The Killing has been unevenly received, critically, but my affection for the show has never wavered. I love that the show has a female protagonist who is never sexualized, but who enjoys a robust sex life and makes no apologies for it. Seriously, Sarah Linden wears amazingly hideous sweaters, and awkward running tights, and an epic winter coat, yet in three seasons (which span a total of 3 weeks) she sleeps with (or indicates that she has in the past slept with) at least four different men. After 2.5 seasons of flirtatious banter, her partner makes a pass at her. She gets to be sexual without low-cut blouses and heels, with her hair in a ponytail and minimal make-up, and with her inability to make a commitment (typically a masculine trope).
What’s sexy about Linden is her drive and integrity. And her damage, which again is typically reserved for brooding male characters.
And I admit, I totally ship Linden and Holder. But I also totally love them as friends. I want it all… but the relationship between those two is so honest and devoid of the vapid sentimentality that governs the majority of on-screen male-female relationships. They’ve got each other’s back, and they know it, and they don’t need sweeping monologues with impassioned voices and smoldering looks in order to communicate this. The show does more in one episode, with nonverbal communication, to represent a balanced heterosexual relationship than most series accomplish across multiple seasons. It’s also an excellent example of “show, don’t tell” when it comes to loyalty – Sarah will fight tooth and nail to find Holder when Chief Jackson kidnaps him, and Holder will threaten any police officer who mocks Linden, and while they may bicker about procedure when they’re stuck in their car, they cover for one another left and right. They never discuss their feelings – they just put them into action.
But whether or not Linden and Holder ever date or sleep together is secondary to the major themes and thrust of the show. Linden is a complex, fully drawn female protagonist, and I hope we see more bulky sweaters and ponytails on sexy TV women.