Grading the Premiere of 'Wicked City', 'Blacklist' Continues Hot Streak

Wicked City took viewers back to the 80s and reminded them that no matter the time period, some people's mode for wearing two faces is a timeless act. There’s good news and bad news when it comes ABC’s provocative new anthology series. The good news is that Ed Westwick makes for a compelling antagonist (as expected) and he is the top reason to tune in. The initial outing was high on atmosphere, capturing an era filled with shoulder pads and great music.

The bad news is that Westwick is not as front and center as promos have led potential viewers to believe. Despite his being heavily featured as the lead; Westwick's Kent wasn't as prominent as Jeremy Sisto’s philandering cop character, who dominated the premiere with the storyline of his police investigation and seedy personal life. Though it's possible that was just a temporary dynamic so the pilot could establish his character.

Given the limitations network TV must adhere to, the racy terrain "Wicked City" vigorously tries to accumulate, evaporates with the omnipotent understanding that there is only so far the envelope can be pushed. However its main struggle with being perceived as edgy can be attributed to the timing. Had this show aired in the era it is depicting, it would’ve been scandalous viewing. In 2015, it doesn't pack the same punch.

If you’ve seen “The Fall”, it is impossible not to draw comparisons and something that sets the Netflix/BBC series apart in the “hunt for a killer” genre is that it doesn't aim for sheer shock value. It has a grasp on its characters which serves to educate the audience on psychopathy and the tangled web a psychopath weaves, in a way most series tend to gloss over. It properly rides the fine line between education and entertainment. It’s not trying to be a popcorn series and it shows. In its attempt to stand out, “Wicked City” implements the story trope of a cop, who’s morally impure going against a killer with “a code”. It's a plot point "The Fall" toys with as well and to better results.

The biggest miss for the series is the Bonnie and Clyde angle they’ve built into the storyline with Kent’s (Westwick) seduction of Betty (Erika Christensen), a sociopathic single mom and nurse, he reveals his true psycho self to, way too quickly. They say it takes one to know one but he barely gets to know her and we're to believe he already trusts her with information that could end his freedom and his life. The setup for his bold gamble barely scraped the surface of explanation, putting a damper on his decision's credibility.

To build on the aforementioned good news, "Wicked City" is an anthology series so your 10 episode investment will have a finite closure to look forward to and hopefully an interesting ride to go along with it. Most series' pilots are rough around the edges so it's very possible its follow up, will knock em' dead.

The Blacklist’s streak continues! Another dazzling episode centered on Liz and Red pulling double dodging duty as they had to simultaneously outrun the law and a league of assassins who’d come to kill Liz after a hit had been taken out on her via the internet. There were several unexpected twists and turns in “Arioch Cain (No. 50)”, beginning with the suspense inducing opener which flashed viewers to the closing minutes of the episode before jumping back in time to reveal the run up to the ending.

Obviously, Liz’s survival was a foregone conclusion so finding out how she managed to endure was where the tension lied and it delivered. Another plus was the identity of the episode's Blacklister, which came as a significant and well played shock.

Elsewhere, Tom continued to dig closer to Karakurt as he switched gears from smooth operator to rough intimidator. The build up to the Tom/Karakurt showdown has been well done and it will be interesting to see how it pays off. The best moment of the episode belonged to Dembe, who rescued Red and Liz from certain death in a jam packed and concise action sequence that was terrifically choreographed and rewind worthy.

Photo Credit: "Wicked City"/ABC