The Killing III finale review

The Killing III finale could well be considered the show's finest hour. Here's James' review...

This review contains spoilers.

3.9 & 3.10

The penultimate episode of The Killing III began in, well, in much the same way that many of the episodes this series have, with Detective Inspector Sarah Lund heading into a dark basement, flashlight in one hand, gun in the other. This time she’s investigating the burglar alarm at the home of Niels Rheinhardt’s, personal assistant to Robert Zeuthen of Zeeland, whose daughter has been kidnapped by the father of Louise Jelby, who in turn now believes that Rheinhardt may have murdered Louise. 

As is usually the case, it’s not Lund who gets bumped over the head in the dark and she soon catches up with our once-more balaclava clad perpetrator beating all hell out of Rheinhardt on a nearby dock. In another moment that most shows would save for a season finale, Lund pleads with perp not to drop Rheinhardt into the water with a cement block attached to him, claiming he cannot know for sure that he is Louise’s killer. Fortunately for Lund, her series resident knight in shining armour, Mathias Borch, takes him down with an aggression that can only be motivated by something other than police procedure. 

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Episode nine is really the Rheinhardt episode of The Killing III as the primary focus is on whether or not he is Louise Jelby’s killer, while on the other side of the wall, Lund and Borch try to persuade Louise’s father to reveal the whereabouts of Emilie Zeuthen. Lund is still playing her “if you tell us, we’ll get justice for your daughter” card while Borch seems content to just shout at the guy. For a character who is so adrift from her own emotions, Lund is the only one who treats the perp like a human being, sensing that this is going to be the only way to save Emilie. 

Back in episode one, we assumed that the eponymous killing of this series was going to be that of the Zeeland sailor who turned up in bits on the docks, but as the show has progressed it seems that the killing is actually that of Louise Jelby. Though her father has murdered five people in his pursuit of the truth, The Killing III has skilfully manoeuvred us to a place where we don’t see him as the main villain, even if his methods have been horrific. 

Although it’s Rheinhardt’s turn in the chief suspect chair during this episode, there is still a general feeling that everybody’s a suspect in Louise’s murder and that some people are lying their asses off. Is Robert Zeuthen himself involved? Over at Parliament there’s a lot of infighting amongst Prime Minister Kristian Kamper and his minions. Kamper’s son it seems was in possession of photographic evidence that amounted to more than advisor Karen meeting with Zeeland representatives. There’s an interesting parallel between Kamper and Louise’s father this episode. Both of them are determined to uncover the truth as to the events that led to their children’s deaths. 

For all its suspenseful driven plotting though, it’s Sarah Lund who creates the biggest impact once again this episode. On the case she is focussed and determined to get Emilie Zeuthen back but this is also the episode when she becomes a grandma. A great exchange between Sofie Gråbøl and actor Eske Forsting Hansen who plays her son Mark has Lund finally admit to him that she was never there, that she didn’t know what to do for him. It leads to perhaps The Killing’s most emotional moment yet when she returns to the hospital to find that Mark was present for the birth of his daughter, thanks to her persuasion. Sarah Lund has finally done something right for her son and supported him when it mattered most of all. 

It’s a short-lived moment however as once again work intrudes and episode nine closed on Lund and Borch accompanying Louise’s father via helicopter on a promise that he will take them to Emilie Zeuthen, with an armed Robert Zeuthen and exonerated Niels Rheinhardt in pursuit. Episode nine was yet another good instalment of The Killing III. It did a very good job of keeping all the options open for the series finale and delivered the most emotional moment of the series………for a time. 

Episode ten of The Killing III we have long been promised was the last we were ever going to see of Sarah Lund, though I don’t think anyone was quite prepared for how it was going to make us feel by the end of the hour. 

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Lund and Borch’s hunt for Emilie Zeuthen takes them up the Norwegian Fjords in what seemed like a radical departure from type for the show. The breathtaking scenery they passed through was completely at odds with the dark basements the programme usually haunts. Jelby’s father is still insistent that Rheinhardt is guilty of killing his daughter, a seed he planted in Lund’s head that gradually grew throughout the episode. 

As it turns out, our kidnapper has no faith in Lund’s promise that she will bring his daughter’s killer to justice and the trip to Norway has all been a distraction to divert them from Emilie’s real location. Understandably, this is all a bit too much for Robert Zeuthen to take and a scuffle ends with Emilie’s kidnapper shuffling off this mortal coil. In a redemptive move which solidifies the idea that he was only doing all this out of love for the daughter that he could not give her when she was alive, he does reveal Emilie’s location. 

The retrieval of Emilie Zeuthen from the container ship Medea, the same one we opened upon in episode one, was just the first of The Killing III finale’s tear summoning moments. The Killing is a show which deals with a great deal of loss for its characters so it could never be taken as read that Emilie would be found alive. There were tears of joy when she opened her eyes after Juncker carried her out of the ship. It was a moment that wouldn’t have worked as well in a show that didn’t often deliver such bleak outcomes. 

Which just leaves the question of exactly who did kill Louise Jelby? Kristian Kamper’s son thinks he had the answer on a photo which shows Louise on the day of her disappearance pushing her bike towards the car of… Niels Rheinhardt. It’s hardly conclusive evidence but it seems like this was enough for Stoffer Kamper to visit his nephew in a bid to acquire this photo. If it was to get out that a Zeeland official was connected to the girl’s death then Kamper’s funding and political career would have gone down the tube. It seems that Ben Kamper was unfortunately chased into the path of a train and then the whole thing covered up by the Justice Minister. So it was him all along who forced the prosecutor to change the case story. 

It’s a labyrinth-type reveal as to what happened to Kamper’s son and led to the events which sparked Louise Jelby’s father on his tirade of violence but it does make sense for the most part. The Killing III didn’t paint its political characters in a very nice light during its finale. Only Kamper’s advisor and admirer Karen seems to have any conscience left as Kamper takes the decision to ignore that half the people surrounding him directly contributed to his son’s death and chooses to continue as Prime Minister. That seems a little far-fetched, but we had been shown Kamper’s ruthless and unfeeling persona in earlier episodes. Maybe we just never realised how deeply it ran? 

The Zeuthen family meanwhile get Emilie back and Robert promises his wife it will all be different and a permanent holiday. That seems to fall through when pressure from his board of directors makes him realise that this isn’t going to happen. When I spoke to writer Søren Sveistrup, he described The Killing as a destiny drama and that characters can only try to change who they are. This certainly seems to apply to Robert Zeuthen as the series closes. He is bound by his legacy to fall in line with his business. He will never be the family man he may desire to be. It’s a rather gloomy note for the Zeuthens to end upon but then, the Birk Larssens didn’t come out of series one all smiles either. 

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The actual truth behind who killed Louise Jelby is teased until the very final minutes of The Killing III. In a move which apes the previous series, it turned out to be someone who had been previously discounted but didn’t fully pull the wool over the eyes of Sarah Lund. Alone in a darkened car, Sarah Lund grasped the nettle and told Niels Rheinhardt she would bring him to justice. 

It wasn’t until Rheinhardt adjusted the car’s rear view mirror and his unfeeling eyes gazed back at Lund that his guilt was confirmed. This was a brilliantly played-out moment. Rheinhardt’s arrogance that he was untouchable because of his position in a company that was protected by the government was the final straw for Sarah Lund. I practically screamed at the TV for Lund to restrain herself before she executed Rheinhardt. 

Lund’s devastating final move was made all the more harrowing by what the character had been through in the run up to it in episode ten. Lund was finally on the verge of a happiness that you felt she might willingly embrace. Her mother, son and granddaughter wanted her back in their lives and then there was Mathias Borch. Borch had thrown away his home life for her. Although in typical Lund fashion she didn’t know how to deal with the appearance of his wife in episode nine, she had come to realise that she was ready for a life with Borch. 

As Borch concocted an elaborate plan to save her from custody by sending her to Iceland following the Rheinhardt shooting, the look on Sarah Lund’s face signified a dawning that this man really did love her and had broken down her defences and that she now had to leave him. As Borch referred to Lund as “my darling” it was an utterly heartbreaking moment. Lund had paid her dues and could now not be rewarded with the life she deserved. This was far and away the most emotional send off the Sarah Lund character could have received and Sofie Gråbøl and Nikolaj Lie Kass were fantastic in this scene. 

Gråbøl’s performance of Sarah Lund has been fantastic all series though. It’s hard to believe right now that we will likely never see her realise the character again. The finish to The Killing III drew comparisons with that of the final season of 24 – both shows’ central characters bidding farewell to those who cared for them before disappearing into the wilderness. I think The Killing packed a greater emotional punch though. 

In the end, the prevailing theme of The Killing III for this writer was not that of survival in the financial crisis but of maternal love. Lots of characters’ motivations were inspired by the love they had for their children and family. Family has been a central theme to The Killing in every series, particularly the first and third. Lund was finally beginning to feel like a mother to her son, feeling she may have acted in his interests for the first time and had the realisation of what it meant to be a parent. The sympathy that Lund felt towards Louise Jelby’s father pushed her into dealing out a violent justice for her killer which otherwise wouldn’t have come. Sadly, this cost her everything. 

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Søren Sveistrup has put the Sarah Lund character through a great deal of the course of The Killing. It is conceivable that she may return though you have to wonder just how much more anguish and loss one person could take, even one as strong as Sarah Lund.  Episode ten of The Killing III could fairly be called its finest hour. Despite some rather fanciful plot turns in the political strand of the story, it’ll be the look of desolation on Sarah Lund’s face during the parting shot that will be its lasting memory.

Read James’ review of the previous two episodes, here

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