With Holder on the outside, still drinking and kind of crazy after Bullet's death, Sarah pulls every trick out of the book trying to get a stay on Ray Seward's execution. One of the rings in Joe Mill's stuff matches the wedding ring he gave Trisha, which everybody knows isn't really good enough but at least gives Linden something to hang onto. The episode begins with twelve hours to go, and ends right when you know it's going to.
In between, it's a very intense hour: As Linden tries to get Ray's help in nailing the real murderer, she gets more and more desperate just to throw doubts at the Washington AG, takes a detour through momentarily thinking the whole thing was a scam, and eventually just trying to get Ray to say goodbye to his son in person.
When it comes down to it, the facts are so banal they're see-through: Ray ran away that night, leaving his family behind for good, and then had a change of heart at the last minute. He returned, to find Trisha already murdered, which is why neither he nor Adrian could ever tell the truth about the night: All evidence points to him doing it, including Adrian's own experience of the evening. He never had a shot.
In the end, she and Holder take on Ray and Adrian in separate, moving sequences as they ready themselves to meet for the first and last time; a final act of brutality by Becker (who's having father/son problems of his own, remember) makes sure they never do. But some quick thinking and a coded last message from Sarah mean he can at least see his son through a window on the way to the chamber.
The execution itself is brutal to watch, particularly to watch Sarah watching, and even Becker's resolve fails in the end, so that Henderson's the one that puts the hood on him. All of which would be heartbreaking, given the acting talent involved, but is nearly unbearable after the episode itself, which is some new thing that "bottle episode" doesn't even really cover: It's more like Sarah and Ray have an entire lifetime of a relationship over the course of the episode, as they break each other down and build each other up over the phone. It's like the panic-attack moment with Becker, stretched out to infinity, centered on two people we actually care about.
And then too, in the moment that Sarah temporarily decides the whole thing is a trap and Ray's lying, there's some awesome stuff where Holder calls her on her bullshit, nearly turning her inside out in the jailhouse parking lot, before finally making her laugh with a joke about trying to kiss her last week. While they are both wild animals that are running away from all human connection, he says, and while we'll never unknot the chicken-or-egg question of whether their addictions facilitate that or vice versa, one thing is for sure: She has missed her shot at fucking him.
A show built on unrelenting pressure -- whether it's Mitch's quiet misery, or Sarah's unblinking resolve, or Seward's slow unraveling, or even Holder's thousand pretenses and stances -- doesn't really have to earn the occasional release. But with a show like that, that's so studied and determined to never let up, it does make the light moments, and the graceful ones, hit a lot harder.
Any careful viewer, who watched the grotesque line of vengeance unfurl across two seasons of this show, should be able to intuit the stance that the show's not crass enough to spell out: Killing Ray Seward doesn't bring Trisha back to life, whether he killed her or not, any more than putting a hit on Belko or paralyzing Darren did one damn thing for Rosie Larsen. But I do think that there's something to be said for the unflinching way this Death Row stuff has been portrayed, above and beyond the simple difference in morality between those two parts of our culture: Because frankly, if you do think the death penalty's a good thing, then you've got even more of a duty to watch it happen, without turning away.
Assured that nothing he said or did mattered -- and a child of the system -- Death Row inmate Ray Seward wanted to make a big noise when he went, so he demanded his right to a hanging. Linden and Skinner, have had fairly interesting lives since making the original arrest, but now that the Killing has started up again it's become (moderately but not entirely) clear that Ray was not the man who killed his wife to begin with. The front-runner suspect, a child pornographer named Joe, was eventually nailed by the cops (and the victim's son) and a trophy matching one taken from the victim was discovered (by Reddick?) in Mills's crap.
Seward's getting more and more nervous as his end date comes near, and on the outside Sarah's desperation to save him has been amping up, but today's the day, and finds Sarah lurking around outside the jail, while her partner Holder -- heart broken by the last of Joe's victims and a betrayal by his interim mentor Reddick -- is off on a bender. While the evidence against Mills for Seward's murder is dubious, Sarah has been getting more and more loosy-goosy about how she gets the job done. While there's no way he's going free -- he's done plenty of awful shit regardless -- she doesn't want to be the person that sent an innocent man to the chair, much less the gallows.
Another hack approached Henderson earlier in the season, talking about selling off all these accoutrements -- the shackles, the hood, the rope -- but this is the first time we've really seen them. A man reads out the final sentence as Henderson watches, and then it's all very official: Several men at several buttons push them, and the man drops... But it was just a dummy! The clock starts now: At five PM, unless Sarah fixes it, that'll be Ray. Welcome to this show.
To throw you off even more, the camera is all jerky as they let her into the building, all the beeping and everything, with her bag of rings. Seward is more happy to see her than he lets on; after the abuse from Dale and the general breaking down of his lifetime's worth of defenses, she's not just an avatar of hope to him but more than that. She's the coincidental, random possibility of survival, teasing him: Life itself.
Ray: "You didn't call yesterday, I waited."
Sarah: "Kidnapped, then my best friend's best friend got kidnapped and murdered, it was a whole kidnapping frenzy for a couple days, don't worry about it. Look at these rings."