Wicked City, a new serial-killer shaped drama, premiered on Tuesday, October 26 at 10 p.m. Set in 1980’s Hollywood, Wicked City follows a serial killer who is targeting ambitious young women on The Sunset Strip. The deadly and alluring murderer is named Kent Grainger, portrayed by Ed Westwick. Westwick is most commonly known for his role as Chuck Bass on the CW’s Gossip Girl.
Kent can be profiled as a serial killer within minutes of the pilot episode. He is of course charismatic and good-looking and gets his victims by making promises in support of their dreams. He uses the same hunting ground, in this case The Sunset Strip. He lures each girl with the same lines, and kills each the same way. Needless to say he has his routine down. Kent seeks media attention, thriving on it, and shows little remorse for his victims. For lack of a better phrase, Kent Grainger is ‘the textbook serial killer’. Unfortunately, the women and the cops are unaware of this since the show takes place during the rise of serial killers so no one is the wiser.
Of course there is a dedicated cop following the trail of Sunset Strips newest murderer.Detective Jack Roth of the LAPD is hot on the trail, chasing down any leads to catch Kent, and from the looks of the previews, Detective Jack Roth will soon be chasing a man-woman serial-killing team.
In the pilot, Kent meets Betty Beaumontaine, a nurse and mother of two. Kent picks her up at his normal spot on the strip and plans to murder her the same as the others, but ends up connecting with her instead. Their connection to each other seems odd, but not so much after the viewer’s learn about a few of Betty’s sadistic tendencies i.e. ripping out staples of patients wounds rougher than necessary (did I mention she’s a nurse?). Kent and Betty begin a weird romantic involvement and eventually will add cold-blooded murder to the mix.
As wicked as it all is, the show almost presents Kent’s cat and mouse game with the police and his relationship with Betty and his victims in a sexy manner. This screams (no pun intended) of an inappropriate portrayal of murder and of serial killers. Aside from the fact that serial killers are able to create a likeable and charming façade, there is nothing sexy about a person who kills other people or the act of killing itself. However, Wicked City presents its murderous characters and their lifestyle in an intriguing way. Betty herself being attracted to Kent because of the danger and experience he presents is an example in itself of this almost sexy depiction.
Cop dramas dominate nighttime television. Mostly every cop drama, current and off, has dealt with a serial killer or two, some worse than others, but in recent years there has been a spike in serial killer driven TV shows. Starting with The Following (2013-2015) a show about a cult following of Joe Carroll and English professor who preyed on his female students, and Hannibal (2013-2015) based on Hannibal Lecter, the Cannibal, as well as Bates Motel (2013-present) a show about a young Norman Bates based on Alfred Hitchcock’s serial killer in his movie Psycho. Even The Mentalist (2008-2015) which started much earlier than the recent series dealt with Red John, a serial killer who tormented the protagonist during the shows run.
The recent spike begs the questions as to why America is fascinated with serial killers. There may not even be an answer, or a definite one at that, only guesses. I can guess that viewers want to be entertained and escape their realities, although engulfing oneself into a serial killers life seems extreme. So where does the fascination come from? Perhaps the fascination is born from wonder, wondering who these serial murderers are and why and how they do what they do. It’s only natural that after one has asked a question that they’d want and answer. Maybe that’s what keeps viewers watching, as twisted as Kent may be, viewers want answers, they want to understand him.
Catch Wicked City on Tuesdays at 10:00 p.m. on ABC.