Carole Segal/AMC
Lanford Beard
June 03, 2013 AT 02:00 AM EDT

Like Rosie Larsen, The Killing was dead in the water a little less than a year ago. But if two seasons of plodding sturm und drang have taught us anything, it’s that you can’t keep a good Holder down. So, as season 3’s two-hour premiere began, the recovering addict had cleaned up in every sense of the word: He was practically mainlining milk, he’d outfitted himself in a smart three-piece suit and a natty trench coat, and he was shooting for sergeant status. Alongside his new partner — a grunting, it’s-just-a-job sort of fellow named Carl Reddick — Holder was assigned to solve the murder of a teenage prostitute named Ashley Kwan. Reddick wanted to pass off the case, which was labor-intensive and unlikely to bring them any glory, but Holder couldn’t let it go. It seemed he was still feeling the influence of his dogged former partner.

Speaking of whom, Linden had quit the force, fallen back on a minimum wage job as a ferry officer, and taken a younger lover named Cody. She was smiling and playful in this new life — perhaps half a step above the complete numbness and emotional isolation that we’ve come to know as her comfort zone — but a letter from the Washington Department of Corrections made it clear that no quantity of afternoon delight could free Linden of her past.

Which brought us to Ray Seward, the murderer Linden put away three years before — and whose case had single-handedly driven her to the loony bin after his son Adrian drew countless crayon sketches of a bleak, tree-lined landscape (partial blame on Linden, who kept the damn picture and looked at it at every.possible.chance). Ray was 30 days away from his own execution and forebodingly silent at his hearing. Once transported to his cell, he asked for the prison chaplain. But Ray wasn’t looking for absolution or comfort, he just wanted to shed some crocodile tears, lure the old guy in, and bash the chaplain’s head in order to feed his own sociopathic bloodlust. In case you didn’t get what a freakshow Ray is, during a visit with his lawyer, he  mocked his own hanging with a phone cord.

Ray was also the reason Holder paid a visit to Linden this rainy Seattle day. With some time separating them from their tumultuous partnership, they easily chatted about where their lives had taken them and how they’d cleaned up and quit the cancer sticks. It was a pack of lies, of course, but Holder’s ribbing about Cody being practically the same age as Linden’s son Jack was a particular highlight (not to mention the fact that he used the phrase “Dial 1-900-LINDEN,” thus reminded me why I agreed to take on this recap). Getting down to business, Holder explained that his new case reminded him of the Seward case. He said he wanted to check out the file, but it was missing. Linden insisted it must have been misplaced (translation: it’s in my linen closet, and I look at it every day). As Holder said goodbye, Linden advised, “Not every case is worth it.” As Holder headed to his car, Linden looked back and saw he’d left the case file on her bureau.

Back in the city, Holder met his match in a scrappy lesbian street urchin named Bullet. Though Bullet was butch, she didn’t appreciate Holder calling  her “little man.” As Bullet’s anxious baby-hooker friend Kallie watched, they traded barbs (my favorite: when Holder said he didn’t eat processed food, Bullet mocked that it was to preserve Holder’s “glowing skin,” and the cop replied, “Even the Taj Mahal needs upkeep”). Bullet inevitably crossed the line with an actual threat, and Holder picked the punk up by the collar to make it clear who had the upper hand here — humiliating Bullet in front of her crush Lyric in the process. Holder walked away, but it was clear these two were far from finished.

Meanwhile, Linden was toasting Reggie’s marriage to her partner Ellen when she had an epiphany that police work was the one thing she truly loved. Convenient timing since Jack was heading off to Chicago to live with his father. Linden took a run to clear her head, only to stumble upon a barn full of dead cows. (File under: “Only on The Killing…”) I suppose the barn was technically almost full — there was one cow still struggling with its last breaths. Linden arrived home to find Cody looking at the brutal pictures from Ashley’s case file. Instead of explaining herself (or, indeed, saying anything at all), Linden grabbed a gun and headed back out to put the cow out of its misery. Back at home, she took down the Seward file and confirmed that this morning’s M.O. was eerily similar to the crimes for which Seward had been declared guilty.

Over in the Jungle (basically Seattle’s Skid Row), Bullet won a lottery at a Christian shelter called Beacon House, securing a bed for the night. She offered her spot to Kallie, but Kallie claimed she could stay at her mom’s house (a few scenes before we’d met Kallie’s mother, a semi-functioning alcoholic hag who told Kallie she’d ruined her life by being born, so it was pretty clear this was a lie). So Kallie headed into the night and jumped in a stranger’s car. Stop me if you know where this is going…

NEXT: Linden and Holder do a little soft-shoe

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