The Killing Times’ Top 15 Crime Dramas Of 2016: Part 3, 5-1

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 08/03/2016 - Programme Name: Happy Valley series 2 - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 6) - Picture Shows: **EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION UNTIL 00:01 HRS ON TUESDAY 8TH MARCH** Catherine (SARAH LANCASHIRE) - (C) Red Productions - Photographer: Ben Blackall

(C) Red Productions – Photographer: Ben Blackall

Just reading through the first 10 picks in our annual Top 15 Crime Dramas of year, it really hits you just how high the standard has been this year. Already we’ve had some of the heavy hitters of British crime drama, which means – I hope – that our top five is something really special. What makes these final five so special? It’s a subjective business, of course, but for us the very best crime drama manages to infuse a compelling mystery and detection process with stories of the human condition, and we really think this final batch of brilliant series managed to strike that perfect balance between the two. Read on for the top five, but don’t worry – I’ll give you the chance to vote for your favourites tomorrow.



10270047-low_res-happy-valley-series-25 Happy Valley, BBC1
What can you say about Happy Valley that hasn’t already been said? Not a lot, really. (Well, some stuff, at least.) While Sally Wainwright’s superb version of a western set in the parochial north of England didn’t improve on its first series (although there are plenty of viewers out there that will disagree with me), it once again subverted gender roles within crime drama. This time around our Sheriff, Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire, again fantastic), was having more trouble, when she unwittingly became a suspect in the murder of the mother of her nemesis, Tommy Lee Royce. Suddenly Cawood’s integrity – something she values so highly – was questioned, and her home threatened (imprisoned Royce had sent an infatuated woman, Frances Drummond, to wreak revenge on his behalf). On top of all this, there was a murderous copper and more air time for Cawood’s sister Clare (Siobhan Finneran, quite brilliant), who continued to battle her alcoholism. The site of Cawood’s house becoming a kind of ark for women in need was brilliant, while the standard of Wainwright’s writing and dialogue never slipped below the highest standard.
For all our review of Happy Valley, go here


episode-01-19204 The Night Of, Sky Atlantic
Based on BBC series Criminal Justice, The Night Of transported the story of a young man accused of the brutal slaying of a young woman after a wild night of booze, sex and drugs to New York, swapping Ben Wishaw’s Ben Coulter with Riz Ahmed’s Nasir Khan. Landing himself with defending the seemingly indefensible was huckster lawyer John Stone (a magnificent John Turturro), a sharp, streetwise attorney who, previous to the Nasir Khan case, was more used to small-fry, in-and-out cases. The world these characters suddenly found themselves in – the American justice system – was rife with rules, politicking and ruthlessness beyond our main players’ abilities: Stone, with his crippling eczema, was seen as a comical figure; rookie lawyer Chandra Kapoor was eaten alive despite verve and idealism; and Naz found himself fighting for his life in the notorious Rikers Island prison. His transformation from trembling prey to prison lynchpin was terrifying. Each of them had to adapt as the system was waiting to devour them. Expertly written by crime novelist Richard Price and Steven Zallian and brilliantly played by Ahmed (who is now one of this country’s best actors), Turturro and Bill Camp as old-school NYC detective Dennis Box, The Night Of had its flaws, but such was the quality of dialogue (which sometimes to took you back into the golden era of film noir) and a first episode that was so incredible in construction and high in levels of suspense, The Night Of reminded you that America could still produce outstanding crime drama that explored important themes.
For all our reviews of The Night Of, go here


6243 The Witness For The Prosecution, BBC1
To many, this wasn’t the Agatha Christie adaptation they were looking for this Christmas, but we loved Sarah Phelps’s second Christie adaptation. It was full of dark, sickly London streets; flawed, broken people and a storyline that fleshed out the human side of its characters while still retaining those classic Christie twists. Another fabulous cast – including a mesmerising Andrea Riseborough – brought this to life, while Phelps’s writing was full of invention, heart and authenticity (when isn’t it?). It didn’t quite have the zingy tempo of And The There Were None, but it was another superior effort, which crafted a heartbreaking human story around the experiences of war and, of course, a murder. Intensely moving, The Witness For The Prosecution was exactly what crime dramas should be about – a crime and a mystery, yes, but also rich characterisation and believable, heartbreaking social context.
For our reviews of The Witness For The Prosecution, go here


National Treasure2 National Treasure, Channel 4
This was a series that was difficult to watch. But what a series. Jack Thorne’s timely examination of historical sex abuse featured a stellar cast – including Robbie Coltrane as legendary comic performer Paul Finchley, Julie Walters as his wife, Marie, Andrea Riseborough as his daughter Dee, and Tim McInnerny as his ambiguous, cowardly comedy sidekick, Karl. It told the story of Finchley and how he and his family coped with the bombshell of him being accused of historical sex offences. Coltrane brought an immense physicality to the role, at once alluring and grotesque, while Walters, as his confused, shamed wife, was simply magnificent. Riseborough, yet again, was unmissable as a daughter broken by dysfunctional family life. Both were struggling with guilt and questioning their role in Finchley’s life and the abuse of power he exhibited, and the whole horrid back story was revealed in nightmarish flashbacks, long-buried details shimmering like ghouls emerging from the shadows. National Treasure was about the effect of crime not only on the accused, but also the family and those closest to them. It was intoxicating, sickening and bleak – we waited until the very last to see whether Finchley was guilty or not, and when the big reveal came it made us think that the world was a dangerous, unjust place.
For all our review of National Treasure, go here


And here’s our best crime drama of the year…

olafur-darri-ofaerd1 Trapped, BBC4
Back in February, we were transported to the new Nordic hotspot for crime drama – Iceland – for a gripping, 10-part story that pretty much ticked every single box when it came to the genre. Created by Baltasar Kormákur, and written by Sigurjón Kjartansson and British writer Clive Bradley, Trapped was an ingenious series that, initially, presented us with a single-location murder mystery – the small coastal town of Seyðisfjörður in the extreme north of the island had been cut off from civilisation thanks to a Biblical snowstorm. Just before the storm hit, a ferry from Denmark docked in the port, bringing with it the discovery of a mutilated corpse. Unable to call for help, it was down to unprepared local police chief Andri Olafsson (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) and his partner, Hinrika Kristjánsdóttir (Ilmur Kristjánsdóttir), to not only contain a restless, twitchy local populace (whose long-held secrets and family beefs tumbled out), but also find the killer before the storm and the ferry left, carrying with it some big suspects. That was the clever set-up, but what made this so enjoyable and so affecting was the partnership between Andri and Hinrika. Like The Bridge before it and like any great TV police partnership, there’s was one of contrasting personalities – Andri was hulking, taciturn and unable to express his emotions freely, while Hinrika was no-nonsense and said what she saw. Each of them had flaws and less than perfect personal lives, which made them so believable and characters that you fell in love with. With lashings of everything you love in Nordic Noir (including that socio-political ‘second story’ bubbling away in the background) and characters who dealt with loss and grief in believable and heartbreaking ways, Trapped was the most consistent, addictive, gripping, well-rounded and satisfying crime drama in 2016, in a year packed with exceptional crime dramas. It now dines on the top table of Nordic and Scandinavian crime dramas, alongside The Killing and The Bridge.
For all our reviews of Trapped, go here

We managed to catch up with Ólafur, to get his reaction on winning this, cough, highly prestigious award.

TrappedThe Killing Times: What is your reaction on winning The Killing Times Best Crime Drama Of 2016?
Ólafur Darri Ólafsson: I would say that I feel honoured. With all the great TV currently being made it feels great to have broken through and that so many people have watched and appreciated our show. That’s a pretty great feeling.

TKT: Why do you think the show resonated with so many people around the world?
ODO: I think the best way to really reach people is to have a good story and interesting characters. I’m hoping that Trapped had both. I also think people are interested in a group of people that choose to live life so far in the north of Iceland.

TKT: Since you finished Trapped, how has life been for you?
ODO: Life has been great. I have been working on a few things, a couple of films: The BFG with Steven Spielberg and MEG with Jon Turteltaub, as well as shooting TV series The Missing and Quarry to name but a few. Next month I’m heading to LA to shoot a second season of Lady Dynamite for Netflix.

TKT: You mentioned The Missing there… what was that experience like for you? It was odd seeing you in a hot-weather location for a change!
ODO: I loved working on The Missing. I had watched the first season and was completely wrapped up in that so when the opportunity to work on the second season came along I really didn’t have to think about it. Plus I got to spend a couple of weeks in Morocco with Tchéky Karyo and the crew and that was so lovely. I won’t lie though, it was hot: it went up to 47 degrees. Whew, I’m better in the cold.

TKT: We understand Trapped 2 will be filming some time next year… are you looking forward to being Andri again?
ODO: Andri is one of my favourite characters and Baltasar Kormékur, the creator and one of the directors of the show is one of my favourite directors, so YES, I really can’t wait!

For part one of The Killing Times’ Top 15 Crime Dramas Of 2016, go here

For part two of The Killing Times’ Top 15 Crime Dramas Of 2016, go here


21 thoughts on “The Killing Times’ Top 15 Crime Dramas Of 2016: Part 3, 5-1

  1. Mike Stafford

    I would be suspect of any list which did not have Trapped as #1. It was extraordinary event television. 2016 proved to be a sensational series year.


  2. Seija

    Trapped so on top of my list, as well. Tightly followed by Happy Valley. To be fair to the other shows mentioned, my list is solely based on what has been shown on Finnish television.


    • Charlotte Carling

      Hej Seija!

      What did you think of Bordertown? Was it popular in Finland? I really hope some channel will broadcast it in Sweden sometime next year.

      Gott nytt år :)


      • Seija

        Hej, CC!

        I finally got around answering you (time flies as I’ve been Busy Doin’ Nothin’ like Ace Wilder in Melodifestivalen 2014 :). Ok, I still haven’t watched all the episodes of Sorjonen on Areena/Yle but the ones I’ve seen, I liked.
        What I know from media is that Sorjonen/Bordertown was the most watched Finnish tv drama by number of viewers in late 2016, and that it won three Kultainen Venla/Golden Venla Awards (Finnish equivalent to Emmys and BAFTAs for Best Drama, Best Actor and Best Actress). Other than that, it had mixed reviews from the audience (as usual with tv shows) and it didn’t receive People’s Choice Golden Venla Award. The jury is still out on my behalf as I have more than half of the episodes to watch, so I’ll get back to you with my final verdict later.


      • Charlotte Carling

        If it’s that popular in Finland hopefully it will come to Sweden too.

        I’m following a couple of Norwegian series at the moment and I saw that NRK have imported Tellus so maybe things are opening up a bit.


  3. Mai

    So right about Trapped. And guess where I heard about Trapped to be the thing to watch out for all those months ago. The Killing Times is my go to place for things worth watching and you have never failed me. Thank you so much!


      • Seija

        Phew, you had me there for a moment! No worries, I haven’t watched Tellus either. Norwegian tv shows have really started to improve, also. I’m currently watching the second season of the Norwegian Det tredje øyet/The Third Eye. Alongside with Øyevitne/Eyewitness and the more comic Lilyhammer this is a series I enjoy.


      • Charlotte Carling

        I’ve seen the first series of Det tredje øyet but not the second. It looks ok from the trailer so when it’s available somewhere for me I’ll catch up on it. NRK’s Valkyrien is a good drama/thriller series based in Oslo (quite exciting and two episodes to go) and they also have war/drama series Nobel – fred for enhver pris based in both Norway and Afganistan. I only watched the first season of Lilyhammer then I lost track. It has been really popular though.

        I agree they have a lot of interesting series these days. I remember when it was just a couple of comedy shows we imported from Norway. Fleksnes is such a Norwegian classic.


  4. Seija

    Finnish MTV3 is showing Valkyrien over here, as well but I haven’t jumped on that wagon, yet. I am plannig to check it out before it disappears from MTV’s Katsomo-iPlayer (is that the official name for all internet streaming catchup television services, or is it just BBC?)


    • Charlotte Carling

      Yes, iPlayer is just BBC. Most of the Scandinavian online sites are called (channelname)play or (channelname)tv.

      Oh yeah, Mannon is another Norwegian series from a couple of years back. I meant to finish that but never did. Might have to try again. I’ve watched the first series of Frikjent but the trailer for the second I found to be rather disappointing.


      • Seija

        We’ve also had Mammon and it was quite alright, but I couldn’t bring myself to continue watching Frikjent/Acquitted or Okkupert/Occupied after the first episode during their first showing here but now I’ll try to watch the reruns and give them a second chance. Maybe if I get past the first few episodes, things will pick up, and the story will get better? I had the same problem with the Swedish Springfloden/Spring Tide because “nothing” happened until the fifth episode.


      • Charlotte Carling

        Ha! It was the same for me with Frikjent/Acquitted. I lost interest after a while and only watched some of it while it was on SVT. However I did watch all of it now that it made it to Walter Presents (Channel 4’s foreign language section). It was ok in the end, but they pushed it a bit too hard by having everyone be a suspect at one point or another. Tobias Santelmann is always easy on the eye though…

        I think I only caught one or two episodes of Okkupert/Occupied then I must have found something more interesting to watch.

        I did watch all of Springfloden/Spring Tide. It was well received by critics but I found it rather unconvincing in some of the main plotlines (come on, she’s a student) and the acting was a bit uneven. Not great, not terrible.

        I’m a bit annoyed that BBC4 only showed the first of the Department Q films. I would really like to see the next two instalments.

        I’m looking forward to this one that’s on in Iceland right now: Should reach Scandinavia soon, hopefully.


  5. Seija

    When I was watching the first episode of Okkupert/Occupied for the first time, I kept waiting for the Brødrene Dal/The Brothers Dal to appear and take care of the problem what ever it was. That’s how forged I thought the set up of the series felt. And the beginning of Frikjent/Acquitted made me have flashbacks from the economic upturn of the 80s – also phony. Oh well, things can only get better with these two.

    I hope they’ll pick up the tempo in the second series of Springfloden/Spring Tide which will start filming this year


    • Charlotte Carling

      Ahahahaha!!! I can’t bloody believe it. I’m on a UK crime series blog and Brødrene Dal are thrown in as a reference. Seija, you are wonderful! OMG the cliffhangers – DAA DA-DA DA DAAAAAA


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