In a time when television is filled with sex, drugs and graphic violence, it can be refreshing to see something different. Sadly, tuning into Wicked City will not satisfy this need. With a predictable story, archetypal characters and cliches we have seen millions of times before, the pilot episode of the ABC series falls flat quickly.
Set in 1982 Los Angeles, the noir/thriller focuses on Kent (Ed Westwick), a serial killer who can best be described as every unlikable element of Christian Grey and Edward Cullen combined. Kent targets women but has a soft spot for a young nurse and single mother named Betty Beaumont (Erika Christensen), who seems to have a sick fascination with crushing spiders and removing stitches from an older patient in obvious foreshadowing to her upcoming psychotic tendencies.
Meanwhile, two LAPD detectives (Gabriel Luna and Jeremy Sisto) who dislike each other are on Kent’s trail as they are reluctantly paired off as partners.
Does that sound like a Twilight/cop movie? It’s because that is the only way to describe it. The 1980s setting attempts to add a fresh take to this formulaic thriller but the time period seems like an excuse to play the greatest hits from your parents’ music collection.
Not even Westwick can attract the now grown-up viewers who loved him on Gossip Girl. As Kent, Westwick seems to be portraying Chuck Bass as a serial killer rather than anything new or innovative. However, his chemistry with Christensen’s character could be the show’s saving grace. The two play off of each other very well and some scenes can be very sexy if you ignore some of the abusive undertones. One particularly cringe-worthy scene shows Betty meeting Kent at the bar after realizing how much she disappointed him for not meeting his “needs.” If the show continues, hopefully Betty will find the courage to be stronger than him because as of now, this relationship seems to be adhering to stereotypical gender roles.
Taissa Farmiga also does an exceptional job as Karen McClaren, a struggling journalist who almost ends up in Kent’s clutches. While the pilot criminally under-uses her, there is still potential to see the American Horror Story actress become a leading lady if the show continues beyond a few episodes.
Wicked City could have potential to catch on if it moves beyond the predictable plot and gives us more reasons to like the characters. Unfortunately, the pilot gives you little reason to believe it will even get that far.