Why the Final Episodes of ABC's Cancelled 'Wicked City' on Hulu Are Essential Viewing
'Inverse' staffers Goble and Cook-Wilson discuss how the Ed Westwick and Erika Christensen-starring show comes into its own in these unaired episodes.
“You want the ugly, you want the darkness, you want to destroy things.” — Kent Grainger/Cooper Flynn
We thought we might never see them. We thought the haters and fraidy-cats might win. But all of a sudden — as a holiday gift — the lost Wicked City episodes appeared on Hulu. We are simply just waiting for Episode 8, the final one, which is coming soon. At this point, if we don’t learn how this thing ends, it’s going to be the worst L culture took this year.
Once again — read past coverage here and here — we return to discuss what has now, assuredly, become our favorite television experience of the year. That’s right, it’s that sordid, Phantom of the Opera-and-Sun-Tzu-quoting, rock’n’Reagan’n’coke-filled postmodern extravaganza that is ABC’s cancelled classic Wicked City.
Winston Cook-Wilson: Corban was the first to discover they had been posted. Tell us about how it felt to realize that.
Corban Goble: It felt fucking good. And it couldn’t have happened with better timing; it’s almost like I manifested it into existence, a la the giant squid in Sphere. This is probably the 70th time I’ve referenced Michael Crichton’s Sphere on this website and I have no plans of stopping, just like I had no plans of stopping when I turned on Episode 4 and knew I had three left in the chamber after that. (The finale episode, #8, is not completed yet but will hit the service soon). And, boy, what a ‘sode. It’s pretty tragic that WC was off the air before episode 4 hit the waves cuz it had everything we’ve grown to love about our beloved strip, and then some.
WCW: Episode 4 is the best episode of the show so far, for sure. Right off the bat you’ve got Westwick/Cooper/Kent/Chuck Bass — whatever you want to call the man — donning his first ridiculous disguise of this section of the series. He’s rocking a fake, new-wave-y chunk of hair over the face, big club-going glasses, and a French accent. He and Christensen are at peak Bonnie and Clyde by now, all up for killing an aspiring photographer they meet at the Whiskey and chopping that body right up.
Jack Roth (Jeremy Sisto) and his partner Paco Contreras (Gabriel Luna), as always, are closing in absurdly close on the killer without making any of the usual leaps to action people do in procedural shows, just having tons of fucking information and getting super stressed out. Sisto is constantly barking like the most hard chocolate labrador ever, just ignoring his family and all logic and getting after it with Diane — his mistress and undercover cop — trying to track down why Westwick’s bodies all have this “fly brand coke” on them. That means coke bags with a fly on them. Fly brand coke. Fly brand coke.
Meanwhile, Christensen is getting blackmailed into having sex with her comical white-trash ex-boyfriend because he knows Westwick is jacking cars, and threatens to turn him in. We get a shitload of hazy flashbacks too, and see why Kent is so into killing ambitious women with dreams of stardom. Why? His mom was all like that, abandoning him and shit. It bugged him out! Now he’s doing French accents and only wants to get down when the girls act dead!
What other classic moments come to mind to you from that ep? It was just so loaded.
CG: I would probably go with when Sisto lights a pile of money on fire at the club. Personally anytime the publishing wing of the series — Diver and Karen ‘Kiki’ McLaren — gets to work it’s a trip, they’re like putting out a daily alt-weekly out of Diver’s apartment with hard news scoops and exclusives for the biggest story on the goddamn Strip. (Karen ends up turning down a Rolling Stone assignment because Diver lets her “voice” come out, that, and they’re banging).
Can we talk about the drug dealer character? He’s like, this unbelievably crude-and-impressive collage of drug dealer cliches bundled into one demonic presence. When Sisto and his partner show up, he’s out back by the pool of his Hollywood Home going full Travis Barker while his cronies stand guard. Later on he shoots a surfer/drug dealer named “Bucket” in the face and splatters Diane with blood.
WCW: Wow yeah, I forgot about that money part — maybe one of the top five moments on the show. There’s also that mind-melting overhead shot of Cooper and Betty having sex in the shower covered in blood. It’s just like … it seems by design so intensely pulpy. That episode really makes you wonder: what is this show going for, and why do I love it more than anything I’ve seen this year?
CG: An acoustic, dramatic Whitesnake cover plays during that scene. Go on.
WCW: The drug dealer is similar to Diver, McLaren’s editor, in that he’s not actually a person who existed in the early ‘80s — his look and lingo is straight out of 1992 at the earliest.
Getting into the next episodes, Diver really starts to be an nonsense character, like this guy who’s basically a huge asshole and does no actual work, from a different decade, who we’re somehow supposed to feel sympathetic toward because he’s devotedly obsessed with Karen. But he’s super predatory about that, and tries to sabotage her career. And he’s into the drug-dealing scene.
Then, as if all those contrasts weren’t enough, he waltzes into one scene really late on with a bunch of golf clubs, and a 1950s country club outfit on. “You’re such a freakin’ poser! You’re a trustafarian pretending to be down with the people, when all you are is a rich kid,” yells Karen. TRUSTAFARIAN! It’s pretty amazing.
Later, she forgives him, after he explains why he started the alt-weekly to connect to other types of people and some treacly shit: “Well, it’s not really punk, but it’s kind of amazing.”
CG: The parallel investigations going on here — Sisto chasing Kent, Diane doing some of the most out-in-the-open undercover work of all goddamn time — delight me. The scene where Westwick does a Billy Idol impression and soliloquies about what kind of high he wants — this is the stuff Emmys are made of. (Emmys are made of coke).
Though Jack Roth figured out who his man was before ‘the lost episodes,’ he’s still having trouble finding him and the closest he gets is a 911 call from a little girl that his department initially ignores the fuck out of. Even when he scoops up the hot lead, he’s too late, and Kent has torched the house and reveals to Betty that he’s still alive. Roth and his partner, Paco Contreras, spar in a parking lot — the teasing of Contreras’ history of gang life is something that absolutely will not be answered in the final episode — before Roth heads home to tell his wife he’s been cheating. This show is so heedlessly savage and so dismissive of looking in the rear-view mirror that I wish TV could once again be filled with things this wicked instead of whatever fan service we’re going to be force-fed for the next 5-10 years.
But I guess that’s life on the strip, Winston — you burn bright, and you’re extinguished in a flash.
Do you think Sex Drugs & Rock and Roll could be considered a spin-off show about Roth’s daughter making it big as a rock star?
WCW: Yeah almost definitely. I don’t know how THAT show got rebooted and Wicked City got cancelled, but if S&D&R&R went the anthology route, the second season could be a flashback season about a girl singer trying to front Leary’s band when they were starting out just after high school in the ‘80s. Holy shit, that’s brilliant. We figured it out. We’re always looking for get-rich-quick entertainment biz schemes, and recently they’ve just been flowing as freely as the bourbon does with Sisto when he’s in the doghouse with the wife.
But trust us, you don’t want to miss these last Wicked City installments. This thing definitely doesn’t go the expected way.
A quick spoiler: You’re gonna get a lot of blonde, gelled-hair Westwick looking like that vampire from Buffy, dog. We’re not out of the woods yet, thank God — we still have one more episode on the way. But ABC was kind enough to not force us to wait to see 4 through 7, though unbelievably foolish for not broadcasting this gold on network television.
We’re definitely not lying to you when we say, as Cooper does to Kiki in one of his be-hatted midnight visits, that the final installments of Wicked City are “wickedly delicious.”