Tag Archives: The X-Files

Those Who Kill joins Bates Motel on A&E

'Those Who Kill' premieres tonight on A&E.

James D’Arcy and Chloe Sevigny star in ‘Those Who Kill’ premiering tonight on A&E.

Just when I think the increasingly threadbare serial-killer crime genre is in the process of fading, along comes another show like Those Who Kill, which premieres tonight on A&E Network following the Season 2 premiere of Bates Motel.
Set in Pittsburgh but based on a successful Danish TV series, Those Who Kill stars Golden Globe winner Chloe Sevigny (Big Love) as recently promoted homicide detective Catherine Jensen. Jensen is a prickly type who frequently ticks off her colleagues with her boundary-crossing style, especially after she insists on teaming up with forensic psychologist Thomas Shaeffer (James D’Arcy). Schaeffer, we soon learn, has an unfortunate history with Catherine’s boss, Frank Bisgaard (James Morrison), who holds Schaeffer responsible for botching one of his own cases in the past.
Still, after Schaeffer leads Catherine (with almost comical speed) to the burial ground her latest quarry is using for his victims, she’s confident he’s the man for the job – even though he has an unsettling knack for connecting a little too deeply with the killer’s psyche.
If Schaeffer is a bit strange, though, Catherine is a pretty odd duck herself. She keeps pictures of the homes of serial killers John Wayne Gacy and Jeffrey Dahmer on her living room wall, and is convinced that a member of her own family is behind the unsolved disappearance of her older brother, who vanished several years ago.
This is the kind of back story that gives an actress several interesting notes to play. I just wish Sevigny didn’t feel compelled to play all of them at once. Sevigny always has been a very … well, let’s say “generous” actress, but her performance in tonight’s premiere is just all over the place, with far too many shrill notes verging on hysteria. Since series pilots often feature broad performances as the cast tries to fill in the rough outlines of their characters, I’m hoping she will dial it back in coming weeks, because frankly I’d hate to live in any large city where this high-strung loose cannon was packing heat.
On the plus side, D’Arcy – a British actor who copes with an American accent reasonably well – is very interesting in his role, and veteran actors Bruce Davison and multiple Emmy winner Kathy Baker will appear in future episodes. Also, the guy running Those Who Kill behind the scenes is Glen Morgan, whose past work on The X-Files leaves me cautiously optimistic for this new show’s prospects.
Fun fact: D’Arcy played Anthony Perkins in Hitchcock, the 2012 theatrical biopic starring Anthony Hopkins in the title role. Which leads us, not a moment too soon, to the welcome return of A&E’s hit thriller Bates Motel, in the time slot immediately preceding Those Who Kill.
As fans may remember, Season 1 faded out on the image of Blair Watson, the high school advisor of Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore), lying dead on the floor of her home, her throat cut. Earlier in the episode, we had seen Miss Watson giving Norman a ride in her car during a torrential downpour. As Norman waited for her to drive him back to the Bates Motel, Miss Watson adjourned to her bedroom to change clothes. Her door slipped ajar, giving Norman a provocative glimpse of the teacher partially undressed. Cut to Norman running home, hellbent for leather, and into his mother’s arms.
Season 2 opens with Norma (Vera Farmiga) getting a robo-call from the school principal informing her of Miss Watson’s death. She asks Norman again about what happened the night before, but all Norman is able to recall are disjointed fragments, none of them particularly stabby.
Flash forward four months, and business is booming at the Bates Motel. Norma is almost – dare I say it? – happy, although she worries that Norman is becoming morbid, practicing taxidermy in the basement when he isn’t making regular trips to Miss Watson’s graveside. (Before you think Norma finally has sharpened her parenting skills, think again: She’s worried Norman’s behavior will make people think she’s a bad mother).
Soon, however, Norma has another distraction to fret about: Work is about to begin on the dreaded highway bypass, long delayed for lack of funding, which would re-route tourists away from the motel. She is not pleased.
That’s only scratching the surface of tonight’s season premiere of Bates Motel, but suffice it to say that, among other things, by the time the hour is up we have reason to wonder whether Norman really did kill Miss Watson. More to the point, Farmiga and Highmore slip back into their mother-son roles effortlessly, picking up one of the most amazing double acts you’ll find anywhere in prime time.
'Bates Motel' returns tonight on A&E.

Max Thieriot (as Dylan), Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore return tonight in ‘Bates Motel’ on A&E.

New on Blu-ray: ‘Banshee: The Complete First Season’

I have to confess up front that I am a latecomer to what I’ll call Nouvelle Cinemax, the programming facelift intended to elevate HBO’s kid sibling channel that some derisively have dubbed Skinemax in years past due to the softcore erotica that filled its late-night lineup.
As part of its image rehab, Cinemax has joined the growing horde of channels investing in original scriped series, and I heard good reports about both Strike Back, an ongoing action drama, and Hunted, a BBC-Cinemax co-production from former X-Files writer-producer Frank Spotnitz that reportedly is being streamlined and retooled for a second season.
I still wasn’t prepared, however, to be so pleasantly surprised by Banshee, the relentlessly entertaining and occasionally completely deranged action thriller created by Jonathan Tropper and David Schickler, with Emmy and Academy Award winner Alan Ball (Six Feet Under, True Blood) among its executive producers. Why do I call it deranged, you ask? Well, its featured characters include a transgender computer hacker named Job, a ruthless crime lord who is a shunned former member of an Amish community and a homicidal Ukrainian gangster named Mr. Rabbit. And that’s just for starters.
Set primarily in Pennsylvania Dutch country, the head-spinning story opens with the parole of the central character (New Zealand actor Antony Starr) after serving a 15-year prison sentence for stealing a cache of diamonds from the aforementioned Rabbit (Ben Cross). Reconnecting with Job (Hoon Lee), his former accomplice, the ex-con learns that his former heist partner and lover (Ivana Milicevik) was last seen in Banshee, but when he arrives in that sleepy (and fictional) Pennsylvania town, he discovers that the beauty he once knew as Ana has reinvented herself as Carrie, now married to Gordon Hopewell (Rus Blackwell), the district attorney in Banshee.
Although her ex got arrested and sent to prison because he sacrificed himself to save her, Carrie is dismayed when he tries to re-enter her life, threatening the serenity of her family, which includes two children. Stricken by her rejection, our protagonist retreats to a local bar run by former boxer Sugar Bates (Frankie Faison) to lick his wounds and reconsider his options. In a freaky twist of fate, another patron at the bar is Lucas Hood, a newcomer on his way to meet the mayor of Banshee and become installed as the new sheriff. Unfortunately, when he tries to stop two thugs from robbing Sugar, Lucas is killed, along with both intruders, giving the recently paroled stranger a crazy idea: Why not steal Lucas’s identity and take on the sheriff gig himself?
That masquerade kicks the story into high gear, as the new Lucas struggles to pass in this assumed guise while working with a diverse team of deputies who can’t help noticing that his approach to law enforcement is unconventional, to put it mildly. Carrie, meanwhile, grows ever more paranoid that Lucas’ reckless gambit will somehow draw Rabbit’s attention to Banshee, which would be very, very bad for both of them.
Superficially, Banshee follows many of the standard conventions of the action genre, including some hard R-rated violence. Every episode includes at least one instance of extended mayhem, and I found parts of episode eight, where the violence is directed at Carrie, almost impossible to watch (there’s also a featurette in which Milicevic talks about the grueling workday she spent getting knocked around for hours in front of the camera).
But Banshee breaks away boldly from action clichés in the show’s character writing and performances. Starr and Milicevik may look at first glance like your standard-issue Action Stud and Babe, but both actors also clearly reveal Lucas’ and Carrie’s pain, vulnerability and, on occasion, stark terror. Danish actor Ulrich Thomsen is sensationally good as Kai Procter, the shunned Amish gangster whose soft-spoken exterior masks his psychotic true nature. In a much smaller role, Matthew Rauch is both scary and hilarious as Procter’s sidekick Burton, who appears to have the killer instinct of Smithers on The Simpsons, yet is capable of inflicting horrific pain behind closed doors.
The Blu-ray set comes loaded with special features, including the usual deleted scenes and commentaries from the cast and creative team, but the most helpful feature (also included on the standard DVD set) is “Town of Secrets,” a collection of very short “prequel” clips that set up many of the relationships and motivations of the events in the main episodes. You can fuilly enjoy Banshee without watching these short clips afterwards, but if you do make time for them, you’ll find yourself going, “Ohhhhh.” Also, be sure to stick with each episode through its end credits, because there’s a brief scene tagged at the very end of each.
Cinemax already has renewed Banshee for a second season, scheduled to air in early 2014, but this handsome set will bring you up to speed on the fascinating, unconventional series. Just be advised, it’s not for the squeamish.