I love a good crime drama, be it based on reality or totally fictitious. There’s just something so compelling about this genre and, done properly, it can be a wonderful human case study as well as an unforgettable story. Mostly I find myself watching these shows in just a matter of days, something the ability to binge whole seasons on Netflix makes possible. These next six shows are ridiculously easy to get totally hooked on and impossible to stop thinking about, so save them for a rainy day when you’ve got time to get cosy and watch all day.
I watched this over two nights, four episodes at a time. It was so hard to press ‘stop’ and go to bed. Manhunt: Unabomber is the fictionalised account of the FBI’s investigation into the terrorist labeled the Unabomber who killed three people and injured 23 others during a decades-long letter bomb campaign. The miniseries opens several years into the investigation as FBI Agent and Criminal Profiler Jim “Fitz” Fitzgerald (Sam Worthington) joins the specialist taskforce and follows his development of the field of forensic linguistics to profile and eventually convict Ted Kaczynski (Paul Bettany). This series was a compelling exploration of the investigation, but also delves deep into the background of Kaczynski who went from a child prodigy and mathematical genius to recluse living in a tiny cabin in the woods of Montana.
Ironically, given it’s on this list, Happy Valley is not a show I binged-watched. Well, the first time anyway. When the show first aired on Australian ABC, I watched it week by week; hanging out for each new instalment. The second time I watched this with my mum, we managed just about the whole season in a day. I’ve written before about how utterly brilliant this show is. Gritty and horribly unsettling at times, Happy Valley is a storytelling masterclass. Alongside this is a superb cast, portraying highly emotional and fascinating characters including Sarah Lancashire and James Norton who are both unforgettable. This is not for the faint-hearted, but well worth watching.
With a miniseries hangover (is that a thing?) from Manhunt: Unabomber and desperate for another addictive crime drama, Jack and I started watching Marcella. The first episode seemed a little weird, but trust me it is worth sitting through the endless questions this bizarre situation raises. And if you love an unreliable narrator, this is absolutely perfect for you. Marcella is a detective returning to the murder squad after a career break just as a serial killer case that’s been cold for 11 years becomes active again. Her marriage is breaking down and she’s suffering strange blackouts where, it seems, she can become violent. Pretty soon this all becomes tangled and there is one hell of an intriguing mystery unfolding. We were absolutely addicted to this show and Marcella’s fascinating and frustrating character. Now is the perfect time to watch the first series since the second, where all the unanswered questions from the season finale, starts airing in the UK today. I’ll be counting down until we can watch it in Australia.
This recommendation is a few years old and I’m sure most people have been caught up in the (well deserved) hype around this superb and at times emotionally crushing British series. The first and second season focus on the death of a young boy and the resounding ripples of grief and suspicion that touch each part of the small village. Detectives Alec Hardy (David Tennant) and Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) must wade through secrets and friendships to find and prosecute the killer. Jodie Whittaker’s performance as Beth Latimer, a grieving mother, is perfect. Series three is just as compelling, although focused on a series of violent rapes rather than murder. It is a sensitive and emotional exploration of reactions to sexual assault as well as a wonderfully compelling crime drama.
Mindhunter has got a lot of hype among murderinos and now I’ve watched I can see why. Set in the late ’70s, Mindhunter follows FBI agents Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) in the infancy of criminal psychology and profiling as they interview some of the most depraved serial killers to understand why they kill and applying it to unsolved cases. These interviews were based on real conversations with killers like Ed Kemper (Cameron Britton). It can be graphic at times, but if you’re interested in psychology Mindhunter is a must-watch and a fascinating look at how they challenge the old guard thinking of ‘evil just is’, without explanation. As well as the serial killer survey, the show examines the personal lives of Ford and Tench, adding an emotional element to what is otherwise a pretty intense drama.
American Crime Story: The People Vs OJ Simpson
The OJ Simpson story unfolded when I was a baby, so it was a little before my time but I’ve watched enough 20 to 1 to know the basics. Like with watching I, Tonya recently, I had enough knowledge to be interested in finding out more, but not so much that I wasn’t still shocked by every plot twist (which probably wouldn’t be believable were this fiction). The People Vs OJ is a brilliant depiction of the events surrounding OJ’s arrest and trial, with a great balance between defence and prosecution including a fantastic depiction of Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson).
Have you watched any of these? What did you think? What crime drama should I binge next?