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Joel Kinnaman and Mireille Enos in The Killing: New viewers won’t be lost because Season 3 presents a brand-new crime scenario.

As the U.S. cable channel AMC's marketing for The Killing makes crystal clear, Season 3 will be the show's darkest yet. How could the gloomy, rain-drenched first seasons that investigated the murder of a dead girl get darker? Replace one victim with 17 (and possibly more).

"I think this season the whole show has taken a step up," says Mireille Enos, who stars as Sarah Linden. "The whole thing is scarier, it's more suspenseful. It's quite dark."

The third season, which premiered on Sunday, almost didn't happen – AMC had announced last summer the second season would be the show's last – but it was brought back from the dead earlier this year, thanks to a deal involving Netflix, which will stream the third season three months after the finale airs on AMC.

"We have always believed in The Killing and remain extremely proud of it, which is why we all worked so hard to find a scenario that could give it new life," said David Madden, president of Fox TV Studios, in a statement when the show's resurrection was announced in January.

Season 3 moves away from corruption at City Hall – losing most of its cast with the shift – and focuses on the streets of Seattle, where a number of young homeless women working as prostitutes are disappearing. Linden, who left the force to work a minimum-wage job and live the island life, is drawn back to her old job when her former partner, Stephen Holder, begins investigating a gruesome murder that has some ties to Linden's past.

The case has echoes of two real-life cases in the Pacific Northwest: the story of Gary Ridgway (known as the Green River Killer), who murdered dozens of women in Washington state; and serial killer Robert Pickton, who targeted women on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

So the subject matter is indeed dark, and for Enos, who began shooting Season 1 in Vancouver when her daughter was seven weeks old, it's been emotional.

"It's funny, because in Season 1 and 2, somehow I was able to keep it very separate," she says. "I'm having a much harder time this season and I think that's why I say it's darker, because I can feel the difference in my body. It may also be that my daughter is older, and so the implications are becoming more and more kind of obvious," says Enos, who is tiny, even dressed in one of her character's trademark bulky sweaters. "It's hard on some days."

Enos is speaking on-set in a Vancouver storage facility, with – surprise – the rain belting down outside, prompting lots of comments among the cast about the city's wet weather. Joel Kinnaman, who plays Holder, compares it to the long, dark winters in Stockholm, where he's from. But he says he's glad to be back for what he believes is the show's best season yet.

"I find the side stories more compelling," he says. "And we're raising some very interesting issues this year – especially one very political issue that we're making a huge statement on. I can't tell you what it is. You'll have to watch and see."

Among the new cast members is Peter Sarsgaard, who plays a death-row inmate whose guilt is now in question, and 18-year-old Bex Taylor-Klaus, who stars as the strong-minded street kid Bullet. The Atlanta-born teenager completed high school while on-set in Vancouver, and her role in The Killing amounted to a crash course in acting – this is her first professional gig. Kinnaman has been particularly helpful, she says, serving as a role model and giving her smoking lessons (with herbal cigarettes) – essential for her character.

The show's producers want new viewers for Season 3 to know they won't be lost; with a new crime, this is a fresh start for the series, which lost some goodwill (and eyeballs) after Season 1 ended without solving the crime. Even now, crew members talk about the angry phone calls they received (or, in one case, their mother received) from friends who were fans, demanding to know who killed Rosie Larsen.

Enos says she took flack too. "It was so disappointing because the fans had been so supportive, and then there was such a turn when the case wasn't solved. … But there was a big group of people who were upset about [the cancellation too], which certainly helped that change, of course. So that was gratifying."