Those Who Kill – Pilot
Glen and Darin Morgan are to this day best known for the episodes that they wrote for the paranormal procedural The X-Files; they took the show’s formula – which was essentially Monster of the Week and had started to strain by the time they joined the team- and stretched it into strange and unusual shapes the likes of which would still stand out today. So the news that Glen would be heading up his own series was somewhat exciting, that he had netted Chloe Sevigny as the star only exaggerated that; known as she is for her idiosyncratic career choices. That the show was to air on A&E should have been a warning sign, but I went in with my expectations raised, expecting something wacky and one of a kind.
I could just say that those expectations weren’t met, that the pilot was a disappointment and leave it at that but I don’t think I would be doing the show justice. See, it’s bad regardless of what your individual wants and desires for it will be because it commits the one sin that I never expected from any of the creatives involved: it’s boring. You can’t reasonably know that a show is boring based solely on its opening minutes – if anyone were to make that sort of claim about a series I liked I would scoff at it – and yet Those Who Kill manages to pull it off.
The title alone shows off the drab and achingly enunciated nature of the show; I can only imagine that it’s the literal, unrefined translation of the Danish originals. Director Joe Carnahan, of whom I am a fan, seems to have similarly transplanted the visual style of the original series straight over to our screens; the sets and costumes all look like they belong in the eastern bloc of the eighties, all pale greens and brick, though maybe that’s just Pittsburgh. There is one sequence that shows off his usual energy and eye, a flare-lit search of an abandoned factory with bold contrasting colours, but its over in seconds. Stick with it for more than five minutes and you start to see that the dialogue and delivery both are as stale and flatly stated as the colour schemes.
Stay through the entirety of the episode, like I for some reason did, and you discover that the story is mostly by the numbers crime procedural; all skeevy serial killers with slicked back hair and screaming women stuck in captivity. Switch to any other channel and you’ll likely find something indistinguishable airing alongside it. When searching one of the victims houses the investigators find it filled with embroidered cliches, a fitting mise-en-abyme for the show as a whole. Painfully then there are brief glimpses of genuinely interesting notions hidden here as well: everyone has a secret, both of the leads show signs of their own sanity slipping and the treatment of sexuality is more extreme than expected but nothing much comes of this yet. Like X-Files mythology we are given only a bite-sized bit of the over arching story here.
Given that their usually good reputations are why I decided to watch I have to wonder why it is that any of these people choose to work on this show? What possibly inspired them to get involved in it? I haven’t said a word about the characters yet, but that’s mainly because I don’t think I learnt a single thing about them during this establishing episode, they even skimped on the cliches. Sevigny, a reliably fascinating screen figure, is here one of the least interesting lead characters that I’ve seen in a while, she barely speaks let alone says anything interesting; She’s an anti-Cohle. Perhaps it is just the glut of great crime shows currently on the air (True Detective, Hannibal, The Fall) but Those Who Kill, for its half-hearted attempts at revolution, felt even less compelling than your average CSI or Criminal Minds. I just hope that everyone involved can get out of this and find themselves a follow-up show fast, since I do look forward to seeing more of their work elsewhere.