A&E has become the place for series built around brooding and troubled souls, whether that soul resides in Norman and Norma on “Bates Motel” (which begins a new season on Monday) or conscience-ridden lawman Walt on “Longmire” (which returns sometime this summer). But the latest addition to this group, “Those Who Kill,” raises questions about how much trouble we should see.
Premiering at 10 p.m. Monday after the season premiere of “Bates Motel,” “Those Who Kill” stars Chloe Sevigny as Catherine Jensen, a Pittsburgh homicide detective specializing in serial killers. That’s her specialty in part because her father may have been one; she also has a brother who has gone missing and enough resulting emotional baggage to fill a freight car. This can affect her approach to cases, and to criminals, which can go down paths outside what’s usually accepted. And we are talking about far more than bending a few constitutional guarantees.
She has a partner of sorts, forensic psychologist Thomas Schaeffer (James D’Arcy), although he’s not the mellow sort, either. Indeed, the series – adapted from a Danish program – has a grim tone and look in the premiere. It is reminiscent of shows such as “The Killing” and “The Bridge,” both of which also had somber women in key roles. It is also in keeping with some of the nasty business executive producer Glen Morgan concocted on “The X-Files” and “Millennium.”
Only the uneasiness generated in “Those Who Kill” is not only intense but concentrated on women in a way that should bother anyone already worried about how much violence is committed against women in prime-time TV. “Those Who Kill” may think it has shielded itself from criticism by having a woman as its central character, but that’s not really the case. Instead, having a woman in the middle of these cases just creates another target for violence.
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At the same time, Sevigny is excellent. And “Those Who Kill” does grip the viewer, as has the best of Morgan’s previous work, even if that very work is laden with horror. Only sometimes, the horror is too much. The grip pushes your face toward the screen, while all the rest of you is begging to turn away.