Like many of you, I only watched the pilot for CBS’ new crime procedural Stalker because of Maggie Q and her flawlessness. (Dylan McWho Now? Oh, right, the guy who mentally scarred me by cry-wanking one out in American Horror Story. Wonderful.)
My hesitancy doubled when I found out that The Following‘s Kevin Williamson is Stalker‘s show-runner. Based on my very limited experience with The Following – limited because I jumped ship on that pretty quickly – Stalker is most likely not going to be my cup of tea. I foresee a lot of violence just for the sake of violence, particularly against women, and probably more than a few dumb ass moves on the part of the cops to facilitate some manufactured tension and drama. And guess what? Based on this pilot episode, I’m pretty much exactly right.
As you may have gathered based on the show’s title, Stalker is about stalking stalkers who stalk, and the Los Angeles Team Assessment Unit (TAU) consisting of stalker experts who stop the stalkers from stalking. Maggie Q plays lead detective Beth Davis, who specializes in stalking cases. Dylan McWho Now is the newbie to the team, a smarmy asshole named Jack Larsen who decides to make a memorable first impression by perving on his new partner Beth’s breasts. Both have their own dark pasts and experiences with stalking. And yes, I am aware that I’ve said variations of the word “stalker” way too much in this paragraph, but the number pales in comparison to how many times they say it in the actual episode. Imagine how many they’ll say by the the end of the season! (If this show actually makes it to a full season, I’m gonna need someone to make a super cut of this.)
Much of the horror in Stalker banks on the dark reality of cases like these – in one of the opening scenes, Beth gives a guest lecture/expositional speech stating that 1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men will experience stalking in their lifetime. There’s even been a recent rise in incidents due to social media giving intimate access into people’s lives. Stalking is terrifying real-life stuff, so of course the way the pilot episode chooses to portray these events is in an highly stylized, melodramatic manner, focusing a lot on people screaming in terror. The very first scene encapsulates this, as an unnamed woman is chased around by a shadowy figure before being doused in gasoline and burned alive. This introduces us to one of the pilot’s two stalking cases, the other being a university student’s ex-roommate. It all feels more than a little predatory, as if the cameras, and by extension the viewers, are meant to take a perverse enjoyment out of stalking these victims of stalkers around.
Maggie Q does her best to bring some humanity into a show that thrives on inhumanity, but it’s one grain of sand in a veritable ocean. The award for Worst Person goes to Jack Larsen, who – spoiler alert? – happens to be a stalker himself, following his ex-wife and child around town snapping clandestine pictures so he can continue staring creepily at them at home. He’s also grossly misogynistic, at one point asking Beth why she “wears sexy things if you don’t want men to notice.” But Stalker wants you to keep in mind that Larsen is very good at his new job (due to insider knowledge on how a stalker’s mind works), he loves his family oh-so-much, and he’s just so darn cute and sassy and cool you can’t help but love him, right? Oh wait – yes, I can.
Stalker‘s glamorization of stalking and glorification of violence for shock value makes it completely irredeemable, and this show needs to be painted over with a big bright red trigger warning and chucked in the Fall Television Trash Pile, where it belongs.