I have no idea if Wicked City is a show that will catch on or not. First of all, they delayed it until way after premiere season, don’t know how many people even noticed it premiere this week. Second, it follows what was rumoured to be the original premise for when Law and Order: Criminal Intent premiered — half on the cops, half on the killer. CI apparently ditched that in production and went with standard L&O format, partly (supposedly) because some people find the show less compelling if you know who the bad guy is. More pointedly, I think, you don’t care about the bad guy because it is really hard in a one-off episode to create a truly vivid character who isn’t a cliché.
The new cop drama is set back in the summer of ’82 when L.A. was apparently the murder capital of the U.S. There’s definitely a “Almost Famous” feel to the way it is set and staged, even plotted with a naive reporter trying to break into the rock ‘n’ roll reporting scene.
Ed Westwick (Gossip Girl) is the killer, and his first kill is nicely staged. Ruthless, he could just be a cop or victim getting his jollies until the kill. One of the benefits of ’82 is you don’t have to worry too much about advanced forensics or databases. Heck, they’re having trouble just identifying his victims.
Jeremy Sisto is the lead detective…dark, brooding, scruffy. You’ve seen him before in Purgatory, Six Feet Under and The Returned, none of which I watched. I realized his other cop pedigree pretty fast as his movement, carriage, and personality all scream “Lupo”. He actually used to be on the original Law and Order back in 2007-2010. Slight change in time, and a marked difference in tolerance for bending the rule book, it’s a bit like Miami Vice brought to the street level — all the drugs, none of the glitz. He’s having a small existential crisis, both with his marriage and with his former partner having killed himself, but other than that, he’s Lupo still. Which is a good thing.
Erika Christensen is Westwick’s girlfriend, Betty Beaumontaine, and it looks like he’s going to focus on corrupting her throughout the first season i.e. you think she might bite it in episode one but she’s contracted for ten episodes, so doesn’t look like it. She also stars in Parenthood, so you may have seen her there, while oddly enough, I only remember her from an episode of Lie to Me. Her character is hard to nail down, and maybe that’s the point — single mom, overworked, underpaid, kids to look after, struggling to find some excitement in her life and she’s tagged by Westwick early as easily vulnerable. I don’t know if she becomes his partner or not, guess we’ll see, but the writers need to nail her down soon, her wishy-washy-side is hard to watch.
Taissa Farmiga plays the intrepid, young reporter, Karen McClaren (really? is she supposed to be a superhero in disguise?) and at only 21 years of age in real life, she looks in the show like she’s barely legal for the bars. Very innocent, very naive, very fragile. There’s a strong father thing with the detective, and if something romantic happens there, there is going to be a giant ick factor. Something weird happens at the end of the first episode, she seems to disappear, and there is no explanation of what happens — did the killer get her, is she dead, what? You know he isn’t leaving with her, he’s with another woman instead as he realizes the cops are on to him, but it’s a weird gap.
There are a bunch of other characters, and hard to know if any of them will end up being relevant. Sisto is willing to work with his new partner by the end of the episode, after the first half sets him up as the biggest opportunistic d-bag around. Add in a daughter, a wife, a frumpy detective and a hot detective, plus a Captain that Sisto leaves in the dark, there are lots of people running around. Even a next-door neighbour who has the secret killer babysit regularly.
The first episode was interesting, but we’ll see if the killer keeps it so…