ABC’s new serial-killer drama, Wicked City hopes to capitalize on your 1980s nostalgia. It’s set on Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip in the early 80s, and it’s chock full of Billy Idol. But is it worth your time? We’ve seen the pilot, and here are our spoiler-free impressions.
The “80s Los Angeles” setting is the main selling point of Wicked City—did we mention Billy Idol? The pilot contains nearly every hit from Billy Idol’s first two albums, and culminates at a “Billy Idol concert” (in which the actor playing the singer is only filmed in glimpses). So far, the pop overload seems appropriate, given the fact that the main character, Kent (played by Ed Westwick), is a serial killer whose preferred hunting ground is the Whisky A Go Go, and whose habits include calling radio stations to make corny dedications to his intended victims.
Kent murders young women for reasons as-yet unknown, and he does it with flair, but he’s not completely evil. He loves kids, and he’d love to settle down if he could just find the right woman. In the pilot, he meets single mom Betty (Erika Christensen), who only appears to be totally wholesome, and it’s match made in hell.
Wicked City’s first episode has a few characters who aren’t what they seem to be, and we won’t spoil the reveals here (the Kent-Betty love connection is completely apparent in the show’s advertising). But instead of just sticking with the serial killer plot line, Wicked City is also ... yes ... a police procedural, with Jeremy Sisto as a brash homicide detective who’s none too pleased about being saddled with a new partner (Gabriel Luna) whom he already loathes. Sisto’s character has gained fame for nabbing the infamous Hillside Stranglers—apparently he’s a supercop, despite some weirdly bungled police work in the pilot—and Kent sends “messages” to him specifically for this reason.
So Wicked City will likely pivot on two relationships: Kent and Betty (who are interesting) and Kent and Detective Jack Roth (who, ugh, we’ve seen the evil nemesis thing before). It also has a subplot about a wannabe rock n’ roll journalist (Taissa Farmiga) who finds herself dangerously tangled in a series of convenient coincidences. Hopefully this character will provide a unique angle on the show’s events, because otherwise Wicked City is in danger of being drawn in too-broad, too-familiar strokes.
But at least Wicked City doesn’t seem to be taking itself tooooo seriously. Pagers and beepers go off at opportune and dramatic moments; Kent’s favorite turn of phrase is “Kill me!” (instead of “Sue me!”); and the hair-metal ragers that play a Whisky show early in the episode are “Mickey Ratt” (which, as a reader points out below, was a real band of the era!) We’ll take more of that, please.
Top image by ABC/Eric McCandless