‘Wicked City’ TV Review: Episode One Starring Ed Westwick

Wicked City Ed Westwick and Erika Christensen
Ed Westwick and Erika Christensen star in ‘Wicked City’ (Photo by Eric McCandless / ABC)

Ed Westwick’s deliciously evil as a psychopath who preys on impressionable young women seeking a romantic connection in ABC’s new drama Wicked City debuting on October 27, 2015 at 10pm ET/PT. Created by Steven Baigelman, Wicked City’s a one hour crime drama that’s less about the gore and more about exploring the psychological thrills and chills of following a charismatic serial killer as he selects his next victim.

Set on the Sunset Strip in 1982, Wicked City perfectly captures the ‘80s vibe. From the cars to clothing to the big hairstyles and makeup, the series authentically brings to life the weird world of the 1980s. The series also makes effective use of the music of the era, with the pilot episode featuring tracks by Billy Idol, Foreigner, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, and Romeo Void.

Baigelman and his cast describe the era as literally all about sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll, with Wicked City reflecting the darkness of the time and how Los Angeles was a hotspot for people attempting to follow their dreams sometimes with devastating results. Episode one introduces the key players: Kent, the serial killer (played by Westwick), Detective Jack Roth (Jeremy Sisto), Roth’s new partner Paco Contreras (Gabriel Luna), up-and-coming reporter Karen McClaren (Taissa Farmiga), and nurse Betty Beaumont (Erika Christensen). It also introduces the wild world of the Sunset Strip with its hip night clubs and bars, including the legendary Whisky a Go Go.

As it’s pointed out in episode one, LA is the reigning murder capitol of the country and its citizens are just recovering from the shock of the arrest of the Hillside Stranglers (Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono) when a new serial killer emerges who’s attempting to copy much of the Hillside Stranglers’ work. Kent can suss out what a woman wants, fill the void, and talk her into getting into his car with what appears to be minimal effort. He’s handsome, charming, and says all the right things. For one woman he’s an in-the-know real estate agent with the inside details on the market. For the fledgling reporter, he’s an A&R man who can get her the scoop she needs on the music scene.

A chameleon with a killer smile and bedroom eyes, Kent haunts the popular clubs looking for women who will allow him to live out his insane desires. Kent tells these unsuspecting women he just wants to help them out. “So kill me…I like giving back,” he says, an altruistic statement that couldn’t be further from the truth. Once they give in and get in his car, they never get out alive. A knife is the weapon of choice for this sadist who can only get sexually aroused when his victim is dead.

Speaking of dead victims, Betty plays one in bed without – at first – realizing what she’s doing. After being randomly picked up at a club, Kent discovers a kindred spirit in the single mom/nurse. The two have instant chemistry, but their connection runs much, much deeper. Betty’s got her own sadistic streak and it’ll be fascinating to watch how these two play off of each other as we learn more about their shared tendencies.

Wicked City Jeremy Sisto Photo
Jeremy Sisto in ‘Wicked City’ (Photo: Eric McCandless / ABC)

On the law enforcement side of the story is Detective Jack Roth who’s dealing with the death of his friend/partner and is forced into working with Paco Contreras, an ambitious new detective who he doesn’t trust and who always has an angle. Married with a teenage daughter, Roth has his own share of demons he wrestles with, including an affair he’s involved in with an undercover detective who’s in line for a promotion to lieutenant. Roth was the detective who investigated the Hillside Stranglers’ first victim, and episode one centers on the murder of a woman named Emily who is found decapitated in the same spot as the Hillside Stranglers’ first kill.

Reporter Karen McClaren finds herself involved in the investigation when after seeing Emily’s severed head she realizes she saw her in the Whisky a Go Go just prior to her murder. Detective Roth believes that makes Karen an important witness which leads to another trip to the Whisky a Go Go, this time when Billy Idol is on the stage performing.

Wicked City won’t make you wish we were back in the ‘80s – not even the best series ever developed could make people long to travel back to the 1980s – but it’s definitely a compelling drama filled with colorful, flawed characters. In episode one it’s Westwick’s performance that stands out from the ensemble, but it’s easy to see how other characters will be spotlighted in upcoming episodes allowing other actors to show off more depth than offered in the first episode.

After an intimate moment Christensen as Betty says, “That was weird and kind of amazing,” and that pretty much sums up Wicked City’s pilot episode. Just when you think the twists have stopped coming, Wicked City hits you with another even more bizarre turn in the plot. With an outstanding cast and a premise that allows a lot of room for growth, Wicked City should become one of this fall’s most talked about shows. It’s surprisingly fresh for being a crime drama set 30 years ago and well worth checking out.