Detectives in the new crime drama series “Ragdoll” come across a grisly scene early in the first episode: A serial killer has stitched together parts from six of his victims to make one hideous body.
Naturally, they vow to track this madman down and bring him to justice. But first, they really, really want the chance to officially name this macabre sewer of bodies.
“Loco Chanel?” one detective offers.
"Tommy Kill-figer?” comes another option.
"Michael Korpse?” is a third.
That the horrific is mixed with wickedly dark humor and run-of-the-mill workplace politics makes “Ragdoll” one of the more interesting TV offerings this fall. The streaming series, from the executive producers of "Killing Eve," debuts Thursday on AMC+.
Lucy Hale who previously starred in "Pretty Little Liars," was immediately attracted to what she calls the “genre blending” of “Ragdoll.”
“Oftentimes, you’re like, ‘Well, how is that going to work? How is the humor and the gruesomeness going to work?’ And it just somehow does. That’s what really stood apart for me,” she says.
The series features a trio of actors: Henry Lloyd-Hughes plays Detective Nathan Rose, an English officer recovering from PTSD triggered from another case; Thalissa Teixeira as his boss and romantic interest; and Hale, playing an American detective assigned to the hunt.
Lloyd-Hughes calls them an “uneasy triangle of detectives.” His character and Teixeira's have had their mentor-mentee positions switched while he recovered and there's lingering attraction, “a kind of can’t-live-with-each-other, can’t-live-without-each-other-kind of co-dependency.” Hale as an outsider is “probably the closest thing we have to the eyes of the audience,” he says.
The so-called Ragdoll Killer — as the serial killer comes to be known, much to the frustration of several detectives' egos — taunts the police by sending them a list of his next six victims, with Rose’s name among them.
The London-based series has all the elements of a typical police procedural — the kill list, the race against time, the autopsy clues, the serial killer one step ahead — but also thorny personal relationships and workplace frustrations. The show also explores racism, sexism, injustice and mental health.
“The horror element — or however you want to call those parts of the show — are spectacular and it’s a kind of visual jump-scare fright-fest. But I weirdly think if you cut all of that stuff out, you’d still have a really complex, rich drama,” says Lloyd-Hughes.
“You could disappear the six bodies stitched into one and the serial killer, and I genuinely think you’d still be interested in the way in which these characters talk to each other.”
It begins two years after a killer tracked by Lloyd-Hughes was freed on a technicality, triggering a violent altercation that caused the detective to be ordered to a psychiatric facility. The Ragdoll investigation is complicated by a connection to that old case.
The series is adapted by Freddy Syborn from British novelist Daniel Cole's book of the same name and crackles with wit. When Teixeira's detective approaches the Ragdoll murder scene for the first time, she asks how bad it is. “Gonna make a podcast out of this one,” replies an officer drily.
Hale welcomes the humor, saying without it shows like this can go too dark. “As human beings, that’s how we get through life — we have to make light of things. Otherwise, how would we survive? Life would just be like entirely too much.”
As to how the Ragdoll Killer gets his name, it turns out a police technician — one asked to run the projector during a meeting — blurts out his catchy suggestion during a meeting and a senior officer accepts it.
“You’re kidding me? IT gets to name our grisly discoveries?” complains Rose.
Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits