Ed Westwick, an actor who is never not auditioning to play Batman, is starring in a new show on ABC called Wicked City. It premiered last night. It is...not good. Actually, if someone told me the show was supposed to be a parody of every serial killer-profiling and cop show ever, I'd think it was excellent, and I'd want to tell the creators what a great job they've done of nailing the overblown tone and dialogue of shows like Criminal Minds and Law & Order: SVU. Unfortunately, Wicked City is 100% not a satire. It is a dramatic series in which Westwick plays Kent, a serial killer preying on women in 1982 Los Angeles. The show is chock-full of disposable females. If a woman doesn't die, she's only there to service a male character's story line. I don't think two female characters speak to one another the entire time, so don't even utter the words "Bechdel test." The show's gratuitous violence toward women is obscene. It's shocking that this show made it on the air in 2015, when viewers have protested the use of violence on shows like Game of Thrones. First and foremost, there's Kent's methodology for murder. He likes to meet a woman at a hopping club on the Sunset Strip called Whisky a Go Go. Before they leave together, he calls a radio station to dedicate a song to her. He drives her to a secluded spot overlooking the city, then has her attempt to perform fellatio on him. He fails to get hard (as we later learn, he can only achieve an erection from necrophilia), and she comments on this, which is usually around the time when the radio plays the song he's dedicated to her. She's so touched when she hears the announcer say her name that she goes down on Kent again, and while she's doing this, he removes a knife from behind the visor and stabs her to death. After she's dead, the order of operations is a little unclear, but it's confirmed by police that at some point Kent does all of the following: has sex with the woman's corpse, puts it on ice, drains it of blood, removes the head, and dumps the body in a location familiar to the police. In the pilot episode, it's the same spot where the Hillside Strangler (another L.A. serial killer) left his first victim. That serial killers are creatures of routine is a well-documented fact. You can read about their habits on Wikipedia. You can watch Criminal Minds, a show entirely dedicated to profiling and catching them. Our society is fascinated with them — that's undeniable — but there's no need for pop culture to keep glamorizing their behavior, especially in the form of another charismatic male whose M.O. is to murder women and dispose of them — but not before performing necrophilia and exsanguination. Kent is especially disturbing given that in the world of Wicked City, he's just the next in a long line of serial murderers who continue to make Los Angeles unsafe for females to exist. Also, he just wants attention. That much is clear from his pursuit of a reporter named Karen (Taissa Farmiga), whom he starts tipping off as to when he's going to strategically leave disembodied heads in boxes for the police to find. Oh, but Kent? Se7en did it first. And better. Even the detectives assigned to investigate the case, Jack (Jeremy Sisto) and Paco (Gabriel Luna), see the latest murdered woman in L.A. as nothing more than a part of their own stories. "To me, this girl is a victim. To you, she's a step up [in your career]," Jack tells Paco. "She's both," Paco answers. Murders are career-making when you're a male cop. Solve one and you get promoted. Jack and Paco are also quick to form a profile of their perp. Jack decides that he has real "anger issues towards women," which means "his mommy didn't give him enough attention, so now he cuts their heads off." To which Paco replies, "Aside from the head-cutting, that could be anyone." Um, I'd like to think that most men aren't walking around with such intense anger toward women that they're on the brink of cutting our heads off — and that most men don't think their mothers were so neglectful that they'd like to cut their heads off, but only occasionally entertain fantasies of doing so. Then again, I like to see the best in people. In interviews, Wicked City's creators and stars have repeatedly defended the show's violence. "[I]t’s not going to be shock-value kind of murders," Jeremy Sisto told Variety. "I think audiences are going to be surprised on how much they get behind these killers at times." Farmiga echoed Sisto, going so far as to say, "You have your own opinion of these people, and maybe you’ll fall in love with the killer because he’s not a bad guy." Are you for real, creators and cast of Wicked City? I can assure you that I am not going to be falling in love with Kent. Of course, there's a twist! Kent meets a woman named Betty (Erika Christensen). Right when she's unsuccessfully going down on him to the dulcet sounds of Joan Jett's "Crimson & Clover," her pager goes off. It's the babysitter; her kids need her to come home. It turns out Betty is a single mother, and Kent was raised by a single mother. Suddenly, he doesn't want to murder Betty. Kent is a serial killer with principles, you see. He's all for attempted fellatio, stabbing, necrophilia, decapitation, and exsanguination, but he will not murder a single mother. You have to draw lines in the sand somewhere.
Kent and Betty go on a date (how quaint!) and return to her house to have sex. The ol' "he's a necrophiliac" problem rears its head, though. He ties Betty to the bed and forces her to pretend to be a corpse so that he can finally maintain an erection. Westwick's eyes in this scene are the stuff of nightmares. Betty is into it, though, and they decide they like each other. Then, Kent gets his knife, and you wonder if he's reneged on his whole aversion to killing single mothers. But no. He just wants to cut the cords he used to tie Betty to the bed. Wicked City's got jokes. Are you ready for another twist? So, we're led to believe that Jack is the moral compass of the show, and that he's grieving over his partner who committed suicide. He stops by a beautiful woman's house after a morning run for some steamy shower sex that kind of belongs on Cinemax, not network TV. We're led to believe she's a cocaine dealer and stripper. I couldn't tell you this character's name if my life depended on it, but my best guess from IMDb is Dianne Gibbons (Karolina Wydra). Later in the episode, however, we find out that Jack is married and has a daughter. Also, his mistress is actually an undercover cop who's only pretending to be a stripper to infiltrate a drug ring in hopes of making lieutenant in the LAPD. Remember that men get promoted by solving murder cases. Women have to go undercover as strippers and risk their lives by infiltrating drug rings. Someone should speak to LAPD HR about potential gender biases in employee growth and upward mobility. There might be something there. That's probably the most disappointing thing about Wicked City's treatment of women, really. The show is focused on a serial killer whose acts of violence on female bodies are horrific. That he's also the celebrated protagonist is really quite shitty, because the female characters — who are only allowed to exist on the periphery — are the people who are actually interesting here. They're the ones with jobs. There's Karen, the reporter; Betty, the nurse; and Jack's mistress, who has three jobs: undercover cop, stripper/cocktail waitress, and cocaine dealer. Kent, on the other hand, appears to live in a nice house and have a closet full of clothes that would make Dov Charney weep with envy, yet it's most unclear how he actually earns a living. Any other women who turn up are there to serve as ironic foils who demonstrate how good Kent is at convincing people that he's not a secret mass murderer. Take his neighbor, for instance, who asks him to babysit her cute little daughter. The daughter asks why Kent isn't married. "I just haven't met the right woman yet," he slyly replies while in the background, the TV blares a news report on a murdered woman found in the cemetery last night (guess who did it?). "I think you'd make a really great daddy," the little girl says. Kent merely smiles, complacent in his ability to trick females of any age into thinking that he's a good guy. Oh females, we're so gullible! You haven't tricked me though, Kent. I'm onto your shitty wicked games and this shitty wicked show.