The last words of “The Killing’s” third season – its big shot at redemption – are “no, no, no, no.” That is perhaps more poetic than intended.

Famously hailed at its start, bemoaned after its Season 1 finale, canceled after Season 2 and then resuscitated for a Season 3 that started promisingly, this case ended as a sad repudiation of Det. Sarah Linden’s hopeful remark to Lt. James Skinner near this season finale’s start: “I think we can be different.” But it’s the same – excellent acting, fine direction and thick atmosphere, all undermined by unsatisfactory writing.

This season had some strong episodes – the Jonathan Demme-directed “Reckoning” was especially powerful – and the cast members impressed time and time again, making the most of the material they were given.

But the material ultimately failed them and viewers. Though it did, at least, solve the case, Season 3 lacked resolution.

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The two-hour finale’s first part, “From Up Here,” begins with Linden running, seemingly dealing with the frustration of seeing Ray Seward executed for the murder of his wife, which she believes was instead the work of the serial killer known as the Pied Piper – apparently Joe Mills. She worked the Seward murder case three years ago with her then-partner, then-lover, now-boss, Skinner, who’s on her front steps when she gets home.

He says he just wanted to make sure she was OK, she did all she could for Seward – oh, and his wife asked him to leave. She doesn’t exactly invite him in, but leaves the door open. Inside, he says he hasn’t been able to tell his wife anything for years: “She doesn’t want to know about a kid our daughter’s age I pulled from a pond, neck sliced open, half-eaten by animals.” Are people like he and Linden supposed to be alone, he wonders. She kisses him. And the next morning, she’s all smiles and hope and “I think we can be different.” Poor Linden.

Bullet, who’d been vividly played by Bex Taylor-Klaus, gets a proper farewell with a funeral. When Danette, mother of Bullet’s missing friend Kallie, sits down next to Det. Stephen Holder, apparently having forgiven and/or forgotten how mean he’d been to her, he says Bullet fought for her daughter “like a little pit bull. Just a little kid. They all were.” (And, yes, Bullet would’ve hated the photo by her coffin.) Do you miss Bullet? I do too.

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To get to the meat of what happens – and to keep from stretching the reading of this recap to two hours – here’s how this season’s supporting characters’ story lines end:

-- Prison guard Francis Becker, who sees himself as a sort of prisoner, takes his pension and goes home. His colleague Henderson (possibly the most interesting surviving character this season – hats off to actor Aaron Douglas), who put the shroud and noose on Ray Seward after Becker hesitated, is staying on.

-- Twitch, stressed by adapting to domestic life and frustrated by his inability to properly crack an egg, flirts with resuming heroin use but dumps his stash and settles for nicotine as his coping substance.

-- Lyric, after attending Bullet’s funeral, works a shift at a fast food joint, where she runs into Danette, who recognizes her from the service. They briefly share their sorrows, and Danette offers to style her hair, any time, for free. The teen, walking home to Twitch, may or may not have gone back to prostitution – it’s hard to read the smile she gives the potential john who pulls up alongside her.

-- Danette is beginning to consider that she’ll never see her daughter again (hats off again, this time to Amy Seimetz).

-- Caroline (a charming Jewel Staite) takes Holder back – it was just a fight, and though he thinks he’s “five steps down” for her, she says he’s a “half-step up” for her after dating other lawyers.

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Linden and Holder – apparently full-time partners again – catch a case: a burned body in a car. Some good partner banter. “You look nice,” she tells him. “I see you changed your thingie [indicating his hoodie]. And shaved, kind of.”

At the station, Holder finds Det. Carl Reddick, his ex-partner whom he recently visited at home to punch in frustration over Bullet’s death, packing up. He’s retiring rather than partner with the “fat Hitler”-looking Jablonsky. Reddick tells him that his wife complained to Skinner about the assault, but he smoothed it over – “I guess I’m old-school. Cops don’t rat on cops.”

In his office, Skinner tells Linden that Joe Mills will be charged, and that he’s in a position now to be “cherry-picking the big cases, the headline-makers” and couldn’t have done it without her. Oh, and hey – want to join him at the lake house this weekend? She and Holder caught a body, she says – and there’s her partner knocking. The coroner has something for them (that was quick).

On the ride over, Holder drops his line of the night after asking what’s up between her and the boss: “I don’t got to be my sleuth par excellence to see that the cat’s got the hand in the jelly jar, and it ain’t the first time neither.” As he continues to tease, she says, “Jealous?” Exceedingly drunk recently, he had tried to kiss her. “Well played, Detective Linden.”