It never lets up, thank goodness. We thought 2017 was a great year for top-notch TV crime dramas. And, well, it was. But compared to these past twelve months, it was nothing…
2018 has been an almost absurdly excellent year for those of us who like our TV dramas more than a little bloodstained. Across terrestrial, satellite and streaming services, we’ve been utterly spoiled. To select our ten favourites has been a tough ask, but for you – dear reader – we’d do anything. And so we present to you our pick of the finest TV crime dramas of the past year…
The very best crime drama of 2018:
Ozark series 2
When Netflix debuted money-laundering drama Ozark back in July 2017 it was met with universal acclaim. The Jason Bateman-starring drama was smart, witty, engrossing and packed full of dread and foreboding. A few dissenting voices said it was a little derivative of Breaking Bad, but those criticisms were a little unfair. This second series, however, has firmly established Ozark as a unique and distinguished show in its own right.
Run number two focuses more on the women of the house, with teenage daughter Charlotte and Marty Byrde’s cunning wife Wendy dominating screen time. As Wendy, Laura Linney gives the kind of performance here that simply demands recognition come awards season. Roll on series 3.
IMDb rating: 8.4
Innocent series 1
Back in May, ITV1 aired a subtle yet involving drama over four consecutive nights. Written by crime writer M J Arlidge and Unforgotten scribe Chris Lang, the story told of a man named David Collins (Lee Ingleby from Line of Duty) who may or may not have been responsible for the murder of his wife. Acquitted due to a lack of evidence, the hook of Innocent was whether or not our sympathetic main character really was ‘innocent’ or if he was actually a killer.
It’s an intriguing premise that was realised well and benefitted from its four-evenings-in-a-row set-up. There was little fanfare around this on broadcast, but it was quietly one of ITV’s best offerings of the year, even if we did guess the twist quite early on…
IMDb rating: 7.4
Ray Donovan series 6
With the fifth season of Showtime’s tremendous Ray Donovan dialling back the crime and baseball bat-swinging, fans were hungry for this latest run of ten episodes to get back to doing what the show does best. And boy does it do that.
Relocating the action from LA to New York City, ‘fixer’ Ray Donovan (Liev Schreiber in strong but silent overdrive) is done with sorting out the problems of pampered celebrities. He’s now fixing things for East Coast politicos. As ever, the rest of the Donovan clan make things tricky for him. Especially when his criminal father Mickey (an arguable career-best from Jon Voight) breaks out of prison to exact some revenge on ‘Ray-Ray’ and everyone else for setting him up back in the previous series.
Ray Donovan is never less than brilliant. But in this latest series, it’s somehow found yet another gear. We’re really not sure how much better it can get.
IMDb rating: 8.3
Sharp Objects series 1
Let’s be frank, Sharp Objects was never going to be anything other than great, was it? When HBO commissioned the man behind Big Little Lies to direct Amy Adams in an adaption of a Gillian Flynn book… Well, it simply had to be one of the year’s best dramas. And it proved to be just that.
As the sardonic but talented journalist Camille Preaker, Adams is simply awesome. Her character is haunted by a troubled past and beset by crippling alcoholism and mental health issues. So a job going back to her hated hometown to investigate the disappearances of two young girls isn’t exactly therapeutic. Things quickly become a little too ‘close to home’ in this immaculate eight-parter that ratchets the tension up to almost unbearable levels by its shattering climax.
Television doesn’t get a whole lot better than Sharp Objects.
IMDb rating: 8.2
Bodyguard series 1
Every year there’s a ‘watercooler’ series. Unmissable TV that seemingly everyone watches and wants to talk about. Recently it’s come in the form of a Jed Mercurio thriller. But with no Line of Duty this year, Mercurio instead turned his attention to the fictional goings-on in the Home Office and, specifically, the relationship between a controversial Home Secretary (played by Keeley Hawes) and her dishy personal protection officer (Richard Madden). But you already know all of this, don’t you? Given you – and everyone else – watched every single second of it.
Bodyguard was gripping, unpredictable and more than a little steamy in places. Sure, it stretched credibility about as far as it can be stretched without breaking. But it was high drama and – as such – who really cares…? It was exciting TV that got the nation talking and kept us all guessing until its shocking finale.
IMDb rating: 8.3
American Crime Story series 2
The first run of this excellent crime anthology series from the makers of American Horror Story concerned the infamous case of ‘The People vs O J Simpson’ and was a real awards hog. This follow-up garnered less media and audience attention but is – arguably – a superior season. Subtitled ‘The Assassination Of Gianni Versace’, we needn’t run through the plot in too much detail. One thing that is worth pointing out is that it tells an almost untold story. After all, who really knew Andrew Cunanan’s story in any detail before this?
As Versace, Edgar Ramirez gives a wonderfully understated and powerful performance. But it’s Glee‘s Darren Criss that catches the eye here as the narcissistic yet oddly sympathetic killer. If series 1 explored where racism was and is in America, this sophomore effort does the same thing with homophobia with equal skill.
IMDb rating: 8.5
Dark Heart series 1
Back in 2016, the now-defunct ITV Encore aired a pilot called Dark Heart. Grim, uncompromising and violent, it went down a storm. Two years later and it got its own six-part series on ITV1. Toned down a little for a wider audience, this Tom Riley-starring police procedural still packs a real punch, mixing stomach-churning storylines with first rating performances all around.
DI Will ‘Staffe’ Wagstaffe, as the central character, is the lynchpin of the series. Equal parts witty, smart, cool and unpredictable, this series could have serious legs if ITV trusts in writer Chris Lang to develop novelist Adam Creed’s characters in years to come.
IMDb rating: 6.5
Save Me series 1
In Save Me, Line of Duty and Bladerunner 2049 actor Lennie James writes, produces and stars in one of the year’s very best dramas. He plays chancer Nelly, a ducker and diver who refuses to sit back and wait for his estranged daughter Jody to reappear after going missing. A flawed but determined character, he drives this twisting drama that explores social issues while slamming home a tense and genuinely exciting drama.
James is excellent throughout, so too are Stephen Graham as Nelly’s friend with a dark past and Suranne Jones as Jody’s mum and Nelly’s ex. In fact, the entire cast is impeccable, but it’s the writing here that really shines. It’s pitched perfectly and as authentic as it gets.
IMDb rating: 7.9
Hap and Leonard series 3
Professional (well, unprofessional) odd couple Hap Collins (James Purefoy) and Leonard Pine (Michael K Williams) returned for a third outing of their laid-back but fun adventures on Amazon Prime this year in a show that’s a nice change of pace from your usual serious crime drama fare. This third run is based on author Joe R Lansdale’s pulpy novel The Two-Bear Mambo and follows the boys as they try to find Hap’s missing African-American ex in a seedy Klan-controlled Deep South town.
The great thing about Hap and Leonard is its ability to handle tough subjects, be packed full of violence and swearing and yet still maintain a charming facade of breeziness. There’s a real light touch to every scene that’s extremely pleasing. Throw in the chemistry between Purefoy and Williams and it’s a real winner.
IMDb rating: 7.6
Killing Eve series 1
What can we say that hasn’t already been said about Killing Eve? Well, not much. So we’ll just repeat what everyone (including ourselves in our reviews) has already offered up on it… It’s one of the best TV programmes of the last few years.
Thrilling, dramatic, hilarious, cleverly written, beautifully shot, wonderfully acted – it’s tempting to call this cat n’ mouse/spy vs assassin chase perfect, but that might take the gushing a little too far. Sandra Oh is an MI5 lacky, bored in her desk job. She grasps an opportunity to track down a beautiful Russian hitwoman with both hands and soon becomes obsessed with Jodie Comer’s Villanelle. The love/hate obsession becomes a two-way thing and in the frisson some really quite incredible television emerges.
IMDb rating: 8.3
It doesn’t stop there, either. There was Narcos: Mexico, The Sinner series 2, The Alienist, The Cry, Strike: Career of Evil, The Bridge series 4, Informer, Escape at Dannemora… The list really does go on.
Here’s to 2018. A truly vintage year of crime TV.
Have we missed one of the best crime dramas of 2018? Let us know what made your list in the comments below!