A Review of Wicked City
The pilot of Wicked City was… generic: neither good, nor bad. The show was advertised as a sexy procedural about two serial killers in love in 1980s Los Angeles and the part about the serial killers was excellent, but this show doesn’t exactly work as a cop procedural.
The pilot episode opens with Kent (Ed Westwick), driving down the Sunset Strip at night, past clubs, strippers and partiers. He ends up in a bar called the Whiskey, where he charms a young reporter named Karen McClaren (Taissa Farmiga), and then dedicates a song on the radio to Emily F. The song comes on the radio right as this Emily F. is giving Kent a blowjob in his car. She leans up to say how sweet that it is, mentions that it “takes a while for him to get going” and then he murders her.
The next scene sets up our crime fighting duo – Paco Contreras (Gabriel Luna) and Jack Roth (Jeremy Sisto) play rival detectives turned partners who hate each other. They exchange pointed words at each other while examining the body of Emily F., who’s been dropped in a graveyard sans head. They find out two things from the body – she’s carrying a new brand of cocaine and the murderer is a necrophiliac. No wonder Kent couldn’t get it up when Emily F. was alive.
No time at all passes before Kent goes on a date with Betty Beaumontaine (Erika Christensen). Despite him using a fake name, the date apparently goes really well, since Betty ends up giving him a blowjob in the car right as a song dedicated to her on the radio comes on. Right as Kent’s about to give her the same treatment as Emily F., her pager goes off – she has kids who need her! Kent loves kids. His mom was a single mom too. Annoying enough for Kent, he can’t kill her now. He has a twisted moral code.
Surprisingly, Kent likes Betty enough to actually date her and not murder her, so they go on another date. He tells her his real name, they end up in bed, and oh, awkward - Kent only gets turned on once he ties Betty up and tells her not to breathe, as if she were a corpse. She’s nervous at first, but ends up being really into it, even as he takes out a giant kitchen knife to cut her free.
Somehow, Karen McClaren tips the cops off to where Emily F. might have been murdered instead of getting a scoop. The cops head to the Whisky hoping to find the killer, who is actually on the phone trying to convince Betty to come meet him. Despite saying she wouldn’t, she shows up right as Kent is escorting his next victim, Mallorie M., out of the club.
“Are you coming?” He asks Betty. She is.
The show ends. We don’t know if they stop at a threesome or go for murder.
Betty is the highlight of the show, and her relationship with Kent is great. There’s a lot of suspense there – is Kent is going to reveal that he’s a murderer after having been on a grand total of two dates with this woman? What is Betty even going to do with that? There are little hints as to why Betty might be into it – she’s a nurse with sadistic tendencies. Not exactly who you want to be your nurse. There’s a whole scene where she crushes a spider with her bare hands outside, after telling her children not to do harm. So she’s clearly trying to teach her children values that she thinks are important but doesn’t have, which isn’t what I expected at all. Kent’s a fairly stereotypical serial killer, though. He’s vaguely creepy in a way no one really picks up, he wants attention, he’s manipulative, and he murders women – but not Betty. For reasons we don’t really know yet. This show has done an excellent job of carving out the two main characters, I can’t wait to see more about these two.
That’s about the only good thing it did though. Sure, there were interesting parts to the plot – the necrophilia thing was surprising, since it’s a TV show about two alive serial killers in love. The little detail of Kent dedicating songs to the girls he murders was a nice touch. And it’s pretty cool to see all the 80s details. Hair was curly, giant and mostly awful, computers are giant, and one detective mentions that the newly-founded MTV will never be successful. This show really captured the essence of the 80s and that, I loved.
Unfortunately, the cool details don’t save the generic parts of the plot and there are a lot of generic parts. A serial killer who gets off (in some way) on murder and sex is a common trope. A angry detective cheating on his beautiful wife? Common. Detective partners who hate each other – so common. While Betty and Kent are cool characters, they don’t shine bright enough to beat the generic everything else. The entire plot feels a little recycled; the only thing I can name about this show that’s different is that the murderer’s girlfriend is into murder too. Every other plot point I’ve seen in another show.
Wicked City’s biggest mistake was calling itself a procedural. Nothing bored me more than learning about these detectives, who I did not care about at all. The detectives should have been limited to a few scenes that were in turn limited to only talking about the serial killer. Then it would have felt like Kent and Betty were running from detectives, not like detectives were trying to find serial killers.
I’ll watch the second episode to see where it’s going – I have to know if Kent actually tells Betty he murders people – but if the plot doesn’t amp up, I probably won’t make it through a third episode. Wicked City had great characters, but it’s unfortunate that what could have been a great show is buried underneath the cliché plot.