All Sitcom Aliases Michael Fassbender Used in David Fincher’s ‘The Killer’

Published 11/10/2023, 1:23 PM EST

Killing can be boring. At least that’s what David Fincher’s The Killer seems to be talking about. Starring Michael Fassbender as the nameless and ruthless killer, the Netflix flick reached the platform earlier today amidst much anticipation. The premise is as unique as it is simple. A contract killer sets out for vengeance when things get personal after a botched assignment. On the face of it, The Killer may seem like a run-of-the-mill revenge thriller, but there is more. Adapted from a French graphic novel, the movie is a study of the repetitive and tedious nature of killing someone.

Apart from the mantra he keeps repeating to himself and his routine, there are many things he must do repeatedly to survive. One of them is all the aliases he uses. But something sets apart The Killer’s aliases: Its connection to sitcoms.

Disclaimer: Major spoilers ahead

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8 aliases featured in David Fincher’s The Killer

1. Felix Unger

The David Fincher movie opens with Fassbender sitting still on a chair in a Paris WeWork space, staring mutely at the building across the street, waiting for the target. After a five-day wait, when the target finally shows up and our killer tries to finish the job, the unthinkable happens: he misses. He now has to make a quick exit out of the building and out of the city. Enter Felix Unger, an alias he uses at the Paris airport to catch a flight to Miami.

Those familiar with 70s sitcoms would know Unger from ABC’s Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple. Played originally by Tony Randall (and later by the likes of Thomas Lennon), Felix is a professional photographer who moves in with his college friend Oscar Madison after his wife kicks him out. Like the killer, Felix is also prim and proper, except his neuroticism doesn’t help him skirt the law as it does for Fassbender’s character.

2. Archibald Bunker

We come across the next alias when the assassin has to make his way to Santo Domingo from Miami. While he was supposed to fly on the same day, he decided to reschedule his flight to the next day after spotting a guy first at the Paris flight and later at the airport lounge. He goes up to the airport staff to get his flight changed and Fincher ensures to focus clearly on the new alias, Archibald Bunker.

Yet another ode to the 70s sitcom, Bunker was a World War II veteran and the main character of All in the Family and later, Archie Bunker’s Place. Known for his overbearing nature, this character drew laughter for the prejudice he had against various ethnic groups and how it played out with his leftist son, Mike.

3. Oscar Madison

The third alias in The Killer shows up when the titular character is sending a post to his handler and lawyer, Hodges, and his assistant, Dolores. By this point, the assassin has reached Santo Domingo and finds his house trashed and his partner hospitalized after a brutal attack. Having tracked the cab driver who drove the man and the woman who attacked his place, Fassbender’s character goes to send something to his handler using a new alias, also in the focus of the camera: Oscar Madison.

Like Unger, Madison is also from the 70s sitcom The Odd Couple. In the sitcom, Madison is a sports talk show host and also a divorcee. When compared to his new roommate, he is more easygoing and untidy. Among the many actors who donned this role was Matthew Perry in the 2015 screen production of the original play. While he may be remembered for his work in Friends (something the actor didn’t want), Perry played the role for three seasons.

4. Howard Cunningham

The Killer’s next alias is Howard Cunningham, yet another mainstay of a 1970s sitcom. Cunningham shows up when the assassin is catching a flight from Santo Domingo to Barahona after a brief stop at New Orleans to kill Hodges and Dolores and get the identities of people who attacked his house.

Alongside Fonzie, Cunningham had won the hearts of many in the 70s with his typical 50s father archetype: Republican business owner in Middle America, a sage, and a white man with traditional values.

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5. Lou Grant

Having killed the man who assaulted his partner, The Brute, the assassin leaves behind Florida in a weary state after the brutal and extended fight sequence. His next stop is New York to find the woman, The Expert, who accompanied the Brute. For the same, he takes a flight from Florida to LaGuardia under his new alias: Lou Grant.

Who doesn’t know Lou Grant? This is a singular character who was the main character of two shows, the original one, The Mary Tyler Moore Show (a comedy), and its spinoff, Lou Grant (a drama). Played by Ed Asner, Grant is a journalist who dabbled in both print and broadcast formats throughout the two shows.

6. Sam Malone

By the time his next alias is out, the killer has reached New York, ready to eliminate The Expert. He needs a car for this job and at a car rental shop; he flashes the next fake ID. This time the name is an icon: Sam Malone.

Sam Malone is a popular pop culture figure being the mainstay of the 80s hit show Cheers. Played the evergreen Ted Danson, Malone was a former baseball relief pitcher before opening his bar Cheers. He was a recovering alcoholic and a womanizer, having an on-and-off relationship with his bar waitress Diane.

7. George Jefferson

Once he has killed The Expert, the assassin’s next and final target is The Client, known as Claybourne, played by Arliss Howard. While it is not hard to get rid of Claybourne, our killer hesitates because the client is a public figure and he knows he could get caught. To avoid having to set foot in the US, he decided to close his account with an American bank, which he had opened under the alias George Jefferson.

Jefferson was a supporting character in All in the Family, where he had issues with Bunker and his bigotry. Later, the character got his spinoff called The Jeffersons which followed George and his family, now well-off and living in Manhattan due to a flourishing dry cleaning business.

8. Robert Hartley

In his pursuit to kill or at least get to Claybourne, the killer tails him, only to find him being a member of an exclusive, high-end gym. to get more access to his target, Fassbender’s character signs up for a one-week trial period at the gym, where he eventually gets The Client’s house key. His alias while signing up for the trial membership, was Robert Hartley.

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Also known as Bob Hartley or Dr. Hartley, this character is a psychologist and the main character of The Bob Newhart Show, yet another 70s staple. While he usually charged high rates for consultation, he also did charity sessions.

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Eight aliases and one man—that is The Killer for you. What draws all of these characters together apart from their sitcom origins is that most of them originate from popular shows in the 70s. Fincher loves his retro sitcoms and displays the same by making sure each alias is in focus for his audience to find.

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How many of these aliases did you pick up?

The Killer is streaming on Netflix.

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Parvathi Ajith

33 articles

Parvathi Ajith is a Hollywood news reporter and Editor at Netflix Junkie. So much is her love for reporting that she started her journey with an internship at New Indian Express where she covered all the hot news of the entertainment industry. With her prior experience of being an editor, she aims to do interviews and reviews here in NJ.

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