'Killing Eve', 'Into the Dark, and 'The Act' show how TV's sociopaths are all seeking normal things but in the most twisted ways
Is the thrill of murder the ultimate goal of TV's psychopaths? Are they just junkies hooked to the rush, or is that just a step towards a bigger goal in life?
Serial killers and sociopath assassins have been a subject of intrigue, and thanks to modern day TV's representation of them, they aren't all that unfortunate and condemned. Gone are the days when serial killers and murderous psychopaths would be shunned and chided for their heinous crimes, for today, be it a suspected murderer as twisted as OJ Simpson, or someone from the ranks of the vile and vain Ted Bundy — none of them are shunned exactly, with audiences cheering for whatever new show, movie, or documentary that comes out about them. But while the absurd and deplorable glorification of these murderous psychopaths might still be in question, an interesting takeaway from their fictional counterparts we see on screen has to be how normal these people are when it comes to things they want. And while their desires might be normal, their pursuit of it is still very, very twisted.
If there's one thing the world is certain of, it's how meticulous trained assassins, sociopaths and most serial killers are. They are known for their absolute precision — executing each task to the last, minute detail. But is the task of killing someone — or the pursuit of killing — the only thing they want? Are they just junkies hooked to the rush they derive from killing, or is that just a step towards a bigger goal in life?
BBC America's 'Killing Eve' revolutionized the idea of what a murderous sociopath really wants, by its projection of Villanelle played by the impeccable Jodie Comer. In season one that released last year, creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge dabbled around the story of a trained assassin who longs for so much more than just her apparent thirst for murder; in that — Villanelle is not your regular assassin. In fact, what she really wants is, "Normal stuff. Nice life. Cool flat. Fun job. Someone to watch movies with." And in season 2, which is airing currently, writer Emerald Fennell's Villanelle is still the same serial killer with a closet full of couture, but her craziness has crossed all limits when it comes to her pursuit for Eve. There's skill in her techniques and twisted depravity that is brimming in the way she goes about what she wants, which in this case, is the titular MI6 agent, Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh.)
Why a professional serial killer would grow so increasingly obsessed with the detective chasing her, might be beyond many, especially Eve — the hunter that Villanelle is hunting down. "I feel like it's a love story for themselves, in a way that they don't even know," Oh told MEA WorldWide (MEAWW) at the premiere of 'Killing Eve' season 2. "It's up to each of them to discover on their own," she adds, hinting that the psychopath's obsession with Eve might purely be out of an inherent craving for the simplicity of Eve's life, that she lacks. "I don't think they have much in common, at all. Maybe they do, I'm not exactly sure," Oh explained, distinguishing between her's and Comer's characters. Still, she insists: "What draws them together is just something that each of them has, that the other really, really needs.
Villanelle might be lying in the comforts of her lush, Parisian apartment but she still craves the normalcy of Eve's life and the simplicity of the fumbling, confused woman's mind, and for that she could pretty much go to any lengths, turn into anyone, and most importantly unflinchingly kill the slightest hindrance on her path. This is clear when in season 1, Villanelle kidnapped her handler Konstantin's granddaughter, just to get the older man to admit that he loves her more than he loves his grandchild. So even in her pursuit of something as simple as paternal affection, Villanelle does the utmost and takes the most impulsive way out to reach her desired goal. And such is the enigma of her person.
And speaking of enigmatic sociopaths, one of the most stellar examples of sociopaths being a fan of simple things has to be another Hulu show — 'Into the Dark' — an anthology horror that releases monthly installments of a social satire mingled horror story that focuses on a significant festival from that respective month. In the last seven months, we have seen serial killers and normal people embrace the darkness within them, but none of them are extravagant when it comes to their goals or dreams, which is quite striking, because the path they take to achieve that said goal is extremely taxing.
In one of the recent episodes, 'I'm Just F*cking With You', the element of horror is a seemingly normal lad with a major thing for pranking people in general. Called Chester and played by Hayes MacArthur, we find Chester indulging in pranking literally anybody, but for the ultimate aim of that prank to be successful, he is not hesitant to even kill the person. The show also shows a less murderous psychopath, who even though not violent, will go the extra length just to be mean to people. Called Larry (Kier O'Donnell), he thrives on an anonymous online username that he uses just to be vile, and rude, and bitter to others, especially his soon to be married ex-girlfriend, whose happiness and peace seem to be poison for him.
Speaking about the unique choice of protagonists and their desires, the director of this seventh installment of the show, Adam Mason, shed some light on the toxicity and danger quotient of online trolls, and closeted sociopaths who don't look dangerous at all. In an exclusive interview with MEAWW, Mason revealed, "The thing that excited me about the movie was the idea of doing something where I could basically play a joke on the audience as director, just like Chester does to Larry."
But while the simple Larry might be a cowardly troll who does simple things to irk people, and relishes the feeling of having been mean to them, he is also extremely articulate about the way he projects his toxic masculinity online. "I hate people like Larry, cowardly trolls," admits Mason. "They are the worst kind of bully because they don’t even have the courage to say it to someone’s face. Larry is a complete moron. And he mostly deserves what he gets." Of course, justice had to prevail, even if it is in the form of the psychopath getting murdered, but when you think of it — all Larry wanted was a significant recognition online, and from his ex-girlfriend, and he wasn't hesitant to die for that. The sheer dedication!
Much like Villanelle, Chester, and Larry, we also have Gypsy from Hulu's new show 'The Act' to consider when it comes to psychopaths with a simple dream. Played by Joey King, the show features her as a young girl who wants to murder her mother simply because her mother had a habit of making up illnesses for her daughter. Based on a true story that was reported on August 18, 2016, and was titled 'Dee Dee Wanted Her Daughter To Be Sick, Gypsy Wanted Her Mom Murdered', the show's Gypsy orchestrates her mother's murder, even though her mother was a seemingly caring parent.
But even though Dee Dee is the one suffering from what is medically diagnosed as Munchausen by Proxy syndrome, it is her daughter whose inner sociopathic tendencies come out because her 'best friend' of a mother sometimes gets too much for her. Sure, Gypsy might say on the surface assuring and warm remarks like "My mom is my best friend. All she wants to do is keep me safe," but deep inside she's just a frustrated and scared child who wants her mom to allow her to lead a normal life for once; hence, the drama breaks out. In her pursuit for a normal life like the other kids she's coming across, Gypsy's only scope for escape is freedom from her mother. Quite twisted and extreme, but such is the inner working of a sociopath's mind.
Over the years, sociopaths have been portrayed in ways completely beyond the grasp of many. They are people not to be messed with, people one can't figure out, yet cannot help being intrigued by. But Villanelle is quite different in her ethics and strategy to complete a murder, even if it is driven out of obsessive emotions of love. And so are Chester and Larry when it comes to their motives in life — playing pranks and trolling people online, respectively. And while Gypsy might not have the killer techniques of telling people she is here to kill them, like our older, cold-blooded sociopaths mentioned above, she sure does follow suit when it comes to why she is doing what she is doing. And in that, our modern day TV sociopaths are all looking for simpler things in life, but are ready to go all out with their twisted, elaborate ways to acquire them.