Serial Killing

How TV dramas, good and bad, have become addicted to blood

Illustration by Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

TV drama has been on fire lately. Literally.

On HBO's Boardwalk Empire, hair-trigger sadist Gyp Rosetti registered his displeasure with a small-town sheriff by dousing him in gasoline and tossing a lighter. (The sheriff's offense? Saying "Good luck" in the wrong tone.) A gangster on FX's Sons of Anarchy burned a rival's daughter alive before his eyes. Recently on Fox's The Following, a disciple of an Edgar Allan Poe scholar turned serial killer punished an enemy by pouring gas on him and then--nevermore.

You don't need to smell the barbecued flesh to know which way the wind is blowing. You can...

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