'Wicked City' Goes Full 'Phantom'

This week, ABC's most misbegotten serial-killer thriller turns a strange new corner.


We’re watching ABC’s coke-snorting Angeleno serial killer drama Wicked City. We head back to where it all began: the Sunset Strip.

Corban Goble: I thought we had Wicked City pegged, that the strip is nothing but a strip of road, teeming with savages. We were wrong. We were so, so wrong.

Winston Cook-Wilson: The main thing that occurs in this episode is that Betty (Erika Christensen) definitively gets on board with dating a fucking murderer, for real — by the end, we see her setting up a new kill for him. But what’s most important is how he wins her over, and what we learn about the obsessions which drive Kent (Westwick). Basically, it turns out that he was in love with a bibliophile when he was a creepy, perved-out little kid: the Vera woman who Sisto and the other dude have found decomposing under some floorboards in an unidentified, random-chain-equipped creepy murder lair. Oh yeah, and his favorite book? The Phantom of the Fucking Opera, bro.

CG: In this episode, characters speak the word “Wicked” out loud twice, but this new wrinkle is by far the most wicked element.

“I graduated Berkeley Summa Cum Laude” — Karen McLaren, on solving riddles

WCW: Why Phantom? Well, that’s less clear. Seems like Westwick has a pretty simplistic appreciation for the story, and his role as “a phantom” (you know Sisto drops this comparison during the episode). The theater he lurks in the wings of is the Strip, bro! He watches and sizes up women at the Whiskey, looking for “the one,” which turns out to be hard-working, loving, reticent Betty. The other ones he kills, because… well, we don’t exactly know why he kills.

The Phantom element is definitely the opposite of sinister in terms of building up this serial killer character. Who could have seen this shit coming? It’s hilarious that the Whiskey a Go Go is Westwick’s operahouse equivalent. Unlike the actual Phantom, though, he seems to have no real appreciation for or affiliation with music. Sure, he sometimes has a song on in his apartment, and he does radio dedications as some sort of calling card. But it would be so incredibly dope if Westwick turned out to have once been in a band, and then had some traumatic experience and vowed he’d never play again.

I mean, this episode took WC well beyond the realm of just silly generic television, to deep, mysterious The Room-levels of stilted conception and acting. The detective storyline is laugh-out-loud funny 90% of the time. What were you digging on about this next-level ep, C?

*to the tune of 'Wild Wild West'* Wicky-wicked wild wild Strip

CG: I’m obsessed with Sisto’s wife — I feel like she’s some kind of Shakespearean orator that is constantly speaking aloud the tensions of the show. YOU LET OUR DAUGHTER GO TO THAT PARTY BECAUSE YOU WERE TOO WRAPPED UP IN YOUR CASE? And I COULDN’T MAKE THE CHICKEN WITH THE LEMON UP ITS BUTT SO I GOT CHINESE (Sisto dismisses her early in the episode: “Alright, Nancy Reagan.” Remember cuz ‘80s!)

But yeah, the Phantom pivot is something that Ryan Murphy wishes he thought of. Though there’s a number of set pieces in this week’s episode where character voiceovers read specific passages from Gaston Leroux’s novel — “I wanted to be loved for myself,” Betty reads aloud as her feelings for Chuck Bass click into place — I can’t help be thrilled by the arbitrary jump to Andrew Lloyd Webber imagery. When Kent comes over to pick up Betty after she’s decided she’s all in, she goes Full Sandy-In-The-Last-Number-In-Grease, wearing all black to fully commemorate her descent.

Now I wonder how closely they’ll hem to the Phantom plot; one can only hope this dude’s gonna be tearing up the Whiskey sometime soon.

Winston, for a show that’s supposed to be sooooo ‘80s L.A., how does this fit in? [Disclosure: Winston has performed in many musicals.]

WCW: You’re really gonna out me? I guess everything’s gotta come out when you’re in the Wicked City universe — you know Sisto’s gonna dig up all of Kent’s dirt. Lloyd Webber’s music embodies the gaudy, unsubtle vibe that LaLa Land is embodying — at least, in the Wicked City reading. Wicked City is like the Starlight Express of serial killer dramas. It’s taking super-spelled-out, generic primetime to a whole other transcendent level. Webber reinvented Broadway that way.

With Wicked City, we’re riding at Tommy Wiseau-level of epic, garbled L.A.-tribute nonsense. Just like the San Francisco skyline is the main character in that movie, the Strip is the main character in this shit — where Kent and Betty return to find new blood at the end of the ep, arm in arm. At the end of the episode, we get our “Music of the Night”-like anthem: a sultry, Lynchian surf-rock cover of The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” It’s lit, evil, and savage — this show. It’s everything and nothing.

CG: On this episode, the maiden BIT BACK. And now we exit the Strip, pursued by Michael Crawford.

WCW: Now it’s clear, if you’re watching this show and got this far in the article — you’re a true freak. WC is off the rails, and you must be too.

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