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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Danish series gets dark, stylish overhaul

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The Steelers have brought Pittsburgh more than its share of Super Bowl victories. The Penguins have done their part by adding a few Stanley Cups.

And now, if the new A&E drama Those Who Kill manages to stick around for a couple of seasons or more, America's steel city will also lead the league in (fictional) serial-killer crime sprees.

Those Who Kill, which debuts Monday after the second-season première of Bates Motel, is a dark, stylish thriller that gets full value out of its producers' decision to cast uniquely moody actor Chlo´ Sevigny in its lead role.

Based on a successful Danish TV drama, Den Som Draeber, this Americanized adaptation focuses on an idiosyncratic Pittsburgh PD homicide detective, Catherine Jensen (Sevigny), who has both an obvious talent and an unsettling fascination when it comes to gruesome murder cases.

In the series opener, police are summoned to a building demolition site after a mummified corpse is found in a pile of rubble. Jensen's boss immediately concludes that the victim is just another John Doe whose untimely end doesn't require investigation, but she's convinced there's more to the case. The mummified corpse's arms are folded across its chest in a formal (and perhaps ritualistic) fashion, which makes Jensen think they're dealing with murder rather than misfortune.

She goes behind her boss's back and enlists the assistance of local college professor and forensic psychologist Thomas Schaeffer (James D'Arcy), who not only agrees with her assessment but ups the ante by telling her the corpse's positioning is probably the work of a serial killer.

Somewhat reluctantly, Schaeffer joins Jensen in seeking proof that there's a murderer on the loose. And when they find the evidence they're after, it turns out to be overwhelming.

Despite having done an end-run on her boss, Jensen's work earns her the respect and support of the squad commander, Frank Bisgaard (24's James Morrison). The endorsement, however, doesn't mean the case has been wrapped up neatly and commendations have been ordered; instead, confirming that there's a serial killer out there is merely the first step in a messy and perilous race to keep the murderer from striking again.

The first episode delivers heavy doses of action and misdirection, and Sevigny does an admirable job of balancing the adrenalized police work against a more measured exploration of her character's dark motivations.

As is often the case in stories in this genre, the lead character -- or, in this case, characters -- have some deep secrets that drive them toward these sorts of cases, and once they're involved, there's almost no chance that they'll be able to stop themselves from getting in way, way too deep.

Those Who Kill isn't perfect; there are some lapses in narrative logic and the portrayal of police procedure that might drive cop-drama purists crazy. Also requiring suspension of disbelief is the notion that a mid-sized city like Pittsburgh could serve up enough serial mayhem and twisted, murderous misbehaviour to keep Det. Jensen intrigued and employed over an extended series run.

But the deft layering of psychological drama and Sevigny's cool performance as a cop whose obsession is clearly based in a troubled past make this show's introduction quickly addictive. The determined manner in which she pursues the killer(s) will make you want to stick around long enough to find out just exactly what it is that's chasing her.

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @BradOswald

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 1, 2014 G10

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