Good morning! Any site worth its salt publishes its end-of-year lists and, yes, we’re no different. We don’t do it for valedictory reasons, more for celebratory reasons. That motivation is especially strong for 2015, where there has not only been a remarkable frequency of crime drama but also a remarkable consistency. Basically, there as been a lot of good stuff. So we need to get cracking: here are our Top 15 crime dramas of 2015…
There’ve been a lot that I’ve had to leave out of this list, some controversially. I would have liked to have included BBC1’s An Inspector Calls, which was excellent, ITV’s Code Of A Killer, which was also hugely watchable and very interesting, while ITV’s Midwinter Of The Spirit had its moments, too. There are none of the Netflix superhero crime series, no Arne Dahl, no Paul Abbott’s No Offence (which was very good all in all) and Netflix’s Bloodline also failed to make the final cut, but only just. Controversially there’s no Luther or Broadchurch,either. Two of Britain’s biggest crime dramas I didn’t think were quite good enough to make this Top 15, even though I enjoyed both, in part. If there had been a Top 20, they might have sneaked in. There are also honourable mentions for ITV’s Black Work, BBC1’s Stonemouth, BBC1’s Inspector George Gently, BBC1’s Cuffs and the final episodes of Foyle’s War.
It’s a tough life for series when the standard has, generally, been so high.
But in the end, of course, every list is subjective and when this process is over in three days’ time, I’ll be asking you for your opinions. After all, that’s why lists are so great – they provoke discussion and opinion.
With all that being said, let’s can the chat ad get going on our run-down…
15. Rectify, AMC UK
Coming to the UK thanks to newly launched channel AMC UK, Rectify came recommended by friends and turned out to be a quiet gem. Written expertly by Ray McKinnon, it tells the story of Daniel Holden who, after spending 19 years on Death Row for the rape and murder of his teenage girlfriend, is going home to his family after new DNA evidence comes to light. He’s thrust back into a world he no longer knows and having spent his adult life waiting to die, Daniel must now learn how to live again. He gets used to light, air, freedom, and the material things that have changed so much since his incarceration. He also has to get used to changing relationships, especially with his sister, his step-brother and his parents. But the real beauty of McKinnon’s writing – aside from beautiful, slow-moving and nuanced scenes – is that Daniel always remains ambiguous. You never quite know if he’s guilty of the crime or not.
For all our Rectify reviews, go here
14. Fortitude, Sky Atlantic
Sky gathered together an all-star cast (Christopher Eccleston, Sofie Gråbøl, Michael Gambon, Sienna Guillory, Richard Dormer, Stanley Tucci… the list went on and on) for a big-budget thriller set in the small Icelandic mining town of Fortitude. When Arctic Centre research doctor Charlie Stoddart (Eccleston) is found murdered, local Sheriff Dan Anderssen is called into action. But it’s not a straight-forward investigation – some recently unearthed mammoth bones have released some sort of ancient virus into the town and suddenly everyone’s going potty. Not least the sheriff, whose erratic behaviour does not go unnoticed when the urbane DCI Morton (Tucci, on superb form) comes to town. Part western, part horror movie and part Nordic Noir, this was great fun, intriguing and produced one of the scenes of the year when terminally ill photographer-with-a-secret Henry Tyson (Michael Gambon) shot dead Morton on the top of a glacier.
For all our Fortitude reviews, go here
13. Jordskott, ITV Encore
Even writing this I’m shaking my head, asking how Jordskott made this list at all. On paper it has no right to be here, but Henrik Björn’s Swedish drama was one of the most fun things of the year. It starred Moa Gammel as police investigator Eva Thörnblad, who’s called back to her home town of Silverhöjd to help oversee her recently deceased father’s estate. What she finds are intriguing and creepy things afoot – mostly children who are being kidnapped by spirits from a nearby forest, the possible return of her daughter Josefine (who went missing, presumed dead), and strange people with parasites living within them who get their nourishment from black gunk (or Essence Of Forest as we called it). Jordskott mixed elements of fairytale and fantasy with procedural to utterly ridiculous but entertaining and addictive effect, but in among all this there was a serious message about the environment and the way the human race is destroying it. I’ll go as far to say that Jordskott gave me the most fun I’ve had reviewing a show this year and the level of interaction with readers was great – it obviously touched a nerve with many of you too. It also gave us Göran Wass (Göran Ragnerstam), one of the most terrifyingly boring yet intriguing and loveable characters of the year.
For all our reviews on Jordskott, go here
12. The Frankenstein Chronicles, ITV Encore
Another series that mixed two of this year’s most popular elements – grief and the supernatural – also appeared on ITV Encore. It starred Sean Bean as river policeman John Marlott, a Napoleonic war veteran who had lost his wife and daughter to the syphilis he had bought back with him from the front in Europe. That’s a pretty heavy guilt trip right there. When a young girl’s body was washed up on the banks of the Thames, seemingly stitched together from different parts, Marlott knew that a new, unheralded kind of evil had appeared out of the slime of Georgian London. Fuelled by his own grief and declining health status, he accepted the secondment by home secretary Sir Robert Peel to investigate the hideous crime – what he found was an establishment cover-up, child kidnappings and a new law that challenged the moral and spiritual core of pre-Victorian London like never before. At times it was a brilliant study of grief and the aforementioned spirituality, and there was also the fun of spotting some real-life characters from history (Mary Shelley, played by Anna Maxwell Martin, for instance).
For all our review of The Frankenstein Chronicles, go here
11. Beck, BBC4
Although legendary Swedish couple Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö’s Martin Beck novels have been around for decades, and this TV adaptation has been around since he mid-1990s, it was the first time crime drama fans on these shores had seen any adventures featuring the titular Swedish detective. Even though the first film was dated (given it was from the 90s), this selection of episodes soon settled down into an incredibly watchable, solid procedural that ticked every Scandinavian crime drama box you could wish for. Beck himself was a curious character – a likeable, slightly dour and plodding man given to sharing a glass of whiskey on his balcony with his eccentric neighbour every night – but it was his partner Gunvald Larsson (Mikael Persbrandt) who often stole the show. Together they made for a slightly chalk-and-cheese team (one calm and methodical, the other fiery and emotional) but soon became one the year’s best tandems.
For all our Beck reviews, go here