The very best crime drama of 2017
There seems to be more quality television available to view right now than ever before. BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Amazon, on-demand, all at the touch of a button. It’s hard to keep up.
As ever, we’re here to help you find the pearls. We’ve pulled together our pick of the best crime shows from the past year – but even we may miss a few, so make sure you let us know your favourites in the comments below.
The very best crime drama of 2017:
Ozark season 1
An apparently normal middle class move to a rural area in a desperate attempt to launder money for a Mexican drug cartel. Facing threats from the cartel if they don’t succeed, they also face conflict from a local hillbilly clan.
Netflix’s often brutal Ozark wants to be the next Breaking Bad a little too much, but great performances from leads Jason Bateman and Laura Linney create compelling if not entirely sympathetic characters and the series became increasingly suspenseful and gruesome over the course of ten episodes.
Hap and Leonard season 2
Destitute amateur detectives Hap Collins (James Purefoy) and Leonard Pine (Michael K. Williams) are an odd couple. Hap is a white, Liberal, draft dodger. Leonard is an African American, gay, Republican, and veteran. The two men appear to share only a personal tragedy and their poverty.
The show is based on an excellent series of crime novels by Joe R Lansdale, with each six-episode season adapting one of Lansdale’s mysteries. Season 2 adapted the novel Mucho Mojo and found Hap and Leonard uncovering evidence of a series of child murders in the swamps of East Texas. This is the hidden gem of this selection, a superb series flying under the radar.
Series 1 and 2 are available in the UK on Amazon Prime.
Peaky Blinders series 4
After an underwhelming third season the BBC’s lavish period Brummie gangster saga regained its form with a vengeance this year and found Tommy Shelby facing the New York Mafia. While new villain Luca Changretta (Oscar winning actor Adrien Brody) was a little too heavy on the prisuttu the series excelled in other areas, such as greatly expanded roles for women.
No one has ever utilised actor Cillian Murphy’s cold blue eyes as well as series creator Stephen Knight, and Helen McCrory was as fierce as ever. However, once again Tom Hardy stole the show with his foul mouthed and hilarious portrayal of Camden gangster Alfie Solomons. Read our episode reviews here.
The Deuce season 1
No television show this year has painted such a detailed picture of street level hustling as HBO’s The Deuce. From David Simon, the creator of The Wire, and two of America’s finest crime writers Richard Price and George P. Pelecanos, the series charts – in graphic detail – the birth of the porn industry in New York.
An extremely harsh show both in terms of its imagery and emotional content, The Deuce could have been prurient. It isn’t because Simon and his team (which was gender balanced both in front and behind the camera) have genuine empathy for their characters. Stars James Franco (playing dual roles) and Maggie Gyllenhaal deserve major awards season glory.
Mindhunter season 1
Netflix’s series charting how a small group of maverick FBI agents and academics created the science of criminal profiling was a triumph. Produced by David Fincher, Mindhunter was more interested in psychology than in depicting mayhem and murder. Often surprisingly light in tone, the series became progressively darker as the psychological effects of interviewing serial killers took their toll on central character Agent Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff).
Factually based, the series featured riveting scenes as the agents interviewed notorious killer Ed Kemper (a skin-crawlingly creepy performance from Cameron Britton) often taken verbatim from actual interview recordings. Read our series review here.
Line of Duty series 4
The BBC’s Line of Duty has been on a consistent upward trajectory since a solid first series. Each succeeding story featuring Anti-Corruption Unit 12 (or AC12 for short) has been better than the last.
In DCI Roz Huntley (Thandie Newton) the team faced one of their toughest antagonists yet. Eerily well timed, thorny issues of institutionalised sexism and racism were explored but without ever allowing the message to overpower a propulsive, twisting narrative.
Alongside Newton, special praise is due to Adrian Dunbar as AC12 Superintendent Ted Hastings who has been the absolute heart of the show for four series. Writer Jed Mercurio’s creation is simply one of the best British television thrillers ever.
Twin Peaks – the Return
David Lynch is one of the few genuine modern auteurs and Twin Peaks – the Return felt like on of the few genuine events in this years television calendar – which is a demonstration of the sheer volume of television now available rather than its quality.
As far as this writer is concerned this was the highlight among a great year of television drama. Clearly it isn’t a traditional crime series. The narrative is fractured across multiple dimensions, characters become other characters, people appear and disappear, major plot points are delivered by an inanimate lump of wood, one character is a large kettle and another is a talking tree.
David Lynch takes the crime and mystery genre and deconstructs it into its fundamental tropes and symbols before rearranged them in the dark. This creates a kaleidoscope of a puzzle that looks different every time you try and examine it. Twin Peaks – the Return delighted a hardcore audience, baffled everyone, and absolutely infuriated many more.
And I loved every single minute.
Have we missed any brilliant shows from our list of the best crime drama of 2017? Let us know in the comments below!