Holder and Linden bring Skinner almost immediately into their suspicion that Reddick is the killer -- but when Holder gets pulled in by IA at the exact same time Skinner starts acting super squirrelly, you get the impression they've messed up somehow. And you are correct: Just about the time Sarah's noticing Kallie's ring on Skinner's daughter's finger, Stephen's learning that Skinner, not Reddick, sent IA after him in the first place. (There is a great callback to her adrenaline speech from last week, as time slows down around her and she puts the math together on how she just slept/contemplated running away with a serial killer.)
Brilliantly, Stephen cops to harassing Reddick and even admits to placing a bomb in his car, which brings down bureaucratic hell on the Reddick family. A red-faced, pissed-off Reddick shows up to get him out of Skinner's trap, and Holder sends Carl off to find Adrian while he looks for Sarah.
What follows is an emotional, but sedate and oddly redundant, set of car rides as Stephen tries to beat them to Skinner's lake house, while Sarah goes slowly insane with Skinner at gunpoint, hoping to save Adrian wherever Skinner's stashed him. At one point she gets out of the car and barfs and it's pretty sad, but also you are hanging out with a serial killer. Maybe keep it together, honey.
On the way, they talk about how Sarah Linden could possibly be a fucker of serial killers (hint: easily), how many different burial sites he's got around the area that will never be found, and -- once they've reached their destination -- the fact that Adrian's body was in the trunk the whole time. But that last one's a lie! Carl finds the boy at Trisha's grave, scared and in mourning, and calls Stephen to tell him they're all safe, just as Skinner is claiming to have killed him.
In the end, it is a very complicated suicide-by-cop Skinner commits, but one with a lot of fallout and no small amount of pathos, as Skinner basically thanks her for catching him, and then begs her -- even after Adrian is found safe -- to finish the job. And in a very cool, very Killing move, that's the last thing that happens: She shoots him through the fucking head, Holder immediately starts freaking out, and she just stares into the camera with a complex and very Sarah Linden mixture of grief, horror, justice and vindication.
The twisty-turny nature of the discoveries leading up to Skinner and Sarah's little drive earned it, I think. It gave me a bit of the bends to transition from Paranoia City into the show's second mode of Sarah Emotes, but once you adjust -- and with Holder's b-story in there to provide some dark-as-hell levity and added tick-tockyness -- it does make sense. All the victims we know about are accounted for, and all the ones we don't, we never will. Most of all, the suspense-and-acting formula provided an emotional break after the last few weeks, for which I am thankful most of all.
So, knowing that Adrian is safe and the rest of this year's cast are right where you'd presume they would end up, it only makes sense for the finale to be about Sarah's own descent. What is good about it is that every time you think we're heading into a trope -- oh, of course she sleeps with the guy and kills him; oh, of course it's all about her self-imposed exile from humanity; oh, of course the cop did it -- they surprise you with a sharp turn into something less expected, some sudden rage or black humor that keeps you focused on the story at hand.
With the first half-hour of the two total hours being a graceful sendoff to basically everyone and everything about the season, it was nice to settle into an altogether more abstract, classic thriller mode: Almost a coda to the season itself, addressing the prime mover (never the most interesting part of the show) in a way that kept you close to the show's major themes and character through-lines.
Yes, we solved the Piper murder, no, it wasn't a big deal in the end: But we got more shades of Linden than any episode besides last week, we got huge shifts for all the characters, and we saw what Linden's been avoiding her whole life: That the appearance of normality is not a substitute for it. You're either a beast or you're not. Because if Skinner could fool her into thinking they were going to be normal together, you have to acount for the possibility that her self-exile from society is not all that different from his.
Great acting, as usual, and an acceptable finish to the plot, with just enough reverence for Bullet (in both hours) to make it count. The season's been a successful reboot from go, with some of the most powerful episodes of television I've ever seen in my life. In the end, the show's strength is its weakness, just like every year: The power of Skinner being the Pied Piper is robbed by the fact that in twelve episodes we've had twelve suspects, and we haven't seen Skinner for more than a few minutes an episode, if at all, in quite a while.
On the other hand, they've skillfully woven the Linden backstory -- both with Skinner and this case -- into the show all along, so that you can see how a season about exploitation of the powerless would end up exactly here: With Linden and Holder trapped in the middle of a one-man conspiracy they never even knew existed, but has been believably orchestrating certain events since before even Rosie Larsen died.
Adrian's foster mother is in no mood, when they come bashing at the door, but once she can't find her son their quiet worry sparks a panic in her.
She has no idea what's changed; to her, it would look like a coincidence. She has no idea how every move Sarah makes now urges the Pied Piper on; how every move is met by a countermove. How every word out of her mouth has pushed and shoved the game closer to completion.
How could she know? Not even Sarah knows that. In some ways, Sarah doesn't know that.
Sits in his gray sedan, waiting. Lots already accomplished, still time out of pocket before anybody notices. All the girls pouring out in their leotards are good girls, sweet girls; he only sees the one.
"I just wanted to spend some time with my little girl. Mom said it was okay. How was class, do you like the new teacher?"
She snorts. "That's jazz class. This is ballet."
Any other day, he'd get a little mad. She won't let him say goodbye.
"Do you love her? The woman from work, with the hair?"
The answer is yes. The answer is, things are moving too fast.
"Listen, just so you know, it's got nothing to do with you. I don't know if you could understand this but I can't be something that I'm not. I'm tired of it. Listen. But I will always love you, honey. Always love you. I will always be the same person you've known all your life. Nothing's gonna change that. Whatever happens."
Everything will change. He splits the world up into pieces, jamming them in pockets. Wherever they will fit. Things were easy this morning, before things changed. Before things were set in motion, things were fine. They can be fine again.
"Not my love. Not my love for you."
That's when they call him about Adrian Seward. So this will have to do.
"He let himself in, dumped his backpack in the hall, somebody came in and got him. Or the guy was already in the house waiting for him. But either way Adrian is gone."
He's been missing for an hour, maybe an hour and a half. Nobody was watching. Sarah whispers, safe.
"Jimmy? We got the wrong guy. It's not Joe Mills. He killed Angie Gower, that's the body that we found in the car this morning. And now he's got Adrian..."
He pretends to put the facts together while he's putting the facts together, and asks her to slow down. Asks the world to slow down.
"It's not him, it's a cop. I know this is gonna sound crazy, Lieu, but there's a lot of things pointing to Reddick..."