Those Who Kill Series Premiere Review: 10 Reasons the Chloe Sevigny Drama Is a Bad Show

By Tim Surette

Mar 04, 2014

Those Who Kill S01E01: "Pilot"

Allow me to reiterate something that I have said on this site countless times: I am not a big-time television executive, nor have I ever run a television network or been involved in the process of getting a series greenlit. So maybe I shouldn't be scratching my head over the fact that A&E ordered an adaptation of a Danish series that only aired for one season due to disappointing viewership numbers. I mean, who am I to assume I know anything about picking and choosing foreign series to bring to the U.S.? Maybe a show that never achieved the viewership it was expected to achieve is the perfect show to adapt for American audiences. 

Or maybe the Danish public was on to something, because A&E's Those Who Kill is not a very good show. It's another serial-killer drama (yup, ANOTHER one) that's more interested in gore and shock value than it is in substantial storytelling, and it's another show that thinks looking like a good drama is more important than being a good drama. Chloe Sevigny, one of Hollywood's most curious cases because of her fascinating track record of peaks and valleys (Kids, Big LoveThe Brown Bunny, Louie, Hit & Miss), plays Catherine Jensen, a Pittsburgh detective who—based on the pilot—is not very good at her job. James D'Arcy plays Thomas Schaeffer, a college professor who teaches forensics and has a spotty past as a police consultant but is really good at doing Catherine's job. Those Who Kill's series premiere established that Catherine and Thomas will team up each week to hunt down a new creep while Catherine uses her spare time to investigate the mysterious disappearance of her brother.

Those Who Kill's series premiere ALSO established that Those Who Kill deserves to be arrested for the murder of logic, because this pilot was a can of Silly String full of outlandish leaps; the producers were obviously hoping that we weren't paying attention. But I was! So here are 10 things that made the pilot one of the more ridiculous opening chapters of a new show this year.

1. Weird editing to establish "Pittsburgh" and that the cops of Those Who Kill can see each other

The pilot, particularly in the first five or so minutes, was chopped to pieces through over-editing. There were lots of establishing shots that lingered longer than they should have, as if Those Who Kill believes that its viewers have never heard of the mythical land known as "Pittsburgh." One pair of back-to-back shots let us know that murder cops had arrived at crime scene— as opposed to, I suppose, food and health inspectors. And when Catherine and her cop buddies left that crime scene a few moments later, there was a flurry of frames where they simply stared at each other, which told us nothing. Did we really need three sets of back-and-forth cuts just to see Catherine's partner drive away, or did Dodge really pay that much money for this shot?

2. The credit sequence spins a web of confusion

Those Who Kill's opening credits sequence centers on a CGI rendering of a spider eating a moth and could be an outtake from Science Channel's Monster Bug Battles. Unless Catherine's brother was maliciously killed by a Black Widow, it was BAD. 

3. Catherine, the class clown of a college she didn't even attend

We met Thomas the forensics expert (who is also a college professor because that's a legal requirement in shows like these) when Catherine dropped by unannounced to sit in on one of his lectures and what did she do? When he asked his class a question about Jeffrey Dahmer's refrigerator contents, she blurted out, "Comfort food." Keep it down yukster, some of these 20-somethings are trying to be cops! The nerve of this lady, making a mockery of higher education.

4. Thomas can trace a killer's mental trajectory, but he can't remember where he left his clothes

The "brilliant" professor couldn't keep track of his clothes, forgetting his jacket after the aforementioned class and then leaving his scarf at Catherine's apartment later in the episode. But his oft-misplaced wardrobe provided an opportunity for plot movement Catherine to sneak in some requests when she returned his stuff. First it was a case file she wanted him to look at that she snuck in his jacket pocket, then it was a picture of her family with a big arrow pointing at her stepdad, accusing him of murdering her brother. But come on, Tom, is it that hard to remember what you had on when you left the house? How would this show ever progress Thomas wasn't so irresponsible with this outerwear?

5. "How can we make this look cooler?" syndrome

When Catherine went to check out the steel mill where the dead body in her murder case had been found, her flashlight didn't work. "Ugh," she emoted. But Those Who Kill's director of photography was clapping his hands gleefully, because Catherine decided to use a glowing flare as a backup light source, soaking the frame in an eerie red glow. (In Those Who Kill's defense, it did look cool.)

6. Thomas did all the police work

It was Thomas who discovered the other bodies at the crime scene when he found a pipe with some loose screws. It was Thomas who figured out where the killer was keeping Catherine after she got nabbed. All this while not even officially on the case! What did Catherine do? She just broke all the rules in the book and got captured a few times, that's all. 

7. Thomas's cockamamie murder-psychology theories

Thomas discovered that the ID'd murder victim was targeted because she was trying to improve her life, which he did by jumping to conclusions based on minute details: She was finalizing a divorce, she owned a "Live. Love. Laugh." armoire, and she had a pile of stuff all ready to drop off at Goodwill. But the real breakthrough for Thomas came after listening to four seconds of one random song on her iPod, which allowed him to determine that her entire MP3 player was full o' motivational music. From there, he concluded that "The coffin [that the killer used to kill his victims] creates a slow, suffocating death, like his own life. He kills them because he can't improve his own life, so he won't let them improve theirs." Ummm... okay? Later, Thomas determined that Catherine was being held captive at an abandoned mental-help facility where the killer once worked as a security guard because "it's a place people were sent to try and get better." Even Catherine's boss said Thomas has a history of making logical leaps, so I know I'm not alone here!

8. Everything was working out really great for the killer

After Catherine and Thomas stopped the killer from finishing a kill, he was able to finish the job on his would-be victim by picking up a volunteer security shift (he had a day job as a security guard) at the hospital where she was being treated. How were Catherine and Thomas supposed to stop this guy when the universe was clearly conspiring to intervene and make his murdering as easy as possible, even after he F'd up? And later the killer would try to finish off Catherine by magically showing up at her front door. Maybe the Pittsburgh Police Department posts all their officers' addresses on its blog.

9. Catherine got put in a box by the killer... TWICE!

The killer in the pilot terrorized and murdered his victims by putting them in a weird coffin and letting them slowly suffocate to death (I think; that was Thomas's theory). And during the hour-long episode, he threw our hero cop Catherine into a box not once, but twice. I repeat, TWICE! The first boxing occurred when she and Thomas stopped him from murdering another victim, and the second boxing occurred when he captured her. That is not what happens to good cops, Catherine. That's like a firewoman trying to put out a fire and setting herself on fire instead. She's supposed to be helping victims, not becoming a victim herself. Maybe it's her way of really getting into the psyche of the victims (it's a trick that I call thinking inside the box)? That's the only explanation I can come up with. Also, when Catherine was in the boxes, she screamed like a little girl. Reminder: She's supposed to be the show's hero. 

10. Catherine is bad at being a bad cop

One of the main themes of Those Who Kill is that Catherine will sometimes have to be a bad person to do good. But she's not exactly sneaky about it. She blatantly breaks rules! She pulled her weapon on Thomas in a public place because she was angry that it took him too long to get her out of the box! She shot the killer when he was subdued and almost in custody! Like THAT won't come back to bite her, given that two other witnesses saw her being left alone with the killer who was very much alive at the time. Someone get Catherine the complete series DVD set of The Shield so she can see how it's done. 

There were a couple cool things with the murderer, though, and that's where this show will have its redeeming qualities. Give him credit, he was pretty good at being scary. I mean, he was responsible for these:

And when he put a smiley face on his visor, I chuckled:

And then he pushed his victim into a pit while she was duct-taped into a rolling chair, which was great (and also dangerous; do not try this at home with your own pit):

So I guess I'll be rooting for those who kill on Those Who Kill. Catherine's motto for catching bad guys is "You have to be worse than them." Unfortunately, that's also how Those Who Kill is going to stand out in the crowded field of creepy serial-killer dramas. 

What did YOU think?

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  • brocozzy Jun 05, 2015

    Jake the Rottweiler was awesome awesome watching Jake Vom gruberhouse beat up on Chloe Sevigny great cast to have worked with long hours in the creepy little nooks and cranies of Pittsburgh

  • CarolineRiv May 10, 2015

    Very sad the show has been cancelled :-( I really liked it.

  • michalodwyer7 Jun 09, 2014

    In addition to being a bad cop, as the review aptly noted, Catherine has bad taste. What's with the black bra under a see-through white shirt? And when Thomas comes calling, she's having a drink with her shirt unbuttoned down the front to expose said bra (in case we missed it) and doesn't bother to button it up before opening the door. Oh well, maybe she was drunk. Also, they must have found the most unflattering, unfashionable hair cut in the world of television. I've seen this actress in othe roles and know she can be quite attractive! Someone is determined to make her look like a gawky dork (and behave like a spoilt brat).

  • Strobemeister Mar 20, 2014

    I completely disagree with you, Tim. I really enjoyed both episodes. Can't wait for more.

  • LeahLefler Mar 20, 2014

    this show is so bad that it's almost like a spoof of real (good) cop/serial killer dramas. and I thought Chloe Sevigny could act, but not in this show. she sounds like she's reading lines. thumbs down!

  • averysays Mar 14, 2014

    What did I think? I think that #7 was the only valid point you made. It did break the fiction but , considering it was the first episode, it wasn't enough to give up on the show without watching the next one or two episodes to see what direction they go with it.

    Well, you asked...

  • flintslady Mar 13, 2014

    I know you're supposed to wait till the 4th episode before you decide on a show, but after two, I'm tempted to give up. The writing is weak and obvious. And neither part of our "dynamic duo" is very likeable. Thomas feels like a poor man's Will Graham and Catherine is odd and cold.

    The concept is interesting though, I really wish it had been better. I think it would have been better if Catherine had been "light", and "likeable" even though she was hiding this dark secret. It would have made her shooting the serial killer more shocking.

  • HowardSilston Mar 11, 2014

    I found the plot of episode 2 completely confusing. Had very little idea about what was going on. I usually give a show at least 3 episodes before I can it. This one lost me at 2.

  • joshuadthompson5 Mar 06, 2014

    and you don't like the title sequence? really? I thought it was spot on!

  • averysays Mar 14, 2014

    Yeah, what's up with that?

    Pretty hard to take Surette seriously, when he includes the credit sequence as one of his marks against the show. Plus, as you said, it was good.

  • joshuadthompson5 Mar 06, 2014

    Yea....I thought this show was amazeballs. There are not enough "get into the mind of the killer" procedurals out there that are cleverly written/shot. Wire in the Blood is the only other that springs to mind (not that it's around anymore). I am stoked to see where they take this show and it's characters.

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