Hoping to build an evening of serial murders, A&E debuts their new police show Those Who Kill as a companion piece to Bates Motel. How does the freshman series fare?
Let’s bitch it out…
Not well unfortunately. Those Who Kill is the latest in a string of American adaptations of Scandanavian crime drama (this time it’s Denmark) and the similarities to other atmospheric, slow burn dramas like The Killing and The Bridge are evident. That doesn’t make this new series bad; it’s the familiarity that kills it. What we have here is yet another glorification of serial killers, fronted by a protagonist haunted by demons who operates by no one’s rules but her own which is tolerated because she gets results like no one else. The supporting cast is full of generic character types: the angry distrustful black cop (seemingly modeled on Dexter‘s Doakes), the boring background partner cop (Omid Abtahi), and the ball-busting, but fair captain (James Morrison).
And then there’s the co-lead, Schaeffer (James D’Arcy). Naturally he’s an university instructor who specializes in serial killers which is why he’s asked to consult on the case. Of course Schaeffer can’t just be a normal civilian; he has his own sordid back story and unnerving quirks. He shares those qualities with our heroine, the messed up but deeply committed Catherine Jensen (Chloë Sevigny) who we first meet as she breaks into her parents’ house to watch them sleep (Side Note: both Catherine and Schaeffer are initially introduced in manners that deliberately confuse whether they are criminals/bad guys). Here’s my issue: a lot of this feels tired and stale. There is a plethora of series on the air that saddle characters with complicated backstories, mental health illnesses and unconventional familial relationships under the mistaken belief that this is character development or – worse – innovative. Guess what? It’s not. The novelty has long since worn off and yet these slightly off-kilter characters are still popping up all over the place, most often in law enforcement dramas.
Look, your tolerance for this show will depend on how much enjoyment you get out of the usual depraved criminal activities that are lovingly executed in every excruciating detail for maximum torture porn appeal. As usual women are the primary victims: degraded and mutilated, their pain coveted in drawn out sequences of crying, screaming and – in one particularly vulgar scene – molestation. I personally have no patience for these Criminal Minds-style antics, so the case in the pilot episode mostly failed to capture my attention beyond the necessary plot points required to understand how the characters fit together.
Much like The Bridge, last summer’s hit and miss serial killer drama on FX, Those Who Kill is worth watching primarily for its leads. D’Arcy is saddled with a more familiar role and suffers for it (there’s clearly more to explore in his back story, but I can’t say I actually care to learn more by the end of the pilot). No, it’s Sevigny show and she is clearly the main draw here. Catherine is more enigmatic and although the wounded, flawed, unwell female lead is bordering on cliché (see also: The Bridge, Homeland), Sevigny still brings her indie-eccentricity credibility to the performance (see also: her icky role in American Horror Story: Asylum). Catherine’s obviously thoroughly f*cked up and her actions throughout the pilot suggest she has quite the dark streak. The only reason I would tune back in would be to watch her and discover the truth behind her mysterious past with her father (Bruce Davison).
Bottom Line: Watch for Sevigny (and maybe D’Arcy), but be ready to groan, roll your eyes and gag at the cases of the week.
Those Who Kill airs Mondays at 10pm EST on A&E