March 3, 2014

THE SKED Series Premiere Review: “Those Who Kill”


THOSE WHO KILL:  Monday 10PM on A&E – Worth A Look

It has the accoutrements of a basic cable crime drama–the heroes are seriously screwed-up, and occasionally say “shit”–but THOSE WHO KILL is a surprisingly conventional procedural in its initial hour, especially given its adjacency on the A&E schedule to the more perverse and original Bates Motel, and the participation of Chloe Sevigny, whose prior TV roles have been considerably more ambitious:  as a polygamous Mormon wife on Big Love and a transgender hired killer on Hit & Miss, not to mention her arc as a madwoman, amputee and then murder victim on American Horror Story.

Adapted by Glen Morgan (whose TV crime credits go all the way to The Commish and 21 Jump Street, back when the latter was a drama) from a hit Danish format that’s been relocated to Pittsburgh, the drama centers on Catherine Jensen (Sevigny), a recently promoted homicide detective who has a dark past only hinted at in the pilot.  She’s driven and obsessive, and not one to wait for the wheels of justice to turn; it all has to do with her father (Bruce Davison, barely glimpsed).  She takes on Thomas Schaeffer (James D’Arcy) as her forensic psychologist consultant and informal partner; he gets a little too deep into the minds of the killers he profiles, to the concern of his wife Benedicte (Anne Dudek).  James Morrison, of 24 and Revenge, is their gruff commanding officer whose job it is to caution Jensen and Schaeffer against going too far, and there are some other cops around, but mostly it seems like the series will be about the two of them.

The killer in the pilot is a standard-issue psycho who locks women in an airless box and watches them die so he can have control over their lives (he might just as well be a CSI or Criminal Minds villain), and once he parades in front of the assembled police to give one victim a fatal injection, he’s not too difficult to catch.  Too much of Morgan’s pilot script is clumsy in this way; he gives away the last reel all too clearly when Schaeffer painstakingly instructs Jensen on a strategy for surviving the killer early on.  Pilot director Joe Carnahan (his films include The Grey, and he also directed the pilot for The Blacklist) puts together a striking sequence at an abandoned factory the killer is using as his lair about midway through, but he can’t do as much with the hackneyed final act.

Sevigny is a powerful actress, and she brings a strong commitment to her role, but it remains to be seen whether there will be enough to Jensen to make her more than a typical TV cop with inner demons.  D’Arcy has the more cliched part (he’s Will Graham on Hannibal without the brain disease), and his challenge will be to try to elevate it to something more.  The pilot is entertaining enough for a genre piece (certainly less odious than The Following, as serial killer thrillers go) without promising much in the way of a bigger picture.

Besides Bates Motel, A&E is the network of Longmire, so it’s not a surprise that the cabler has a taste for familiar genre dramas, but the question will be whether such an ordinary piece of work will squander the substantial lead-in it’s likely to receive from Bates.  (Adding a live post-Bates talk show a la Talking Dead to air after Kill may help.)  Those Who Kill will be airing against The Blacklist on Mondays, and that could be quite a challenge for a fledgling show that doesn’t have much on display to set it apart.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."