Ed Westwick broke “Gossip Girl” ’s fans hearts as the Upper East Side playboy, Chuck, and does it again in ABC’s new thriller “Wicked City” as the suave serial killer Kent. Like Chuck, Kent has a troubled past and takes it out on women. However, Kent’s vendetta against women is a little more extreme. Set in 1980s Los Angeles, “Wicked City” follows the troubled young killer who uses his charm (a familiar character trait of Westwick’s) to lure unsuspecting victims into his twisted killing routine.
Within the first few minutes, he persuades two women into handing over their phone numbers. One, a young naïve journalist (not cliché at all) who was lucky to elude Kent’s plans for her, becomes essential in identifying the unknown serial killer relentlessly pursued by investigator Jack Roth (Jeremy Sisto, “Law and Order”). The less fortunate young woman gets her 15 seconds of fame as Kent’s first victim of the season. After being led back to his car under the guise of an innocent hookup (this is the ’80s after all), she is brutally stabbed to death. Though the premise of the show was obvious prior to watching the pilot, seeing this unnamed girl repeatedly stabbed while engaged in a sexual act, her blood splattered on the car’s dashboard, was appalling.
Perhaps what was truly shocking was the fact that it’s 2015, and such a horrifying act of violence committed against a woman was shown on network television as entertainment. And victim number one was just one of many girls whose roles on the pilot equated to that of a tissue — used and disposed of quickly and without a second thought.
Aside from the tired plotlines and melodramatic tone recycled from every other crime series on television, the show is just plain offensive. Competing investigators Jack and Paco (Gabriel Luna, “Bernie”), who are (big surprise) forced to work on Kent’s case together, conclude that Kent’s targeting of women is the product of “mommy issues” and call it a day. Top notch investigative work! With Kent’s inner psyche thoroughly analyzed we can continue watching him justifiably victimize the female population of Los Angeles with a newfound sympathy for his actions.
How could this have been the angle “Wicked City” ’s writers chose to take? Humanizing a psychotic murderer is one thing, but profiling him in a way intended to shift the blame onto women is wrong and completely absurd. The show isn’t the first to explore the mind of a serial killer to drive the narrative down a twisted and dark path that satisfies audiences’ bizarre obsession with glamorizing crime. But, it does so by exploiting some questionable subjects — the least of which include sex and drugs.
The attempt to humanize Kent takes an even more bizarre turn when he lets his guard down for almost-victim, Betty (Erika Christensen, “Parenthood”), a single mom (like Kent’s own mother) who also has a tendency towards sadism. Her cold-blooded proclivity is revealed in a less graphic manner than Kent’s when she plays with a spider and then crushes it with her bare hands. Their relationship escalates quickly, and strangely at that. Kent makes her pretend like she’s dead when they have sex for the first time, and then almost completely dismisses her when she has to cancel on their date because of work. Of course she makes the logical decision and blows off her demanding job as a nurse to salvage her budding relationship with Kent. She goes to meet him at the predetermined location of their date only to find him leaving with another girl. He then whispers something in Betty’s ear, and we are left guessing at what could have possibly convinced her to go along with him and the unsuspecting girl, with a wicked grin on her face. And just like that, the killer necrophilic couple is formed.
Kent doesn’t seem to be the only character exempt of society’s moral standards. The supposed hero of the pilot’s awkwardly strung together plotline, Jack Roth, is sleeping with his coworker Dianne (Karolina Wydra, “True Blood”), whom he appears to be using for a one-sided trade of information to help solve his cases. Of course Paco has to deprecatingly comment on the fact that she’s a stripper, only to find out that she’s actually working undercover at the strip club to take down a cocaine dealer. This revelation isn’t surprising compared to the discovery that Jack is married with kids. Soon after, we see Jack using his work as a guise for his affair with Dianne. This is yet another banal plotline — which doesn’t exactly elevate the show’s already exhaustive use of the plotlines and dialogue typical of the endless crime shows already congesting network programming. So, do we really need another one?