I do think it will be a powerful influence for Linden in Season 4.  Guilt and redemption will be themes for her.  I think we see Jennifer Skinner (Jenn MacLean-Angus, an actress and human being we adore here at The Killing Fan Group) and Bethany Skinner (the beautiful and talented, Katherine Evans), perhaps at Skinner’s funeral.  Although I think that is one event Sarah Linden and Stephen Holder should completely skip, I’m quite confident if both of the Skinner women appear, they will have an encounter with Linden simply to salt the wound as Veena seems to savor letting the fans watch Sarah Linden suffer beyond anything we really thought she could endure.  Although I expect their appearances to be brief, keep those actresses in your mind.  We are impressed!

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  • I do not think Mireille Enos’s pregnancy will be written into Season 4 at all.  Period.  Believe me, I appreciate the juicy scandal of Linden carrying the spawn of a serial killer, but that has never been “The Killing.”  Think Season 2 of “The X-Files” when Gillian Anderson and her husband were expecting a child on the eve of filming.  They’ll hide it as long as they possibly can and disappear her for awhile when they can no longer do so.  The short season will help her exponentially.  Having viewed paparazzi pictures unintentionally that we, by rule, do not share here, of the actress arriving in Vancouver, she looks pregnant.  I suspect her condition and the need for her to be entirely available for filming may have influenced the decision to make Season 4 only six episodes.

You got there you found me

  • At this point, yes, I do think it is the final season of “The Killing,” and no, I don’t want to talk about it.  I will say this: We have thought this twice before, and our fans are the most resilient, determined bunch in the business.  Anything goes.  Regardless, I do not think there is anything to be gained by showing anything other than absolute gratitude to Netflix for saving our show (twice).  Stomping our feet and demanding Season 5 at this juncture, in particular, seems rather ignoble.   If you want appreciate “The Killing,” watch it on Netflix now, rank it highly on Netflix and, tell everyone that will listen about the show, tweet with us regularly at @TheKillingonAMC and mention #TheKilling by name, participate in our Twitter activities,  and support the work of the cast and crew of “The Killing” on other projects.  When it gets closer to our release date, we will advise you how you may be able to do more to support “The Killing,” but right now, raise awareness by talking, tweeting, watching, and getting others to watch. If you want to blog or share your art right here on this website, let us know by tweeting us at @TheKillingonAMC or emailing us at:   Like I said many times before when I thought the end of “The Killing” was certainly upon us, thankfulness is a condition I have never come to regret in this life.  This fandom, the wonderful friendships we have forged while we have watched this stellar program, will continue.  You make it real for us!

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  • I do not think Sarah Linden will go to trial for murder or anything else.  “The Killing” has always been about the “Law” part and not really about the “Order” part.  Forgive the Dick Wolf reference.  Yes, the sound effect just played in my head too.  “In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups….”  OH MY!  I digress.

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  • Will they or won’t they?  This is probably the most asked fan question we ever get….Will Stephen Holder and Sarah Linden get together?  My first reaction to this question was: “Hell, if I know.”  Still, I promised Melissa Maxey I would be more than my usual lawyer vague, so how about if I hedge my bets and say……probably.  Like that, Melissa?  Joel Kinnaman and Mireille Enos have undeniable chemistry.  It was part of the reason we saw what we did in “Reckoning,” and yes, it was awkward, but Holder was swimming in alcohol and grief.  The fact that Linden did not allow it to proceed under those terms shows her respect for him and for their relationship…and affords them the opportunity to get it right.  They have six episodes, so if it is going to happen, it will happen fast. Yes, I think he’ll kiss her.  How’s that?  It would have to be done completely in character (Again, think Mulder and Scully.  No frills, flowers, or chocolates.  Just an acknowledgement of consummation in some small way, a few kisses, and co-residing ), so for those of you lovely nuts wanting him to take her against the wall, might I recommend an old favorite show of mine called “True Blood” or my newest guilty pleasure (with non-HBO steaminess), “Scandal,” and perhaps a glass of wine?  Maybe a cold shower?  What would Linden do?  I know! You could go for a run.


So, you watched the end of Season 3.  Where does that leave Sarah Linden and Stephen Holder?  What did we learn about their relationship and what do I think it all means as we look forward to Season 4?

Whether you want to see them writhing in bed together, there is no denying that Linden and Holder serve as a perfect tether to one another, functioning as ideal counterbalances to one another on “The Killing.”  To borrow from Shonda Rhimes, they are unequivocally each other’s “person,” making any storyline involving an allegedly earnest attempt by one of them to have a relationship with someone else relatively pointless and instructional only in so far as it helps the audience learn something about the characters themselves.

I won't leave you here

Since I have already detailed the many loves of Sarah Linden and what they potentially say about her in a previous blog post, let me detail what I think we learned about mainly Stephen Holder from the Caroline Swift character in Season 3.  Her character allowed the audience to understand a measure of growth in Stephen Holder, reminding us that he has come a long way from the gritty, narco proclaiming celibacy in Season 1 and the hopeless man-boy under a bridge grinding senselessly against some other lost soul from NA in Season 2.  This Stephen Holder, even though he bears the markings of another man’s past on his flesh, keeps a toothbrush at the home of the Assistant District Attorney.  He eats noodles with her in sweatpants while watching National Geographic fodder on his DVR.  Very well, Veena Sud, we acknowledge that Stephen Holder may be more relationship-ready than Sarah Linden, but frankly, this never came as any surprise to me as I have always viewed his character as far more emotionally available, if reckless, throughout the entirety of the show.  Still, “Relationship Holder” is also palpably uncomfortable with her gift of the toothbrush, even though she dismisses it as some gift for which she does not have any use (and all together women of the world, “Yeaaaaaahhhh, right”).  “Relationship Holder” invites his lovely redheaded partner back to his apartment for dinner, and when she surprises him, missing the ferry and ending up on his doorstep, Caroline Swift is with him.  Perhaps “Relationship Holder” invited her after Linden initially declined his invitation, but the fact remains that she was, at best, an afterthought. Oh, do I need to mention that it is also Valentine’s Day that he forgot while she made him an, albeit disgusting, red velvet muffin?  Or that he promptly ran off and left her to go crime-fight with Sarah Linden?  Forgive me-I simply proceeded under the assumption that we, as an audience, all felt collectively a little awkward for Caroline Swift in those moments.   Whether you believe that “Relationship Holder” harbors romantic feelings for Sarah Linden, these oversights wherein he seemingly chooses Linden by default, without thought, by instinct, demonstrate this relationship is, for whatever reason, more important to him than the relationship he shared with Caroline Swift.  When you consider his equally, uh, “swift” dismissals of the partner that undoubtedly helped advance his career in some small manner after Linden left him and the sister and nephew that loved him through his addiction in favor of following Linden on her current mission for justice, I think we know Sarah Linden is his primary and his priority relationship.  Perhaps we can all agree the name on your lips the moment you regain consciousness after being savagely beaten and abandoned for certain death in the remote woods of a Native American reservation is probably the name of your “person.”

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I studied the scene between “Relationship Holder” and Caroline Swift in his car in the rain following Bullet’s death where he barked at her about being a junkie before dismissing her, and I think the audience understands the Linden-Holder dynamic  more sharply when contrasted with this exchange.  I think every fan studied the most impactful “almost kiss” in television history as this “Relationship Holder” tried to kiss a woman who was distinctly not his girlfriend in “Reckoning.”  I certainly believe that alcohol, grief, exhaustion contributed to his behavior, but I could not help but consider how Sarah Linden might have reacted if Holder addressed her in the same manner he used with Caroline that rainy day.  Would she have seemingly cowered and exited the car as Caroline did?  I contend that we already know precisely how Sarah Linden would respond: Are you envisioning the scene outside of the prison in “Six Minutes?”  Our Linden would give him hell right back, tell him he was drunk, perhaps even throw his past difficulties with addiction in his face (“Is that one of your addict sayings?”),  before hopefully, resigning herself and apologizing for her words the moment she saw the look of pain in his eyes.  He might tease her, clear the air of any lingering hostility, and then, the two would be off together to interview the next witness.  This exchange is gritty, nasty at times, but it is real, balanced, evenly-yoked.  The respect these two share for one another, whether professional, personal, or both, keeps them tethered to one another in mutual need.  Despite this, “Relationship Holder” proclaims the pair the same, in that, they are always running, never choosing to stay, and in the end, according to him, losing everything.  Although I appreciate Holder’s objective to capture Linden’s attention before she left the prison without ever being permitted to visit Ray Seward again before his execution and I think this assessment is quite astute about Sarah Linden, I do not believe this is true of “Relationship Holder.”  Despite her frequent flights from him, Stephen Holder does not run from Sarah Linden, even when he is racked with anguish over the loss of Bullet, half in the bottle, and likely more than a little embarrassed about trying to kiss her the evening before.  Moreover, even though I really do not expect to see more of Caroline Swift in Season 4 of “The Killing,” we still observe “Relationship Holder” apologizing, if in his own way, and settling the conflict with her in an adult manner.  Whether Caroline is his forever match, the woman undoubtedly deserved an apology for his childish behavior, his dismissal without proper explanation, and for the future, professional, personal, or both, for our Linden and Holder, I am pleased she received it.   


Side Note: As a lawyer formerly with the District Attorney’s Office, I viewed this relationship between Detective Stephen Holder and Assistant District Attorney Caroline Swift as relatively doomed from its inception, with or without the presence of Detective Sarah Linden.  In general conversation, I share this opinion somewhat reluctantly, but I view the collective audience of “The Killing” as smart, sensitive, insightful, probably very perceptive about this distinction already.  Although it is accurate to assert that law enforcement and the prosecuting attorneys both fight for justice, I would contend, in many real life instances, they do not always fight as a cohesive unit, a united front, and those lapses typically create lasting conflict, even bitterness, between the professions.  If you have never worked in this field, how many times have you seen an exchange between a detective and the prosecuting attorney on your favorite police procedural drama look something like this:

Police Officer: He’s our man.  He did it.  Convince the jury!

Prosecuting Attorney: It isn’t enough.  Bring me something I can use.

Both of those viewpoints essentially function as one professional telling the other professional to do his or her damn job.  In these competitive fields where competence and, frankly, ego are very real components of success, these messages are rarely well-received by either side.  When a defendant believed to be guilty is allowed a reduced sentence because of a procedural oversight, both sides frequently point the finger at one another, whether reasonable.  Police grumble about the measure of administrative and constitutional protections and procedures afforded individuals they view as certain criminals, implying that perhaps all lawyers do is live to make the pursuit of justice more difficult for those who deserve it the very most.  Lawyers complain about the measure of litigation we must undertake to make certain the rights of all, guilty or innocent, are protected, implying that perhaps all law enforcement would otherwise immediately be inclined to overstep them without our intervention.  Both viewpoints are biased and belittle equally valuable contributions to the pursuit of justice from both professions.  Both professions typically attract fiery, stubborn personalities.  Both professions yield workaholics not always heralded for our fidelity, a reality I would attribute to exhaustion, proximity, and the absence of partners understanding of the nature of the work (which, in my experience, often means another partner in the same field, i.e. police detective with police detective….or something like that). Both groups are inherently loyal to those within their respective professions.  As such, temporary attraction is a very earnest possibility between these two professions.  Still, in my real world experience, most law enforcement officers believe that most lawyers do not really understand the difficulties of their daily work.  As a lawyer, I can say with absolute confidence most law enforcement officers do not have a clue what it takes to be able to properly stand before a group of peers and utter the words, “Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury.”   And it does not matter how many cases you might win together as a unit, both law enforcement officer and lawyer, if equally dedicated, never truly forget the one case that slipped away, even that one defendant that will be out of prison in ten years when he or she should be there for life.  It is not merely about being competitive, although that is certainly a component, but, in my experience, the bitterness is more deeply rooted in the knowledge that every day for the rest of their mutual lives, the lives of their families within the community, they will bear the knowledge that a defendant eluded them to offend again, a defendant will be out of prison to offend again in 4 years, 13 hours, and 27 minutes.  That anxiety coupled with the belief that that cop or that lawyer screwed up and saddled you with it for life only widens the gap between these two professions, rendering long-term, lasting romantic relationships between lawyer and cop almost impossible in real life.  Give such a blended relationship a try and then introduce a perfect co-worker and friend in the same field who compliments your significant other in every foreseeable way and happens to also be incredibly attractive.  Even though I will concede I do not have any idea how the story ends on “The Killing,” you better believe I know how that story ends in real life every single time.

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Think about it in the context of “The Killing”: If Caroline Swift returns, do you think for one moment that she would completely refrain from sniffing around the police shooting involving her “Relationship Holder” and that pesky redhead that showed up to interrupt Valentine’s Day?  If her “Relationship Holder” holds true to character and sticks by his “person” in Sarah Linden, keeping the actual details under wraps by omission or deception, how can he hope to keep her under wraps?  I would think he would have to keep her close, leaving him unable to dump her and focus on police work for the six painfully short episodes of Season 4.  If “Relationship Holder” keeps his nosey ADA girlfriend close to prevent her from uncovering the truth about what happened between Linden and Skinner that night, how will Sarah Linden know with certainty he will keep from cracking and selling her out to the attorney sleeping next to him that could prosecute her for murder? She would have to keep him close, painfully close, or come completely clean to the authorities about what happened when she shot Skinner, and frankly, both options have devastatingly bad implications on the future of these two characters, and the entire triangle is absolutely contrary to what we have come to know as “The Killing.”  Now, I did mention Shonda Rhimes earlier, and the beloved Gregg Henry is on both shows….Are you following me?  Right?  This storyline is something entirely out of “Scandal,” so while I know how fundamentally wrong it is, a part of my cold, black heart is crying out in ecstasy for it.  Shonda, are you listening?! No, “The Killing,” like “The Wire” before it, is a show about the gritty realism involved in the pursuit of justice, so if this lawyer had to dispel with the Caroline Swift character in a realistic, believable way, how would I do it?  Well, I’d write her out immediately and have “Relationship Holder” mention she left him for another lawyer.  If he had the heart of Holder, the looks of Joel Kinnaman, AND he happened to also be a “Gladiator in a Suit,” Caroline Swift could not hope to resist him. 

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How did Sarah Linden adapt to “Relationship Holder” in Season 3?  Will she need his newfound stability more than ever in Season 4?  I have enjoyed some spirited discussions with fans about the look on Linden’s face as she watched “Relationship Holder,” dressed in a suit that no longer makes him look like he sells plasma for a living, saunter out of the squad room, Caroline’s hand brushing his back in a familiar way.  I find it interesting that Linden also observed James Skinner kissing his wife and daughter in parting at that very same spot, magnifying her feelings of isolation as both men with whom she shares the closest affinity seem equipped with barriers to any further intimacy with her.  Please understand I am not necessarily speaking only about sexual intimacy, but rather, I mean, in those very moments, Sarah Linden could safely assume that she was completely and utterly without a “person,” so to speak, in her world.  Both of her former partners have totally moved on, personally and professionally.  Her son lives in Chicago with his father.  She has cast aside her plaything in “Boatman Cody.”  Regi is engaged/married and presumably sailing the open ocean with her new bride.  Even though she likes pretending she is a carefree young woman happily living a quiet life on an island, we know how she really feels in those two moments: Alone.  Do I see a flicker of jealousy in her expression or even perhaps in her choice to ask Holder almost too nonchalantly if anything was going on between him and that ADA?  What about when she arrived at Holder’s apartment after missing the ferry only to find him with his girlfriend, forcing her to choke down some noodles while making small talk?  Did I see jealousy there?  After careful contemplation, my answer is maybe.  I know, that is entirely unsatisfying, isn’t it?  I just do not think that Sarah Linden is emotionally evolved enough to always know completely what she is feeling, what she needs, what she wants, and I would further argue that if she does know, she is even more inclined to introvert, to keep that secret close the vest, to go for a run and hide from her emotions, to sleep with emotionally unavailable people with little to no expectations of her to quell her sexual desire, and to channel every introverted emotion into chasing the bad guy until she captures the perpetrator, ends up in a psychiatric facility, or both.   As tragic and heroic as that sounds, that is so very much the Sarah Linden I have come to know and love at this point in the story.

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Do I think Stephen Holder and Sarah Linden are jealous by nature?  Will they come to resent the presence of any serious contender or threat to their primary partnership?  My answer to both questions is resoundingly yes, but I am a firm believer most bright, passionate people are, by default, jealous, of the things they find in life that meet their respective needs with fervor.  I suspect both Sarah Linden and Stephen Holder  feel jealousy, but I suspect Sarah Linden might perceive it as a weakness or something she needed to hide.  For example, when Carl Reddick told Holder about Linden and Skinner’s affair, the look on his face was far more demonstrative than anything we ever get from Sarah Linden.  He looked, in my estimation, devastated, and I almost winced as Reddick’s callused revelation.  Conversely, Linden’s expression, even when she observed Skinner, a man she seemingly wanted so badly that she fell back into bed with him almost immediately upon his proclamation about leaving his wife, seems rooted in confusion and contemplation.  Is this how Linden shows jealousy whereas Holder would not even bother to conceal his disappointment?  I think the answer is likely yes.  Frankly, the precarious emotional balance between these two partners was embodied from the very beginning in how they go about questioning a suspect: Holder asks direct questions while Linden almost always exercises extreme restraint.  Holder is quick to accuse almost everyone, and his first ten guesses are always wrong (Yes, I said it, and it’s true): It was Bennett Ahmed.  It was Richmond.  It was Donnie.  It was Marie.  It was Jasper.  It was Alexi.  It was Joe Mills.  It was Pastor Mike/Mark.  It was Goldie.  It was Reddick.  Linden, however, is slow to admit she has drawn any conclusions, keeping her thought process so close to the vest that she literally overlooked the serial killer lying in bed next to her.  How many times did we have to hear Holder say some version of “We got him, Linden” only to have Linden say something like, “Rosie/Trisha Seward’s killer is still out there?”  In almost every case, it is Sarah Linden in the leading role, cerebrally putting the pieces together, destroying her psyche in the process, and it is Stephen Holder, armed with extroverted emotions, putting her back together with his subtle devotion.


So, fast forward to the final moment of Season 3, how do I think Sarah Linden felt in that moment, and what do I think Stephen Holder should do?  My answer is simple: I think she felt more alone than she had ever felt in her entire life, and I think Holder must act definitively to assure her she is not alone.  After learning of his monstrous crimes, I do not really believe that there is any audience member that did not understand her action on some level, even if it appalled them.  I have always agreed with Mireille Enos’s brilliant assessment about her character that the revelation really left Sarah Linden with little literary option but to slay the monster.  Several fans have clamored they will loathe her if she forces Holder to cover for her and compromise his morality, and my response is: Are we watching the same show?  I appreciate his sense of humor, his heart as much as the next fan, but frankly, he was a dirty cop from the beginning.  AMC even promoted him in the “Who Killed Rosie Larsen?” Suspect Tracker.   He was an addict who planted evidence, stole evidence, made lewd comments to witnesses, roughed up witnesses, make promises he could not keep, broke into residences, stole drugs, beat up drug-dealers.  Shall I continue to list his felonies because I am barely out of one season?  It is a testament to the brilliance of Joel Kinnaman and Holder’s creator, Veena Sud, that audiences have apparent amnesia about what he used to be because of the growth we have seen him experience in three seasons.  So, for Joel Kinnaman, for those fans, like me, that marvel at his work, and mostly, for Sarah Linden, and the equally gifted Mireille Enos, I want a more profound ending for Stephen Holder.  I want him to fully emerge from the shadow of Sarah Linden, and to do so, he must abandon the storyline of the scruffy sidekick and be a hero.  He is already an antihero.  We are already rooting for the drug addict dirty cop to step up and save the emotionally crippled dirty cop.  It sounds like such a romantic story, no?

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So, listen up, Stephen Holder, here is my advice to you: If you care about Sarah Linden, if she is indeed your “person,” as I so suspect, hell, if you love her, be a man of action, because nobody ever remembers the sidekick and the sidekick most assuredly never gets the girl.  Sarah Linden chooses men with obstacles to giving her the type of devotion she truly needs to stop running, and every single one of them took her bait.  When things got difficult, none of them chose her over everything else.  Do not hesitate and allow her to wallow in self-depreciation, turning herself in for the trial she does not deserve.  Do not hesitate and make her ask for your help, your protection, because that will bury her in guilt she will never overcome.  Hesitation will tell her you, like Sonoma, like Greg Linden, like Skinner, do not chose her over everything else.  So whatever you do, Stephen Holder, do not hesitate.  Take the lead.  If it looked like self defense, if he was baiting her, not following her lawful instruction and moving towards her, then tell Internal Affairs this shooting was self defense and do so convincingly.  Let her know, without any doubt, that she is your “person,” because every fan will understand and forgive you for it.  If you forgive her, we will forgive her for putting you in the position to have to take such drastic action to prove the devotion we see but she does not.  Then get back to solving cases with the best partner you will ever have, and by being a man of action, give her a reason to stop running and do so without ever making her wonder if you regret the choice you made that ensured she would be at your side fighting monsters for another day.  Oh, and Holder, man, one last thing while I’ve got you here, if you really wanted to kiss her, and between you and me, I know you did, take this last piece of advice from me.  After you save her, the very next moment the opportunity presents itself when you are not filled with liquid courage, whatever you do, Stephen Holder, do not hesitate.



Lauren Allison is a restless attorney, writer, general creative, and co-administrator of The Killing Fan Group.  She earned her B.A. in Political  Science with a minor in History from The University of Tulsa in 2003.  She earned her Jurisdoctorate from The University of Tulsa College of Law in 2006.  She also holds her certification in Revenue Management from Cornell University.

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