TV Review: A&E’s ‘Those Who Kill,’ ‘Bates Motel’


Chloe Sevigny, James D’Arcy, James Morrison, Omid Abtahi

Thanks to Chloe Sevigny’s interesting resume, her presence raised hopes that A&E’s latest stab at (overtly) scripted programming, “Those Who Kill,” might be more than just another serial-killer procedural — “Criminal Minds XXVII,” as it were. Alas, no such luck, and this latest dreary adaptation of a Danish series has the added burdens of being almost unforgivably shoddy in its details, with cops who stumble and bumble through their investigation, and yet another profiler with a haunted past (is there any other kind?). A&E introduces the show as a “Bates Motel” companion, but this latest crime-drenched show isn’t much fun for those who watch.

Using the drab environs of Pittsburgh as a surrogate for its European inspiration — and to be fair, for a small country, the Danes certainly have a way with brooding and outlandish murderers, dramatically speaking — the series casts Sevigny as Catherine Jensen, a detective with one of those sallow-eyed stares.

Faced with the grim discovery of bodies, she enlists the aide of Thomas Schaeffer (James D’Arcy), a brilliant academic/forensic psychologist, much to the chagrin of her boss (“24’s” James Morrison), who had a run-in with Schaeffer that ended badly.

The task of developing the show fell to “The X-Files” alum Glen Morgan and director Joe Carnahan, and while they conjure some creepy visuals, almost every aspect of the investigation is just plain silly if given more than a moment’s thought. That includes, but is not limited to, perhaps the worst securing of a suspect in the history of made-for-TV police work, which is saying something.

Indeed, while the show has an interesting look and some creepy visual flourishes, it’s hard to get past the ridiculous twists — or for that matter, a press release that refers to Pittsburgh as “picturesque.”

Sevigny certainly brings intensity to the role, and the series promises a serialized thread over its 10 episodes. Still, it’s hard to escape the sense that serial killers have become such a formulaic sop as to become TV’s version of a dramatic crutch.

Then again, “Those Who Kill” will follow “Bates Motel,” the network’s “Psycho” prequel, which returns with similar craziness, while still facing the same pitfalls about being hamstrung by where it fits into the movie’s universe.

Despite the firstrate performances by Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore as the mother-and-son combo Norma and Norman Bates, the show can’t delve too far into Norman’s murderous madness — although the creatives have pushed it some, compensating by creating a “Twin Peaks”-like world around the characters. Simply put, this is one of those small towns where all is not as it seems, and the per-capita murder rate is off the charts.

Because the first season performed reasonably well, “Bates Motel” remains open, and despite the considerable craft that has gone into creating a world designed to take on a life of its own, it’s difficult to see how the serialized narrative can run much longer without beginning to muck up its own Hitchcockian mythology.

As for “Those Who Kill,” the title notwithstanding, the show is mostly just guilty of a rather mundane form of petty theft — and a decided lack of imagination.

TV Review: A&E's 'Those Who Kill,' 'Bates Motel'

(Series; A&E, Mon. March 3, 10 p.m.)


Filmed in Pittsburgh by One Two, One Three Pictures, Miso Films, Imagine Television and Fox 21.


Executive producers, Brian Grazer, Francie Calfo, Glen Morgan, David Petrarca, Peter Bose, Jonas Allen; producer, Howard Griffith; director, Joe Carnahan; writer, Morgan; camera, Yasu Tanida; production designer, Scott P. Murphy; editors, Jason Hellmann, James Coblentz; music, Johnny Jewel; casting, Sharon Bialy, Sherry Thomas, Russell Scott. 60 MIN.


Chloe Sevigny, James D’Arcy, James Morrison, Omid Abtahi

More TV

  • Shadowplay stars

    Tandem's Berlin-Set ‘Shadowplay’ Goes for Edge

    Period dramas rarely break the fourth wall, but for Mans Marlind, the creator-writer-director of Tandem’s “Shadowlands,” “we don’t have to be traditional. Especially with period, you need to be even more modern, to avoid the stiffness of costume drama,” he says. “Television’s development [is] creating audiences that are smarter, meaning we can be more and [...]

  • The Lion King

    'Lion King' VFX Supervisor Rob Legato to Keynote at the 2019 View Conference

    Rob Legato, visual effects supervisor of “The Lion King,” “The Addams Family” co-director Conrad Vernon and Baobab Studios’ co-founder and chief creative officer Eric Darnell, director of the VR studio’s Emmy- and Annie-winning VR short “Crow: The Legend,” are rounding out the keynote speakers at this fall’s 20th edition of the View Conference in Turin, [...]

  • Red Arrow Studios Boss James Baker

    Red Arrow Studios Boss James Baker Says Flexibility, Not Size, Is Key

    The goalposts have shifted for international production and distribution groups, says James Baker, president of Red Arrow Studios. “The old notion that size is everything is changing,” Baker, a former exec at Sky and Al Gore’s Current TV, tells Variety. “It’s now much more how flexible can you be to respond to a change in [...]

  • Borussia Dortmund head coach Lucien Favre,

    International TV Newswire: Streaming Sports, Gen Z on Power, Dutch Detectives & More

    In this week’s International TV Newswire, catch up on Amazon’s soccer push, Gen Z’s thoughts on power structures, DAZN’s newest acquisitions in Europe, a rebooted detective drama in Amsterdam, A+E Networks executive shake-up in Asia and a new international animation alliance between Mondo TV Group and German upstart Toon2Tango. Amazon Picks up Another Soccer Docu-Series: [...]

  • Peak TV Saturation TV Placeholder

    SK Global Revs Up TV Development With Marquis de Sade Drama Series

    SK Global is revving up its television development slate with plans for a drama series loosely based on the colorful life of the French nobleman Marquis de Sade. “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge” is described as examining the life of the writer and philosopher in the period spanning pre-revolutionary France in the late 18th century through [...]

  • Pinewood Studios James Bond

    Netflix's Shepperton Studios Deal Is Stretching the U.K.'s Production Limits

    Netflix’s huge new hub at Shepperton Studios outside London is a further fillip for Britain’s booming production sector. Amid jitters over Brexit and its effects on the economy, the streaming giant’s commitment is a vote of confidence in the U.K. entertainment industry and a continuing source of local jobs. But the decision by Netflix to [...]

  • BritBox to Roll Out in the

    'Downton Abbey' and 'The Office' Heading to BritBox as Streamer Unveils U.K. Launch

    British broadcasters the BBC and ITV have formally agreed to launch their joint streaming service, BritBox, in the U.K. in the fourth quarter of 2019. It will be priced at £5.99 ($7.50) per month, making it the same price as the cheapest Netflix subscription in the U.K. ITV will control BritBox, holding a 90% stake. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content