Born to Kill is an unsettling miniseries you might have missed


Delving inside the mind of a teenage boy with psychopathic tendencies, Born to Kill is an unsettling Channel 4 miniseries that may have flown under your radar.

With the bountiful amount of media available across all streaming services on a monthly basis, it’s easy to miss a few diamonds in the rough. Born to Kill is an excellent psychological thriller I missed out on when it debuted this past spring, but thanks to Shudder, I was able to binge all four episodes in one sitting.

The series stars Jack Rowan, who gives a startlingly compelling performance as the sinister teen murderer, Sam. Rowan’s skilled performance is made all the more astonishing when you look at his resume and realize this was his first major leading role. Since wrapping Born to Kill, he has gone on to appear in Netflix’s Peaky Blinders and is set for yet another starring role in the upcoming BBC adaptation of Noughts & Crosses.

In the show, Sam lives with only his mother, Jenny (Atonement’s Romola Garai). She has told him since he was a child that his father died when he was young, but you’ll have to watch the series to understand the gravity of her decision and the complex story behind it.

Since then, Sam has craved and obsessed about his father. He comes up with an elaborate story about the father figure he’s created in his mind, rehearsing the tale of his death over and over again in his mirror and on camera, so he can break it out at parties or to simpering young women. He seeks out father figures from adult men in his life, like his friend Oscar’s (The End of the F***ing World’s Earl Cave) dad, Mike (Humans’ Simon Bubb).

There is one scene where he asks Mike to take him out on his boat and show him the ropes and Mike tells him no, because he’s not his son. Oscar chooses that moment to interrupt the two and the amount of derision and envy on Sam’s face is chilling. It’s no wonder things escalate to violence between the two boys not long afterwards.

Born to Kill is a thrilling character portrait of a disturbed boy trying to find answers about a father he idolized whilst dealing with the manifestation of unsettling desires. Sam is possibly sociopathic, though I don’t feel comfortable armchair diagnosing him, especially as he does show complicated feelings towards his mother and the girl he falls for, Chrissy (Lara Peake from How to Talk to Girls at Parties ).

Lara Peake as Chrissy in Born to Kill – Credit to Channel 4, Warren Orchard, and World Productions 2017

Through Chrissy, we can see a psychosexual element to Sam’s compulsions. The first time she attempts to initiate sex with him, he’s unable to submit to her whims and it’s only after he murders someone he finds himself drawn to her in a sexual manner. From that point on, their physical relationship is characterized by Chrissy’s willingness to accept the disturbing aspects of Sam’s personality. Beneath his vicious and homicidal exterior is a struggling kid desperately wanting to be accepted wholly and unconditionally.

I didn’t know anything about the series before I started watching it beyond a vague outline, so I won’t spoil too much more. There were several moments in the series that shocked me and while the first episode gets off to a sluggish pace, by the end of it, I was hooked. Rowan’s ability to keep a carefully constructed mask of placidity that can just as easily slip away into the snarl of a madman is a stroke of genius.

He was nominated for a BAFTA in England and then went on to win one in Wales for his performance, in addition to being nominated by the Royal Television Society. The accolades are  well-deserved. I think this is only beginning of what will be a bright career for Jack Rowan.  Plus, Sam’s story takes place during the holidays, so it’s perfect for a short-and-sweet December binge.

Born to Kill was created by Tracey Malone and Kate Ashfield. Tracey Malone is an established actress who has had roles in notable films such as Shaun of the Dead and Nymphomaniac: Volume II. Kate Ashfield served as a writer on Rillington Place, another miniseries due to hit Shudder in December.

Each episode is directed by Bruce Goodisen who also directed several episodes of the BBC One drama, Doctor Foster.

The series also stars Jeany Spark (Black Mirror), Karl Johnson (Rome), Elizabeth Counsell (Grace of Monaco), Sharon Small (Call the Midwife), Richard Coyle (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), and Daniel Mays (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story).

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All four episodes of Born to Kill are currently available to stream with a Shudder subscription.

Will you be binge watching Born to Kill? What are some of your favorite psychological thrillers? Let us know in the comments!