Very bad men on DStv this August

Curious about crossing the line? Watch what happens when these guys do it

Some shows centre on glamorous, morally grey anti-heroes who do some bad things for relatively good reasons. They allow us the fun fantasy of living life without the brakes on. But there are other shows out there that make us sweat a little and feel the walls closing in. There’s a magic mirror effect of seeing our worst selves realised and our worst appetites and instincts unleashed. Good things like pride and ambition turn rotten as they warp into arrogance and entitlement. Resentment festers and instead of realising that the problem lies inside them, these characters unleash all their inner pain on the world. This winter, prepare to be chilled, thrilled and intrigued by series involving some very bad men…


The Sinner

Detective Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) will have to dip deep into the more shameful depths of his psyche this season to understand a new criminal – one who isn’t as in touch with his own motivations as he thinks he is. Jamie (Matthew Bomer) appears to have everything. He is handsome, he has a respectable teaching career, a happy marriage and a baby on the way. But the slow, lingering death of Jamie’s old college friend, Nick Haas (Chris Messina), following a car crash rips the mask off to reveal an intense relationship between the two men that crossed all sorts of boundaries.

Back in college, Jamie and Nick’s experiments with destruction and dominance gave Jamie the thrill of feeling alive. Nick and Jamie fed each other’s egos, creating an intimate feedback loop as they fed each other’s resentment at the world. They became the kind of guys who go around insisting that they are alpha wolves and trotting out Nietzsche’s theories of the Uberman. The kind of guys who watch Fight Club and take it as a manifesto instead of satire. Seeing themselves as more alive, more “awake” specimens of humanity, they expect to somehow be exempt from the million little mundane things that life demands for survival. You know, those bros.

What makes The Sinner so frightening is how relatable some of Jamie’s feelings are – even as his responses to those feelings hint at something deeply wrong with him. “I found a lot of the things that he was having a hard time with to be really relatable. He is somebody who wants to be the golden boy, the yes man, and the people pleaser. He has this beautiful life, a great wife and they’re expecting a child. But inside, he’s dying. He is completely spiritually bankrupt. He feels a disconnection with society. He feels incredibly lonely. He also feels that the way we’re living, the world in which we’re living in, and the morals and ethics we’re applying to the world, in order to survive, in this day and age, are not working for us,” says Matt. “I’ve sensed things like that in myself, just not on the same level that Jamie does. He’s not connected to things that could sustain him, spiritually so he reaches out, out of desperation, to the last person that he really felt alive with, which is this toxic relationship from his past.”

“It’s really the whole point of the season for me as a writer, looking at platonic, non-erotic relationships between men that have this real intimate intensity to them,” says series showrunner Derek Simonds. “We either have a bro culture posturing or its immediately gay and threatening and feminised. There’s these two poles and we don’t really see the opportunity for closeness and tenderness between two guys. I do hope it starts conversations about toxic masculinity and how our views about masculinity are keeping these kinds of intimate connections between men from being possible.”

Watch The Sinner S3 on Wednesdays on M-Net (DStv 101) at 22:00 or on Catch Up


Better Call Saul

Lawyer Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) has spent the past 4 seasons slowly turning into criminal lawyer Saul Goodman (a name that he finally adopted as his professional identity in the S4 finale) – the morally bankrupt legal weasel that we know from the Breaking Bad series. Like Jamie in The Sinner, Jimmy/Saul wants to be respected and rewarded by a world that isn’t meeting his expectations.

Saul is not just a name; it’s a declaration of intent. Jimmy has felt that his efforts to do the right thing (often in the wrong way) through the years have just led to him being played for a sucker. “I really think that Jimmy McGill, when he becomes Saul, for the first time in a long time feels powerful and effective,” explains Bob. “I feel like the whole swaying effort of Jimmy’s life is, how do I marry up these strange talents I have for bulls***-ing people and conning with the world in a way that gets me some kind of legitimate respect and reward? And the way he does it is by becoming Saul Goodman, at least for a while.”

Once Jimmy has committed to being Saul, Bob believes that he’ll become even more magnetic. “People who are sure of themselves, who move forward and make their way in the world, even if they do it in a dastardly way or unethically, there’s a great attraction to the ‘I’m moving forward and I’m getting somewhere.’ You can’t help but be attracted to that,” he explains.

Series co-creator Peter Gould doesn’t believe that Jimmy is quite ready to be Saul yet – but season 5 will take him there. “Ultimately, it’s about behaviour. It’s the same question we’ve been asking for four seasons: what’s Jimmy willing to do to get the things that he wants? That’s a question that we’re going to have to answer in detail in S5. I think the litmus test we always use is, is he ready to start advising his clients to murder people to further their business interests? It doesn’t seem like he’s there yet,” says Peter. Jimmy still has a conscience to slowly smother as he sets about facing victims’ families in court while he defends their killers.

For Bob, Jimmy becoming Saul might allow him to feel a kind of power, but it’s also a tragedy because it’ll leave him deeply unsatisfied. “That’s really only a part of who he is, the scammy guy who’s just a dealmaker. That’s just a small part of who he is, but he ends up putting all of his chips in that stack and going all in on being Saul because he’s just angry, and he doesn’t want to think about who he really was – Jimmy McGill, a good guy who wanted to do right for a long time and wanted to be respectable, do something good with his weird talents,” says Bob.

Watch Better Call Saul S5 on Wednesdays on M-Net City (DStv 115) at 21:40


Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt For The Bone Collector

Former detective Lincoln Rhyme (Russell Hornsby) barely escaped his first encounter with Peter Taylor (Brian F O’Byrne) – aka serial killer The Bone Collector. And in episode 1, after a copycat killer emerged, The Bone Collector prepared to send Lincoln a little gift from his suburban wine cellar, a reminder of what they once were to one another. Peter Taylor could be anyone with his bland little face. He could be shopping for groceries next to you, or raking his yard while he has a victim tied up in his basement. A flashback shows him in the same training class as Lincoln way back, where he displays jealousy over Lincoln’s powers of observation along with an irrational resentment that, despite those powers, Lincoln has not paid any attention to him. “The audience will know right away who The Bone Collector is and how he factors into Lincoln’s life. Lincoln won’t know that until probably three-quarters of the way through the season,” says executive producer Peter Traugott.

Russell explains that from Lincoln’s point of view, “Oftentimes, when you consider yourself the most brilliant person in the room, you don’t suffer fools. Anybody with a lesser mind or an inferior mind is a burden to you. Lincoln, being this savant with a photographic memory and total recall in a lot of respects, looks at anybody who is lesser than him as unworthy of his time and of his presence. He looks at the man who will become The Bone Collector and says, ‘You’re not worthy of a conversation because I solved the exercise before you did. So I’m superior to you.’ But that’s also his human frailty and is to his detriment.”

But Lincoln’s arrogance feeds right into the twisted way that Peter sees the world. Real-life psychologist Sasha Reid points out that many serial killers have a pattern of thinking in common: they believe that they are being pushed around, mistreated and, in the case of male serial killers, emasculated. “These people really go through their lives looking at everything that happens to them through the lens of a victim; they’re ultimate victims. They fundamentally isolate themselves because they feel that they’re not accepted. So they create these little worlds wherein they have ultimate power and control and authority,” says Sasha.

In the absence of merit and effort, what could be more powerful and controlling than having someone who you’ve tied up helpless and at your mercy in your lair?

Watch Lincoln Rhyme: The Hunt For The Bone Collector S1on M-Net (DStv 101) on Wednesdays at 21:00 or on Catch Up


We Hunt Together

This new BBC drama focuses on a deadly romance between a female psychopath and a former child soldier. Charming, brilliant Freddy’s (Hermione Corfield) drive to live life exactly as she pleases makes her come off as a free spirit at first. Meanwhile, Baba (Dipo Ola) is striving for control after he spent his childhood suffering and committing extreme violence in the Congo. They are a match made in hell as Freddy gives Baba’s violence a purpose and a target.

“Meeting Baba marks a turning point in her life because she sees him as a kindred spirit and someone who has the ability to carry out things that she’s perhaps always, deep down in her psyche, wanted to do. I think for her, Baba is the catalyst for her bad behaviours. It’s nothing to do with him, but all to do with how she sees them and how she sees their relationship,” says Hermione.

“Baba’s past affects what he does in the present. He’s the way he is because of what he’s been through. It does catch him by surprise at times, but I think that’s quite a human thing in that you never know what’s going to unlock that little box in your heart that makes you very vulnerable, scared and fearful,” says Dipo. “With Freddy, he’s again enlisted to a cause and that’s the one thing he needs in his life. He can’t survive without this conflict, it’s what drives him, it’s what makes him, and I think when you take that away, there’s no more him.”

In Freddy, aside from a cause and purpose, Baba finds a mirror of his own pain and loveless past. “Just because one person grew up on a dirt road in the Congo and another person grew up in a suburban house, don’t think they shouldn’t be allowed to breathe in these similar ways,” says Dipo. “The thing that initially draws Baba to Freddy is the fact that she stops him. Everybody has either facilitated his rage or encouraged it, but it's that first initial meeting where they meet in the alleyway that she actually says, ‘No don't do this, don't commit this because this isn't the right thing to do.’ I think that's what opens the channel for him to be drawn into her, the fact that she sees something different in him.”

Watch We Hunt Together S1 from Wednesday, 5 August on BBC First (DStv 119) at 20:00


…and one for fun: Riverdale

School is back in session in the bizarro world of Riverdale, and there’s a new bad guy in town in the form of Riverdale high’s principal, Mr Holden Honey (Kerr Smith). In episode 2 he’ll threaten Archie (KJ Apa), Veronica (Camila Mendes), Betty (Lili Reinhart) and Jughead (Cole Spouse) with discipline and consequences after they sleep in and slouch in late on the first day of school. Order and discipline in this clown town? Are you on Jingle Jangle, Honey?

Like a big, mean grown-up, Mr Honey goes on to cancel the dance that Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) has been planning since a whole bunch of people died at the previous one. The school play also falls prey to him when he finds a performance from Hedwig And The Angry Inch unsuitable for a high school audience (we wonder what he would have thought of Betty’s stripper act back in S2). Mr Honey’s reign will seem so stern this season that Archie and company will all be having delicious murder fantasies about him by the end of term, and for Jughead, Honey becomes the subject of some gory creative writing.

But how could mean, ol’ Mr Honey stack up against other Riverdale bad guys like S3’s cult leader and organ stealer, Edgar Evernever (Chad Michael Murray), who has a Batman villain name and Chad Michael Murray’s ever-slappable face to declare his villainy?

Mr Honey’s sin is that he does nice things in a nasty way, without figuring out that his tough-love approach comes off as a staggering lack of empathy. Sometimes the delivery is as important as the message – never more so, in fact, than when you are the head of a school.

Watch Riverdale S4 from Saturday, 25 July on M-Net (DStv 101) at 21:00

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