Recap: Wicked City – Pilot Episode

Wicked City Pilot Channel Guide Staff
Kent Grainger, A.K.A. Brent, John (Ed Westwick)

Recap: Wicked City Pilot – ABC, original airdate Tue. 10/27/15
(For all Wicked City recaps, click here.)

It’s August, 1982, and we see Kent Grainger cruising down the Sunset Strip – that wicked, wonderful world of excess and debauchery – to the tune of Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself.” He spends some time at The Whisky a Go Go (the club that gave so many bands their big break).

In the ladies’ room of that same club, a pretty young cokehead (Emily) brags about a real estate bigshot she just met, alongside Karen McClaren, a beautiful, young, non-coked-out lady who just doesn’t quite fit in with all of these groupies. After an unsuccessful try to get backstage, Karen unsuccessfully tries to get the attention of a bartender, and this is where her path crosses with Kent’s. He gets her a drink, and she tells him she’s working on a story for a magazine (she’s hoping for “Rolling Stone” but is slumming it at another publication). Kent, who introduces himself to Karen as John, says he works in A&R and can help her out. He doesn’t have a card (he probably wasn’t sure if he should list “Serial Killer” or “Big Liar” at the print shop) so he says he’s all out of cards, but gets her to write her name and number on a matchbook for him.

He calls a radio station from a payphone (remember those?), makes a dedication to “Emily F.,” and takes the aforementioned pretty bathroom cokehead to see some properties. The key line he delivers here, as he tells her he wants to help her out, is “Kill me, I like giving back.” As they’re parked on a bluff overlooking the city (TV trope: It’s that same bluff that everyone in L.A. seems to park at in every TV show, though it’s always mysteriously empty), her head travels south and she examines his private property, and as the dedication to her (Foreigner’s “Feels Like the First Time”) comes on over the radio, he stabs her. Kind of a lot. In his car. (Was it easier to get stains out of car upholstery in the ’80s? I grew up during that time and I couldn’t even eat a cheeseburger in the car for fear of dirty upholstery, much less stab someone.)

Wicked City Pilot
Detective Jack Roth (Jeremy Sisto)

The next day, Detective Jack Roth checks out the crime scene with a female colleague and Paco Contreras, another detective. This scene establishes a number of things: 1) Roth solved the Hillside Strangler case; this killer is mimicking that one, and wants Roth’s attention. (The killer decapitated Emily and placed her in a cemetery full of dead movie stars – the scene of the Strangler’s first kill. He tied her up after killing her, kept her cold, drained her blood, and raped her after she was dead. Also, she still has some of that coke she was doing in the bathroom, on her. 2) Roth doesn’t have any respect for this bigshot Contreras dude. He pulls rank and tells Contreras he’s off the case.

Cut back to Kent, who pulls up to his house on his motorcycle and heads into his house to de-blood his car. (Is that what you’d say? De-blood? De-bloodify?) As he dumps gross buckets of blood water (with disinfectant, I hope) down the drain, the doorbell rings. It’s his sister, dropping off her daughter for him to watch. Oh, good. Is he going to kill her, too? No, in fact it’s clear that he and Mary (his niece) have a very sweet relationship, as she tells him he’d make a good dad (with the murder story playing on the TV in the background – is there no other news today?).

At the police station, Contreras has figured out that the victim is Emily Fuentes, which makes Roth all irritated with him. (How dare he figure stuff out?) He’s even more irked when the captain comes out to tell him Contreras is his new partner. (TV trope: The tough-guy cop is proud and would rather work alone than with this punk kid who he does not trust.)

Wicked City Pilot
“Brent” and Betty (Erika Christensen)

Back to Kent, who is now calling himself Brent, wearing glasses that are kinda dorky (and rawr, kinda hot) and chatting it up at the bar with a beautiful blonde (Betty Beaumontaine). He’s pretty charming – a real ladykiller (groan … yes, I DID go there) and she’s quite taken with him. He does his usual payphone call, and they go park somewhere. As they make out, his dedication (“Crimson and Clover”? Really?) comes on and she heads for lapland. He eyes his knife. She asks if she’s doing something wrong. (Why yes, you are, Betty. He can only get it up if you’re totally down for the count.) Her beeper goes off – oops, it’s her babysitter – she’s late and has 2 kids at home. He softens up, revealing that his dad left him and his mom when he was young and tells her, quite believably, that he “absolutely loves children.” So apparently he’s not going to kill her, since she’s all motherly and stuff. They go back to making out (wait, isn’t she crazy late getting home?).

The next morning, Detective Roth is jogging, heads to some woman’s house and they have shower sex. To be frank, I found this scene really … weird. It just didn’t fit. It jumped to the sex scene without enough setup, and the post-sex dialogue seemed really unnatural. But, it served to set up a few things: 1) He’s screwing this chick. For whatever reason, she has a half-kilo of coke in her apartment, by the way. 2) His last partner (Vince) killed himself, so he’s all jaded.

Quick cut to Betty, at home, who has some weird spider fascination going. Kent/Brent calls her and asks her out for Thursday night.

Back to the station, we hear snippets of phone calls to the LAPD tipline, including someone calling to let them know she heard a dedication to Emily F. on the radio the other night. Roth and Contreras discuss serial killers, and Roth is still irritated with Contreras. He’s clearly smart, but Roth thinks he’s a know-it-all. As they analyze what this killer could be like, Roth has a great idea and holds a real press conference full of fake information, because it’s apparently easy to call press conferences and then tell absolutely none of your colleagues what you’re about to say. He tells the news media that they’ve caught the killer, but because he craves attention, they’re not going to say who he is. This is Roth’s tricky way to get the killer, who’s clearly an attention-whore, to come to them. (Overthinking moment here: Did anyone notify Emily’s family that she’s dead? If so, um, are they going to tell her they don’t really have a killer? THIS SEEMS PRETTY UNETHICAL, DUDE.) “No more limelight, or accolades,” Roth says. “No more fear. Nobody cares about this killer.”

This prompts Kent (who’s John, to Karen) to find the matchbook to call Karen. He reaches her at work, where she’s talking to her colleague, Diver. (Diver? What kind of name is Diver?) Kent/John asks her to come see Billy Idol in concert and backstage on Friday at the Whisky, and she’s psyched.

Back to Paco and Roth – they’re arguing over that press conference fiasco, and Roth seems like he might be a loose cannon. Something comes in (is that a fax? I’m so confused) that tells the men to go look at Wanda Philips’ apartment one more time, if they care about this case. They head to Wanda’s – she was killed 3 years ago, in 1979, just like Emily (decapitated, drained of blood, kept on ice) and for whatever reason her apartment is vacant and the door is open. (Um. Isn’t this L.A.? That place surely would’ve been re-rented by now.) They head in and there’s a box on the table. (At this point, I go full-on Brad Pitt in SE7EN and yell at the screen, “What’s in the box?!”) Oh. Whoever wrote this show must have also been a SE7EN fan, because it is indeed a pretty little head. Emily’s.

(Quick cut to Betty, who’s talking to a coworker about Brent/Kent as she removes stitches from an old man. She seems to take pleasure in the pain she’s inducing. This is key.)

Karen and Diver pull up to Wanda’s apartment building, and manage to get past the rest of the press (sure, sure) and climb a fire escape (SURE), where they take pictures of the boxed-up head. Karen starts to wretch, and Roth hears, so he angrily pulls Diver in and pulls the film out of his camera. While he yells at the pair, Karen reveals that she saw Emily the night she was murdered, at the Whisky. Roth asks Karen if she’s familiar with the strip, and she tells him about Kent/Brent/John (I can no longer keep track of all of these pseudonyms) and how they’re going to Billy Idol. Roth is surprised to hear she’ll be at the Whisky, and points out that serial killers are creatures of habit; even though she doesn’t know who the killer is (it’s Kent-Brent-John-Whatshisname, Karen!) maybe she can help.

Roth and Contreras head to a strip club (where bigshots hang out) , and shower sex lady is there too. She’s either a waitress, or a stripper, or maybe a stripper-waitress (is that a thing?). Roth holds up the baggie of coke and asks her if she recognizes what brand it is. (There are brands of cocaine? Really? Is there a generic option that costs half as much but with the same quality?) He wants her to put him in touch with the dealer, in case he can help, and she says she can’t (but we all know she can because this is TV, right?).

Next up: sex scene with Betty and Brent after their first date. He’s having arousal issues, and this is the ’80s so Viagra doesn’t exist yet. To remedy the situation, he ties her up, and tells her not to make a sound or even a breath. That (the whole she-seems-dead thing) turns him on, and she finds the whole situation weird and amazing. She calls him Brent, he tells her she misheard him and his name is Kent (oh, thank goodness – I was getting exhausted keeping track) and this doesn’t seem to make her red flag meter go up. He gets a knife – to cut off her restraints, not her head (no worries) and they cuddle. Aw.

Now we meet Roth’s wife. Yeah, of COURSE he’s married. How else could we fulfill the TV trope of misunderstood-cop-who-can’t-successfully-love? He’s got a kid, too – a teenage girl who advises him on what to wear to the Whisky. He leaves home, sans wedding ring, and meets up with stripper girlfriend who – surprise – isn’t a stripper at all, but rather a whipsmart cop who’s trying to bust a drug dealer. (Because of course she is.) She magically has obtained a VIP list with the names of everyone who’s everyone hanging out on the strip that weekend.

Kent’s getting ready to head to the strip, and Betty calls him to tell him she can’t make it out with him tonight because she got called into work. He gets all aggravated because he had wanted to show Betty something (meaning the-cutting-up-of-Karen) and, pissed off, tells her “I thought we had a real connection.” When he angrily tells Betty he won’t see her tomorrow, she’s disheartened at the prospect of losing him, and tries to call back, but he doesn’t answer.

Oh, snap! Roth is looking over the VIP list and sees that one of the Hillside Stranglers’ names is on it, so the killer must be playing a game with him. (I want to know how Kent keeps track of who he gives which pseudonym to.) Karen’s name is right next to Kent’s fake strangle-dude name, and putting 2 and 2 together, Roth and Contreras figure out that Karen’s going on a date with the murderer. Jackpot! At the Whisky, Karen doesn’t see John/Kent, but he sees her from a balcony.

Wicked City Pilot
Kent sees Karen …
Wicked City Pilot
… But Karen does not see Kent

He calls the radio station and makes a dedication, and goes to find Karen at the bar, but before he can get to her Roth shows up and asks Karen if she’s seen him yet (no) because (dun, dun, dunnnn) he’s their guy. Stressed out, Karen heads to the bathroom, and Roth follows her to protect her, but after virtually no time standing outside of the bathroom he gets all impatient (I mean, a 3-year-old is more patient) and runs to the payphone. He snatches the phone from another dude (who for whatever reason doesn’t punch him in the face and just walks away – remember, Roth doesn’t look like a cop so there’s no reasonable explanation for a phone-snatch). A quick call to the police station tells him that the LAPD got a call from the radio station about a dedication for Karen M.

Roth frantically zips around, looking for Karen, but he can’t find her. (Well, dude, why did you leave her ALONE, knowing she was about to be murdered?) He has no idea how close he is to catching his guy when he slams right into Kent. “Excuse me,” Kent says, as he walks out of the club with a different girl. He spouts his “Kill me, I like to give back” line and the pair run into Betty, who has apparently ditched work (wow, she’s a terrible employee). He asks if she’s coming with them and whispers something in her ear, and she smiles wickedly as all three leave together. Kent and Betty are clearly a killer couple.

 

Photos: © 2015 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved. Photo Credit: Eric McCandless

2 Comments

    • Yikes! That’s what happens when I type too fast. I meant to say L.A. Fixed – thanks!

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