A&E’s rather rote new crime drama, “Those Who Kill” (premiering Monday night), presents yet another emotionally inscrutable detective who uses her weirdness as an asset. Chloë Sevigny (“Big Love”) stars as Catherine, a prickly and newly promoted homicide detective in Pittsburgh, who (we learn in bits and pieces) has an unsettling history with serial killers.
Pittsburgh, as everyone knows, is one of those towns riddled with the kind of fictional, fetishistic murder sprees that can be solved only by shrinks, symbologists, art critics or maverick wackadoo detectives; simple crime-solving just won’t cut it anymore, nor will simple crimes. (Just look at the heaps of praise for HBO’s “True Detective.”)
“Those Who Kill” is derived from a Danish series based on the novels of Elsebeth Egholm. (If that matters to anyone.) In the first of 10 episodes, Catherine helps link the discovery of a woman’s body in an old mill to several other murders, but it turns out that she works for one of those police departments where nobody will listen to the female rookie. She’s helped instead by a reluctant sleuthing partner, Thomas (James D’Arcy), a forensic psychologist disliked by cops because he has his own fetish issues when it comes to serial killing.
Afflicted with their respectively off-putting quirkiness, Catherine and Thomas pursue their suspect up to and through a predictable “Silence of the Lambs”-style conclusion, making way, one presumes, for another killer next week and another chance for the pair to work through their psycho-sicko nonsense. Although Sevigny brings some of her flair for playing stubbornly outré characters to this role, “Those Who Kill” fails to distinguish itself from “Hannibal,” “The Following” and so much else in TV’s corpse-strewn imagination.
A&E’s “Bates Motel” returns for a second season, also Monday night, and it appears to have burned through the fuel of its intriguing premise at about the expected rate.
An imaginative update of the “Psycho” lore, the show is set in a perniciously retro present day, where cuckoo Norma Bates (Vera Farmiga) has purchased and rechristened an old motel in a seaside Oregon town. Her awkward teenage son, Norman (Freddie Highmore), is always there to help with the chores, some of which are quite grisly.
Last season wasn’t a banner year for the creepy motel business; as you would guess, the Bates Motel was more frequently a place for murder, corrupt cops and sex trafficking than a peaceful bide-a-wee. By season’s end, we saw poor Norman leave the school dance and (possibly) murder his favorite teacher.
Season 2’s opener feels slow and repetitive, as if “Bates Motel” is stuck on a loop. From the look on her face, Farmiga appears to derive no satisfaction from the part; Highmore, however, remains a pitch-perfect and utterly sympathetic update on Anthony Perkins’s disturbed young square. Another standout is Max Thieriot as Norman’s older brother, Dylan, who arrived as a reprobate and now seems like the only decent guy for miles; the show doesn’t make enough use of his morally ambivalent nature.
And so far, several story lines of small-town secrets and drama have fanned out and fizzled, making it hard to tell if “Bates Motel” wants to be compellingly chilling or just tediously unnerving.
(one hour) premieres Monday at 10 p.m. on A&E.
(one hour) returns Monday at 9 p.m.