One episode was provided prior to broadcast.
Set in 1980s Los Angeles, there’s a plethora of movies, television shows, and books, both fictional and true, that ABC’s new crime drama Wicked City can’t help but emulate. The new series follows the beginnings of a romantic tryst between a pair of deeply scarred individuals that eventually leads to a series of brutal murders along the Sunset Strip. Sometimes the series evokes the air of Se7en, or the overbearing dread of Zodiac, but it’s fashioned and packaged inside the most redundant and rudimentary network procedural possible, and adheres to such a sour and distasteful tone, that none of the terror sticks.
That terror originates from Kent Grainger (Ed Westwick), who infiltrates bars on the Sunset Strip each night, posing as whatever his potential target might need (casting agent, real estate mogul, etc) and inviting them out to an isolated hillside where he likes to make out a little before plunging a knife into their back when they’re otherwise… distracted. Once enough of his decapitated conquests pop up around the city, beleaguered homicide detective Jack Roth (Jeremy Sisto) and his not-so-friendly partner Paco Contreras (Gabriel Luna) follow a trail of clues that lead from Jack’s old partner Dianne Kubek (Karolina Wydra) to a plucky reporter named Karen (Taissa Farmiga), who may be closer to the murders than she realizes.
Westwick certainly is locked and ready to play the part of a dual-faced madman in the looks department, but certain aesthetic choices made by the show’s costume and styling departments provide a bit more of a blunt stamp on the current state of his psyche than was probably needed (comb-over = friendly neighbor! Pompadour = death). But he’s just not convincing in motion as either a trusting babysitter for his neighbors or the hand of death at the center of the show. Once he instigates an initially intriguing relationship with bored mother of two Betty (Erika Christensen), he’s also unbelievable as a person with enough charisma and charm who could lead someone else down a murderous path.
The other facet of the show is equally flaccid, with the prickly working relationship between Roth and Contreras chewing up far more screen time than should have been allowed. The duo’s feud is glossed over when introduced, but so monumentally expounded upon that it’s easy to feel lost in the course of the pilot alone. It’s also classically cliche, which is a shame because Sisto may be the best thing about the premiere despite the little room he’s given to show off.