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Serial Killer / Live-Action TV

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  • The central plot of American Gothic (2016) is about the Hawthorne family's possible connection to the Silver Bells Killer, who terrorised Boston fifteen years before the beginning of the story. More details are revealed in every episode; what's mainly known is that there were half a dozen known victims of both genders, all connected by the fact that they were from wealthy Boston families, who were strangled to death in their own homes, and a small silver handbell was left beside each body. It turns out to have been a father/daughter duo, acting out an insane revenge plot on the rich who got preferential treatment in the hospital, while the mother was ignored and died of septic shock.
    • Madeline Hawthorne turns out to be one as well, having killed three people (two of them designed as SBK copycat killings) and talked a terminally ill man into killing himself and taking the fall, all in order to hide her family's connection to the original killings.
  • American Horror Story:
    • American Horror Story: Murder House has R. Franklin, a man who murdered several nurses in the 1960's, including two nursing students who previously occupied the house. Tate technically qualifies, having murdered several high school students in a spree killing, the couple who occupied the house before the Harmon family, one of the home invaders, and an exterminator.
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    • American Horror Story: Asylum has Bloody Face, a masked serial killer running the unspecified area where Briarcliff is located in the 1960s and the ruins of Briarcliff in the present day somehow. In the past Kit Walker is falsely accused of being him after his wife disappears. He turns out to be Dr. Oliver Thredson, the mild-mannered psychiatrist, in the 1960s, and his son in the present day. Incidentally, the original is played by Zachary Quinto, who portrayed Sylar as mentioned above.
    • American Horror Story: Coven has two; The Axeman of New Orleans, a jazz musician who butchered several people in the late 1910's and Delphine La Laurie, a high society woman who brutally tortured and murdered dozens of her slaves in the 1830's.
    • American Horror Story: Freak Show has Twisty the Monster Clown, who kills anyone who doesn't enjoy his performances. He only lasts a few episodes, but manages to inspire Dandy Mott into following in his footsteps.
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    • American Horror Story: Hotel has James Patrick Marsh, who mixes real-life serial killer H.H. Holmes' plan of creating a hotel full of secret passages and hidden rooms to conceal his many many murders with a personality somewhat reminiscent of Howard Hughes. After his death, he apparently served as a mentor to several real-life serial killers, who after their own deaths throw a dinner party with him at his hotel: John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Aileen Wuornos, Richard Ramirez, and the Zodiac Killer. The same episode also reveals that March's Dragon Miss Evers lost her own son to another real-life serial killer, the Wineville Chicken Coop Murderer Gordon Northcott, although he is never referred to by name. Finally, Detective John Lowe is pursuing the Ten Commandments Killer who turns out to be John Lowe himself.
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    • American Horror Story: Roanoke has sisters Miranda and Bridget Jane. Having become nurses at hospice care facilities so that they could kill their patients, they later open one of their own and up their game, targeting specific patients whose names spell out "Murder", which they spray paint on a wall as they move along. The Polk family also qualifies, cannibalizing their victims as well.
  • Angel:
    • The demon from "Lonely Hearts" wants to find the perfect body to inhabit, but until then it has to keep killing to find a new one when its latest acquisition has been worn out.
    • Like all vampires, Penn in "Somnambulist" loves killings and rampages, but unlike most he has a particular pattern which he has kept for centuries, making him a truer example. As a human, he used to be a man who hated the restrictions of his puritan father. After being made a vampire by Angelus, he murdered his family and deliberately sought out victims who resembled his family, killing them in order to reenact his past murders. He then carved a cross on their faces - the police believes it was because he thought he was doing God's work, nicknaming him "The Pope", but it's actually to mock God.
  • Arrowverse
    • Arrow
      • Cecil Adams, a.k.a. Count Vertigo, perfected his Vertigo drug by kidnapping fifty-six people and fatally injecting them with his narcotic.
      • Barton Mathis was imprisoned for embalming many young women alive to use as life-size dolls.
    • The Flash (2014)
      • It's revealed late in Season Two that Hunter Zolomon's Earth-2 counterpart was one of these, with twenty-three victims to his name.
      • Clifford DeVoe becomes this over the course of Season Four in his quest to gain more superpowers by forcefully taking over the bodies of various metahumans and destroying their original consciousnesses in the process.
      • Orlin Dwyer/Cicada's only goal in life is to kill every metahuman he can find, out of a belief that they're all evil. It's eventually revealed that his niece Grace grows up to succeed him in a horrifying case of Legacy Character.
  • Gormogon from Bones was the latest in a line of cannibalistic serial killers who preyed on those they believed to be members of secret societies. Other serial killers who feature in multiple episodes include Howard Epps, Jacob Broadsky, and Grave Digger. Two of the four are thankfully dead, the third was captured, and the fourth just got her head shot off as she was going to trial.
    • The one who lasted the longest (much to the the chagrin of the audience) is Christopher Pelant, who went so far as to leave a corpse in Hodgins and Angela's home, on top of their canopy bed. Booth shot him, but he managed to escape. How does he accomplish his crimes? Technobabble. Seriously, none of the technology he uses to hack things for his crimes works that way. Booth finally took him down with a shot square to the chest after Pelant threatened Brennan once too often. Or in other words, once!
  • The main antagonist through the first series of Bron|Broen, who uses this method to point out social flaws in both Denmark and Sweden. Though this is a cover for his real motive: revenge.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Caleb was this pre-series.
  • Burnistoun: Played for Laughs with the Burnistoun Butcher, a serial killer who struggles to gain notoriety despite killing a number of people in a small town, because people confuse him with the town's actual butcher.
  • Carnival Row: Piety Breakspear turns out to be one.
  • Castle has had three encounters with serial killers.
    • In the pilot, this trope was averted; the killer framed a crazy person by killing two people in addition to his real target, and staging all three scenes to look like the work of a serial killer.
    • Scott Dunn, the serial killer in "Tick Tick Tick..." and "Boom!", uses a series of ridiculously elaborate plans to point the police at a patsy, who was actually a victim. Later, he got his Alone with the Psycho time with the guest star, and nearly killed an FBI team with his diabolical Evil Plan. Defeated by Castle, who as an author is Genre Savvy and foiled his plot by explaining how he would have written it if it was one of his books.
    • Castle and Beckett finally meet their match in "3xk". This killer is so brilliant that he got another criminal to kill some of his victims while he was hiding in jail on a minor charge— a nearly bullet-proof alibi. While Castle solves this one as well, it's too late to stop the killer from escaping. Escaping, that is, after knocking out Ryan, taking his gun, and gloating as he ties Castle up.
      • 3xk also earns bonus points for managing to get his girlfriend, Dr. Kelly Neiman, into the act as well. She's the one who very nearly kills Beckett in the seventh season episode "Reckoning."
    • A complicated example in "Scared to Death." Strictly speaking, the culprit didn't qualify as a serial killer since Beckett and Castle saved the third victim. However, what Beckett and Castle didn't figure out is whether or not Nigel Malloy, the culprit's father, really was responsible for the deaths of the six people he was convicted of killing. They didn't figure out what happened to his missing body either.
  • A handful of Cold Case examples. Usually it's the killer resurfacing after years of inactivity, or their dump sites being discovered that prompts the team to investigate.
  • The Amateur Detective Serial Killer in the final episode of The Conditions of Great Detectives, of the Mission Based kind. He believes it's the end of the Amateur Sleuth era as they can no longer function in mystery fiction so he believes the best way for all of them to end is to die. He believes that Tenkaichi, who he views as the best Amateur Sleuth, deserves to be framed for the murders and then killed himself. While he succeeds in killing all of them, Tenkaichi kills him in the process and protects Fujii (and the truth).
  • Criminal Minds has loads of these guys. That's part of the premise.
    • As a side effect of this, and the writers' close working relationship with real members of the BAU, it is very rare for more than two of the listed criteria to appear in the same killer.
    • Most villains that aren't serial killers are spree killers (a slightly different classification, but one that still ends up with a ton of people dead). The sheer variety of them covered in the show is one of its most interesting aspects.
  • CSI has had at least four, including "The Miniature Killer", who made miniatures of the crime scenes before a murder, and ultimately tried to kill Sara Sidle. Turned out this killer was a woman. Others include: the "Blue Paint Killer", who lured women into a trap using wet paint, the "Dick and Jane Killer", who killed couples, keeping the girls to himself and leaving the male bodies to be found, the bodies stabbed sequentially to show their order of death, then ended up stabbing Dr. Ray Langstrom in the Season 10 Cliffhanger, and Sqweegel, a Canon Immigrant from a book written by one of the producers, who dressed in a full body latex bodysuit and shaved off all his hair to avoid leaving evidence. He was never caught.
    • Dentist! Dr. Dave - cuddly older fellow, does dental work for the un-insured, eats lunch in the same little diner for forty years, loves his wife and (grown) kids, and callously murders young women and drops their bodies in places with high crime rates. And gets away with it for years. And when caught, calmly refuses to identify bodies because he simply doesn't care about the victims' families (or possibly because he never bothered to find out or remember his victims' names). Beyond creepy.
    • Also, Paul Millander, who shot men in bathtubs and made it look like suicides.
      • Every CSI show has had numerous serial killer that lasted for only one episode, rather than forming story arcs. Of those that do make recurring appearances, most tend to either die in prison (usually via suicide), or be killed by the cops.
  • CSI: NY:
    • There was one such arc with "The Cabbie Killer," a guy who gassed people in the back of his taxi with the exhaust fumes. As means of murder go, that is Nazi-level, being the method used before Zyklon-B was introduced.
    • Shane Casey. He first targeted the people involved in the conviction of his brother, who committed suicide in prison. He killed them all in symbolic manners and left cryptic t-shirts on the bodies. Eventually, he was arrested and imprisoned, but escaped and turned his rage on Danny and by extension Lindsay, because Danny forced him to confront evidence of his brother's guilt. He was only stopped when Lindsay shot him after he broke into the house and held their infant daughter hostage.
    • Then there was the Compass Killer, who left antique compasses at all his kills as his signature. He was out for revenge against the people he felt were responsible for the death of his wife, only he was schizophrenic and was attacking people who merely reminded him of them.
  • Dempsey and Makepeace: In "Out of Darkness", SI10 is hunting for the so-called 'Thriller Killer', who kidnaps blue-eyed brunettes and kills them within 20 hours. But the killer takes an interest in Makepeace as she and Dempsey get close during their investigation and demands to meet with her one on one.
  • There's the Showtime series Dexter, and the books by Jeff Lindsay from which it was adapted, which feature as their title character a serial killer who is a police forensics expert, and who preys solely on serial killers whom he feels have escaped justice.
    • In the books, Astor and Cody show signs of developing into serial killers, themselves. It's touched on with Cody in the TV series, but mostly left out due to Executive Meddling.
    • The series also features a serial killer of the season that the police focused their attention towards.
      • Season 1/"Darkly Dreaming Dexter: - The Ice Truck Killer, dabbling in the murders of prostitutes by methods quite like Dexter's methods. Turns out it's Dexter's own brother, Brian, who is later killed by Dexter.
      • Season 2 - Dexter himself, after his garbage bags are found. Doakes takes the fall for it, and Lila kills him in a cabin explosion.
      • "Dearly Devoted Dexter: - Dr. Danco, a former interrogation specialist and surgeon who was employed by the US government in El Salvador, who was sold out and starts to hunt down the people who caused it. A former comrade of Doakes. Killed while experimenting on Doakes with Dexter tied down. Doakes comes out of it missing a few body parts. A lot of them. He gets slightly better.
      • Season 3 - The Skinner, a man known for, well... skinning people. He kidnaps Dexter and tries to get him to tell where Freebo, an associate of the Skinner, was. Dexter snaps his neck and then throws him into the incoming path of a police car.
      • "Dexter in the Dark" - A serial killer who kills in an odd tradition, by beheading and throwing the body in a kiln. A subversion, since it's all being committed by several people in a cult worshiping Moloch, an old god. Arguably played straight when it turns out Moloch is very real, and drives people to murder. Dexter's stepchildren were about to be victims by the head of the cult until Cody saves the day.
      • Season 4 - The Trinity Killer, a man who kills in threes. One of the most prolific and deadly killers in America, having avoided capture for three decades. Dexter unravels Trinity's double life and eventually kills him, but not until after Trinity (or someone using his signature) kills Rita. He killed each person during a cycle in different ways, to reflect deaths of family members he either directly or indirectly killed. It also turns out he killed in fours, but the first part of his cycle was not picked up by the original investigator because the bodies were never found.
      • "Dexter by Design" - A killer who carves out the innards of victims and stuffs them with ironic objects based on the scenery. Averted, turns out they were corpses stolen from the Miami morgue. Then played straight when Dexter kills one of the two masterminds behind it, sending the other one into a killing spree. He then kidnaps Rita and tries to kill her. Dexter and kids save the day.
      • Season 5: The barrel girl gang. Serial rapists as much as killers who murdered their victims to dispose the evidence in all but two cases.
      • Season 6 The Doomsday Killer, who stages his murders to mirror bits of the Book of Revelations in order to bring about the apocalypse. The viewer is first lead to believe that the murders are done by religious studies professor James Gellar and his disciple Travis Marshall, but we later find out that Travis is the real killer haunted by the memory of Gellar, who died years ago.
      • Season 7: Serial poisoner Hanna McKay. People who gave her trouble had a mysterious tendency to die of heart attacks... she's not the antagonist of the season, though; in fact, she's Dexter's love interest that season!
      • Season 8: The Brain Surgeon, who literally cuts off people's skull with a saw and extracts bits and pieces of their brain. Turned out to be Oliver Saxon, Dexter neightbor's boyfriend, which is a cover identity; in reality, he's Daniel, the presumed-dead son of Evelyn Vogel (Dexter's Parental Substitute).
  • Elementary has its version of Holmes and Watson investigate their fair share of these. Particularly notable individuals include:
    • Sebastian Moran, who at first appears to be a taking his victims at random but eventually reveals he's actually a hitman working for Moriarty. He reveals that the specific M.O. he uses (suspending victims from a tripod and draining their blood) was Moriarty's idea. Holmes believes Moran is responsible for Irene Adler's death, as the circumstances matched said M.O., but Moran is able to prove that he was in prison for an unrelated assault charge at the time. When he realises Moriarty must have framed him for Adler's death Moran agrees to testify to all his crimes to give Holmes a lead on Moriarty.
    • The sixth season introduces Martin Rowan, apparently a fellow recovering addict who befriends Holmes at a support meeting. The audience learns right away that he's a serial killer who's been abducting women for years. Several episodes after his introduction he murders the roommate of Captain Gregson's daughter Hannah. While investigating the murder Holmes finally works out what his new friend really is only for the man to skip town due to the network unexpectedly extending the season. When he returns he triggers a chain of events that leads to Watson being framed for his murder.
  • An episode of Everybody Hates Chris had Chris convince the neighborhood that a serial killer (who murdered people with scissors) was on the loose.
  • Evil (2019):
    • Leland Townsend is one by proxy, inciting other people to kill.
    • Nurse Linda "Plague" Block is heavily implied to be one of black patients under her care (either as a result of racism or because they're more vulnerable isn't clear).
  • The FBI: In "The Monster", fugitive Francis Jerome was arrested for extortion, is also a serial killer: something the FBI does not discover until after he escapes custody. He seduces women with long hair and then strangles them with their own hair.
  • The Five: Jakob Morosi is one. He confessed to murdering five children and it turns out murdered even more.
  • Hannibal. In addition to the infamous title character there are multiple Serial Killers Of The Week who Will Graham and the FBI investigate. The third season adapts the Francis Dolarhyde storyline from Red Dragon, and Word of God says the case Will is reviewing in the opening scene of the pilot was one of Dolarhyde's early kills.
  • In Haven, it's revealed that Duke's Trouble is the ability to end a family Trouble by killing them and touching their blood. The side effect is an adrenaline rush and Super Strength. This ability causes Duke's father and later his brother to become serial killers.
  • A classic ep of Hawaii Five-O played around with this trope. The killers (a man and woman) are preying on wealthy young widows and unmarried women, offing about one a month. There is no note to the cops, no wall of evidence. A wealthy young widow goes missing and her attorney pesters Five-O to find her. They come up with scads of missing women who fit the M.O., only to find the attorney's client alive and happy being a hippie on a beach. But all the other women ended up very, very dead. Being Five-O, McGarrett sets a trap using a policewoman as bait and catches said villains.
    • Hawaii Five-O also had an episode with a family of serial killers, headed by Slim Pickens. They're presented as inbred hillbillies with barely an IQ point between them (hey, it was the 60's). In the end they are caught because one of the children kept a souvenir. They excused their crimes on two points. It wasn't robbery because they killed the people first and dead people don't need money and secondly it was okay to kill them because "They weren't kin."
  • Heroes: Sylar. Throw in a slew of psychological issues and superpowers and you've got a doozy.
    Luke: Wow. So you're like a serial killer.
    Sylar: I'm not a serial killer.
    Luke: But you've got a pattern. You go after specific victims. You collect mementos.
    Sylar: Okay, technically, I'm a serial killer.
  • The It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia episode "Mac is a Serial Killer" dealt with a serial killer who targeted young blonde women, due to a series of coincidences everyone thought it was Mac who was studying to become a doctor, the real killer as it turned out was Gary the fat awkward nerdy guy they kept running into throughout the episode.
  • JAG has had several, but Ax-Crazy child-killer Charles "Charlie" Lynch in season 4 is by far the most despicable.
    • In "Déjà Vu", Harm and Meg suspect the murders of multiple Navy Lieutenants around Arlington National Cemetery are related. A local cop points out it could just be statistics: Washington, D.C. has both an unusually high murder rate and an unusually high Navy Lieutenant rate compared to other cities. Obviously, it's a serial killer.
  • Season three of Justified has Robert Quarles, a Detroit mob lieutenant who tortures and kills male prostitutes.
  • Kamen Rider has a few :
    • Kamen Rider Kuuga: The Grongi are a race of these.
    • Kamen Rider Ouja from Kamen Rider Ryuki is a particularly nasty case. He was already an unrepentant psychopath with a body count before he got superpowers. The fact he actually enjoys killing people made him one of the most successful Riders in the Rider War with the most kills. Is ultimately killed by sniper fire when he emerges from Mirror World and is pinned down by the cops.
    • Kamen Rider Double has Shinkuro Isaka/Weather Dopant who murders people to take their Gaia Memories and when he gets the Weather Memory, he goes on a series of murder sprees simply to test out his various elemental powers. Ryu's family are among his victims
    • Kamen Rider Wizard has Sora Takigawa/The Gremlin Phantom. Before his transformation, he murdered girls with black hair and white dresses, due to his love who rebuked him fitting that description before he killed her. After turning into a Phantom, he somehow retained his human self, and continued his killing spree. He's of the Revenge and Supernatural types.
    • Soji Shitashimo from Kamen Rider Amazons is not a Rider or a monster (at least not a literal one), but a human who murders women and dumps their bodies in his junkyard. He soon comes in conflict with the protagonists when he is mistaken for an Amazon.
  • Pops up from time to time on Law & Order, perhaps most notably in the episodes "Vengeance" (in which the A.D.A.s have to decide whether to allow the killer to be extradited to Connecticut, which has the death penalty, when they know the crime was really committed in New York), "Agony" (in which the A.D.A.s have so little evidence that they are forced to give the killer a sweetheart plea bargain... then find out he may not be guilty of that particular murder), and "Bodies" (in which the A.D.A.s prosecute the killer's lawyer for conspiring with him because he knows where the bodies are buried and won't say).
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent: Nicole Wallace. Also, Kevin Riddick a.k.a. The Motel Ripper, Frank Mc Nare a.k.a B.B.J., Dr. Edwin Lindgard, and Jo Gage.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has more then a few: given the show's premise they tend to be sexual predators, and a decent number of them are sexual sadists.
  • Life had a serial killer who murdered people and stuffed them in trunks because they were happier than him.
  • In mid-to-late 1995, as part of plans for a massive overhaul, one of these stalked and killed nearly half of the cast members of the Soap Opera Loving. Very tellingly, most of the victims were older and/or had been on the show for a long time with no further storyline opportunities. When the killer was revealed, it turned out the demented woman sincerely believed she was doing a good thing, believing that her victims had been in pain and she was in fact performing a Mercy Kill. The storyline ended with a friend doing this for her.
    • Then a year later, another one of these turned up on the Spin-Off The City.
  • Many, many of them show up in Medium. Notable ones include Dr. Walker, a long-dead serial killer (played by Mark Sheppard) who as a ghost whispers to the ears of innocent doctors until they loose their mind and become killers themselves, and a serial killer who has the same visions as Allison.
  • The Mentalist:
    • Red John, the Big Bad of the show, is of the uncatchable variety. Fortunately he only kills about once a year. He's technically retired in that most of his last victims are to cover his tracks, or to avenge an insult, whereas he began as someone who targeted women seemingly for kicks; a dramatic change of M.O.
    • At least two serial killers appear for one episode as the murderer of the Victim of the Week. One is an ally of Red John, while the other, the San Joaquin killer, is killed by Red John after insulting him.
  • Millennium: Frank Black (no, not the guy from Pixies) specializes in profiling serial killers.
  • Mindhunter is based on the early days of criminal psychology in the 1970s, following a pair of FBI agents as they interview and attempt to understand the mentalities of serial killers.
  • Monk:
    • There's a subversion in "Mr. Monk and the Really, Really Dead Guy". The "Six-Way Killer" sends the police a note bragging that he'll strike again within 72 hours, and the police focus all their resources on the case. Actually, the killer has no intention of killing anyone else. He wants to distract attention from a previous murder long enough for the police to lose their chance at a crucial piece of evidence.
    • Played straight in "Mr. Monk's 100th Case": A modelling photographer goes to the houses of young actresses who have posed for him, takes them off-guard, strangles and kills them, then takes their lipstick (to sign his work). In addition, each target he kills, he paints the deceased target's photo in his own photo studio with lipstick, leading Randy to call him the Lipstick Killer, a name Stottlemeyer disapproves of.
    • Monk has had some other serial killer cases before: one example is "Mr. Monk and the 12th Man", where this is Monk's only explanation for a string of eleven deaths.
  • The "sequential killer" (Dr. Ogden's own construction, since the phrase "serial killer" dates from the mid-20th century) in the Murdoch Mysteries episode "Murdoch on the Corner" is Mission Based. She leaves wallets full of money lying around with a note to return them to the Mission Hall, then kills people who keep the money.
  • NCIS gives us Kyle Boone, who killed close to thirty women (one his mother and another a Naval officer) and was ultimately caught by Gibbs some years before the series began. As he was set to be executed, however, more murders occurred. Turns out he'd trained his lawyer to carry on as part of a scheme to escape execution and gain more attention from Gibbs. The lawyer picked Recurring Character Paula Cassidy as his next victim... and she killed him. Others appeared as well, including a serial sniper going after Marine recruiters and a young Jack the Ripoff who laughed after he was caught, convinced that he'd be famous. Gibbs deliberately withheld his name from the press by claiming he had ties to several terrorist groups.
    • In the season four episode Smoked, the dead body of a serial killer Fornell has been hunting for years turns up. In the end it turns out it was actually the dead man's wife who was the killer. Except they found the toe of one of the victims in her husband's stomach.
    • At the end of season eight and beginning of season nine, they try to catch the P 2 P (Port-to-Port) killer, who kills navy personnel, dresses them up in uniforms belonging to people above them in the hierarchy, wraps them in plastic and ties their feet together. Turns out he didn't start out as a serial killer. He was part of a CIA/NCIS program called Operation Frankenstein which purpose was to train "super assassins". The training pushed him over the edge and gave him a need to kill. And now this killing machine is angry because of what the CIA and NCIS did to him and seeks revenge.
  • The Carver from Nip/Tuck.
  • NUMB3RS has had quite a few, from serial snipers to people staging fake car accidents to murder to a murderer killing people in ways that mirror the death of every one of Jesus' apostles. Most of them only appear in one episode. This being a show about Math fighting crimes, all the serial killers are found using math.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In the episode "Living Hell", its villain Wayne Haas is a serial killer with a twist: he and another guy both received an experimental neural implant from an emergency procedure several years apart to save their lives after an accident. He quickly realizes that they can share each other's thoughts, and uses it to send the other guy visions of the way that he graphically murders women.
  • Prodigal Son is all about an NYPD (formerly FBI) criminal profiler who helps hunt serial killers in order to deal with the trauma of the fact that his own father is a serial killer himself, so of course there's plenty of these:
    • The aforementioned father, Dr. Martin Whitley, aka "the Surgeon", who killed nearly 30 people over the course of several years before he was arrested.
    • The pilot's antagonist is an admirer of Martin's who is copying his techniques, honing his skills as he works up to killing his cheating wife.
    • The Junkyard Killer, a protege of Martin's, becomes a recurring antagonist later in the season. His MO is targeting people he feels are sinners, abducting and torturing them before killing them; the majority are crushed in a car compacter in junkyard (hence the name), though he changes the methods of execution once his kill grounds are discovered.
  • Jack of All Trades from Profiler both supported and subverted this trope. Jack was the killer, yes, but he had a girlfriend/project named "Jill", whom he made up to look like Sam Waters, the object of his obsession. But Jill, not Jack, is actually the one who kills off Sam's boyfriend Coop in Season Two.
  • In the season 3 finale of Psych, the "Yin-Yang" killer, who will challenge a cop he views as worthy with riddles, challenges Shawn to catch him before he kills. However, Shawn beats him by taking his plan Off the Rails (Shawn was supposed to answer a cell phone they found, but threw it into the ocean), forcing him to change his intended target to keep Shawn "in the game". But it just causes him to be caught for the first time ever. And he turns out to be a she.
  • Rizzoli & Isles: Charles Hoyt.
  • Tobias Lehigh Nagy ("The Smog Strangler") from Seinfeld; Kramer gets mistaken for him. Another episode had The Lopper, who apparently cut the heads off of men who just happened to resemble Jerry.
  • So far, the extraordinarily dreadful Wayne Callison has only appeared on two episodes of Shark, but several plot arcs were initiated by his fairly memorable role.
  • The first episode of Sherlock deals with a serial killer who's somehow been forcing his/her victims to apparently kill themselves. Turns out he's a cabbie who's being paid for each murder. Sherlock, incidentally, is beside himself with glee when he confirms that the deaths are in fact the work of a serial killer.
  • Supernatural:
    • The monster in "Skin" is a shapeshifter whose MO is to take the appearance of someone and then torture, rape and kill one of their loved ones so they would be framed for his crimes.
    • In "No Exit", the protagonists had to take out the ghost of H. H. Holmes, America's original serial killer.
    • In a flashback in "Repo Man", a demon kills and mutilate women while he is possessing somebody. Years after having been sent back to hell by the Winchesters, a very similar killing spree starts again in the same region. The killer is the guy who was possessed by the demon in the past, who always wanted to be a serial killer but never had the strength or expertise to actually do so until he got possessed.
    • Sam and Dean Winchester themselves are considered serial killers by the police because they travel the country killing people at least Once an Episode. Granted the people they kill are all possessed by demons but the cops don't know that.
  • Timeless: In "The World's Columbian Exposition", Flynn leads Wyatt and Rufus into a trap at the "Murder Castle" of H.H. Holmes, America's first recorded serial killer. Wyatt ends up killing Holmes ahead of normal history.
  • True Blood: the main villain of the first season is a serial killer who strangles women who are sleeping with vampires or use their blood as a drug. Also, it's Rene.
  • The series Van Helsing (2016) has a very disturbing serial killer character living among the group of travelers who is only revealed near the end of the first season. It turns out Sam has been picking off group members the whole time. It seems to mainly be some sort of compulsion given that he sobs to himself when he decides to kill Susan. The justification that it was all to protect them by killing off the weakest is probably self deception.
  • Subverted in the final season of The Wire, where two cops invent a fictitious serial killer preying on homeless men, even going so far as to fabricate evidence and lie to the media. They use the subsequent uproar to get city hall to pony up funds withheld from the police due to a budget crisis.
  • Plenty in Wire in the Blood. It follows the Major Incident Team (MIT) of Bradfield Metropolitan Police's CID and the assistance provided to the detectives by clinical psychologist and serial offender profiler Dr. Tony Hill. All of the main episodes revolve around a serial killer whom Hill helps to track down by means of a profile, based on the killer's actions.
  • The X-Files provided a plenty of them in Monster of the Week episodes, many of them were truly horrifying. Some of them embodied pure human evil while other times the killers were genetic Mutants who needed to kill to satisfy their Horror Hunger. Sometimes they might play with Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane or They Look Just Like Everyone Else!.


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