The Killing Times Top 20 Crime Dramas Of The Year: Part one, 20-16


Everyone loves a list, right? It’s what we like to do at the end of the year – the internet equivalent of sitting in a pub and discussing our chosen subject; what was good, what was bad and what makes the cut. We here at The Killing Times are no different – we like to sit down at the end of the year (and we mean the end of the year) and countdown the best crime dramas we’ve seen in the past 12 months. And this year – to reflect the sheer quantity of series and one-offs this year – we’ve expanded our list to 20 selections, instead of the 15 we’ve stuck with in the past. So strap in, read on… and be prepared for a few shocks.

It could be argued that our list is a bit different because of the series that didn’t make it onto our list rather than the ones that did. Just hovering outside of the Top 20 are things like Case from Iceland (watchable and engrossing but almost too bleak); Witnesses (a great start but soon to be seen going off a cliff); Peaky Blinders (still more style than substance in our opinion, which will enrage many); Stranger Things 2 (good fun, but veering more and more away from the crime genre); The Sinner (brilliant until the last two episodes); Liar (an average domestic noir given a troublingly sensationalist edge); Snowfall, Narcos, Bordertown, Cardinal, Born To KillJodskott II, The Moorside, Little Boy Blue, Black Lake, Inspector George Gently, and Endeavour (all solid, hugely-watchable series); Apple Tree Yard (despite a very strong central performance from Emily Watson, just not believable); the supremely entertaining Search Party and The End Of The F****** World; and then Top Of The Lake: China Girl, SS-GB and Prime Suspect 1973, all three hugely disappointing series in their own ways.

That gives you an idea of the sheer quantity of crime drama that was presented to us this year: there were procedurals, there were psychological thrillers, horror/crime mash-ups… we had it all.

But, of course, our list is subjective and everyone has their own ideas and series that hit home with them. We’ll be giving you the chance to vote for your favourites after we run down our list, so stay sharp.

Until then, here we go…

20. Three Girls (BBC One)
One of the toughest watches of the year – but arguably the most necessary – was this three-part series, which dramatised a horrifying real-life case of child grooming and prostitution in Rochdale. At the heart of it all was a quite outstanding central performance by Molly Windsor as young teen, Holly Winshaw. This was a coming-of-age story no one had quite seen before, or perhaps wanted to – a young woman, barely a young woman physically and emotionally, who desperately wants to get drunk with her mates and leave her family, is ruthlessly manipulated into doing things no teenager should experience. And then, somehow, she manages to come out of the other side, showing remarkable courage and resolve to take down the men that once controlled her. It was extremely hard to watch, but left us with a positive message – that there is a way out. In a year of dramatisations of real-life cases, this was, although flawed in places, the best of the bunch, exploring as it did toe-curling manipulation that exists on our doorsteps, taboo subjects, class and racial prejudice and one teenager’s tragic trajectory towards adulthood.

For all our reviews of Three Girls, go here

19. Rellik (BBC One)
Harry and Jack Williams were ones to watch after two very good series of The Missing (we’ll gloss over One Of Us), so hopes were high when news of a new, high-concept series reached us: a six-parter that told the story back to front. Rellik (Killer spelt backwards, naturally) was a curious beast: bold and ambitious, but something that demanded your attention right until the end. And flawed. Hugely flawed. But, as the loathsome DCI Gabriel Markham (Richard Dormer), went about his obsessive search for a serial killer with an ever more self-destructive edge, you became aware that this was something genuinely different and interesting. It may have started off like a confused mess, but once the pieces began to fit together, it was good fun and you were applauding its ambition.

For all our reviews of Rellik, go here

18. Hap & Leonard (Amazon Prime)
An absolute hidden gem of a show, this adaptation of Joe R. Lansdale’s southern gothic crime novels was a real treat. James Purefoy and the inimitable Michael Kenneth Williams excelled themselves as the titular characters, drawn into crime unwittingly by circumstances outside of their control in 1980s Louisiana. It’s an unusual setting that you don’t get to see too much in this genre – all fog-bound swamps and rickety shack towns – which all gave it a unique ambience. Much like the first series, the show concerned itself with the dark secrets these small communities hide within their bloodlines from generation to generation, laid bare by Hap & Leonard as they investigate the disappearance of multiple children across 30 years. Despite the grim nature of the content, there was also a surprising vein of humour and warmth throughout the show, mainly derived from the genuine chemistry between the two outstanding leads.
Andy D

17. Sherlock (BBC One)
Steven Moffatt and Mark Gatiss’s retelling of Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic detective stories has frustrated and infuriated as well as delighted in equal measure. Clever – sometimes too clever for its own good – Sherlock has, nonetheless, become a global phenomenon, making Benedict Cumberbatch a household name. This latest – last? – batch of three episodes, shown last January, lest we forget, gave us shock deaths, Sherlock’s secret sister, a brilliant villain (Toby Jones as Culverton Smith), and a final episode that was at once thrilling, beguiling, emotional and totally insane, as well as giving us huge amounts of backstory that filled out the myth of Sherlock Holmes. If this is to be the end – and it certainly looked that way – Moffatt and Gatiss managed to centre on what Sherlock Holmes is good at, and the essence of his addiction: solving puzzles and getting out of seemingly impossible-to-escape situations. The only difference here was that the stakes were as high as they’ve ever been.

For all our reviews of Sherlock, go here

16. Midnight Sun (Sky Atlantic)
Back in March, we went on another Nordic Noir trip to Sweden, this time to the very north. Midnight Sun was set in Kiruna and its stunning surroundings leant itself beautifully to plenty of helicopter shots of the sweeping landscape. Against this backdrop, Eddie (Iggy Malmborg) was carrying out his intricately planned act of vengeance on those responsible for his sister’s murder, initially by committing a series of gruesome murders and then culminating in a final mass killing and his own suicide. This drowning, remarkably, was a beautiful scene. Hunting the killer was prosecutor Anders Harnesk (Gustaf Hammarsten) and because one victim was French, detective Kahina Zadi (Leïla Bekhti), dispatched from Paris. Their interaction was a strong point of the series. Varied and nuanced, it was handled with continued great acting and occasionally with very minimal, but well scripted, dialogue. Midnight Sun had a good pace and there was a balance between investigative work and action. The series also dealt with the ugly reality of racism, mistrust and conflict that flares up in a society suddenly faced with horrible events. There is a slight measure of mysticism too, when a shaman’s premonition that created an air of foreboding evil. Any more and it would have been overdone but it was just the right amount, and one of the aspects that gave a slightly new twist on the Nordic Noir genre.
Charlotte Carling

For Charlotte’s piece on the history behind the Swedes and the Sami, go here



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