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 Love, The 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?
AIRED ON 5/18/2014
Season 1 : Episode 10