Before a juicy, shocking little twist at the end, one that follows a tension-filled climax, the crime drama ‘Those Who Kill’ sets itself apart from others in its genre, albeit barely. It’s far from perfect, and like so many other American re-imaginings of foreign drama, something feels lacking and lost in translation, but ‘Those Who Kill’ is compelling where it matters most.
Yet another American television adaptation of a Danish program, and yet another production infused with the cold hand of Scandinavian murder mystery (it seems to be their main export), ‘Those Who Kill’ draws closer the bond between the detective and the deceased.
While it occasionally missteps, falling into all too familiar clichés that simply seem forced, for the most part, the new A&E serial is strangely captivating, though its reception will be completely dependent on how viewers enjoy the two stars.
They are both peculiar ones, to be sure. Chloë Sevigny, the mysterious, decided, American actress of Polish and French Canadian descent and one always thoughtful about her roles, stars as homicide detective Catherine Jensen. She looks the part of a rookie cop, and while she has recently been promoted to work amid elder male officers who don’t care for her ways, she acts and sounds the measured veteran.
Thankfully, she is neither completely the nervous neophyte nor the wildcard maverick, both of which would result in eye-rolling, and there is already some of that.
The man she enlists to help her track a killer is equally cerebral and weird. Thomas Schaeffer, played with controlled chaos and nervous stares by James D’Arcy, is an insightful and invested forensic psychologist. Together, after some reluctance and gamesmanship, the two set about in what is a very gloomy and grim Pittsburgh – I guess that’s the closest to Denmark there is in the States.
The actors may be more interesting than their characters, but the marginal success of the pilot has everything to do with Sevigny and D’Arcy. Of course their characters have shady, sordid pasts that serve to make them sharper yet more troubled detectives. As bright as they are, they also seem to conveniently bumble too.
They are given some cringe-worthy lines, and more than once across the 50-minute pilot do holes pop up in the plot.
Still, the look, feel, and tone are perfect for a taught, personal crime drama, and the two leads are most watchable. Sevigny can brilliantly go from calm to hysterics in a blink of an eye.
After a very cool cold open and creepy credits sequence, a dead body at a factory sets in motion a rather straight forward murder mystery. The pilot feels more a movie than an episode of a crime series; while the murder doesn’t begin a season-long investigation as in ‘The Killing,’ it’s pivotal in slowly fleshing out the characters.
It’s good too, because at least for one episode, the police doings are ridiculous – Jensen’s investigation, Schaeffer’s ideas, and the killer’s actions all strain credulity.
It’s easy to pick out all the tropes, but ‘Those Who Kill’ does it better than most, and hints at potential – it’s closer to ‘The Killing’ than it is the American version of ‘The Bridge.’ With Sevigny in the lead, and the hope that the writers can shake some of the absurdities and conventions that make up American police procedurals, the show can maintain intrigue and suspense. And hopefully keep us caring for the characters instead of yelling at them for not paying attention to the man they just captured.
‘Those Who Kill’ premieres on A&E on March 3 at 10/9c.