The best TV crime dramas of 2018
From Killing Eve to Ozark, there has been plenty of intrigue and mystery this year
This year has thrown up some absolute gems for fans of crime thrillers, even as the year draws to a close.
Here is our pick of the best shows of 2018:
Marcella - series two
Anna Friel stars as Marcella in “one of the craziest crime dramas you’re likely to ever witness on British television”, says crime fiction blog Dead Good.
The show follows the story of a former London detective who returns to work to investigate one of her old cases, after a serial killer appears to have become active again. After suffering blackouts, she fears she might have turned into a killer herself when her husband's mistress is murdered.
The first series of this “dark and moody ITV series saw Anna Friel running about, blacking out and solving a twisting, turning serial killer case, despite its seemingly endless cavalcade of suspects and red herrings”, says Dead Good. The second series, released earlier this year, is essentially more of the same, it adds, “but with added madness”.
BBC One and Hulu’s Hard Sun is billed as a “pre-apocalyptic crime show”, focusing on “two London detectives in a world that’s doomed to end in five years”, says Den of Geek.
Jim Sturgess and Agyness Deyn star in this madcap drama, stumbling upon proof of the upcoming apocalypse while investigating a murder.
After its debut in January, The Daily Telegraph called it “the bonkers Saturday-night treat that kept on giving”.
Jason Bateman stars in this US crime drama about an accountant, Marty Byrde, who relocates his family to the Ozarks in Missouri after a money-laundering scheme for a drug cartel goes wrong. The cartel forces him to carry out an even bigger fraud operation, while unhinged local heroin dealers cause him even more problems.
Laura Linney takes on the role of Marty’s unfaithful wife, while his children are played by Sofia Hublitz and Skylar Gaertner. Comparisons have been made with Breaking Bad, Bloodline and Weeds.
The darkly comic Netflix drama “simmers with menace but brims with natural beauty”, says The Guardian, with the Lake of the Ozarks serving as a majestic backdrop. “There’s a lot of speechifying in Ozark – people talk in full, well-wrought sentences – but the writing is up to the challenge,” says the newspaper, adding that Linney is, “as ever, magnificent”.
The first season was released in July 2017, the second came out this year and Bateman has confirmed that a third is in the works.
“David Collins fights to rebuild his shattered life, when, after spending seven years in a high-security prison, his conviction for the murder of his wife is overturned. He then vows to discover the real killer,” reads the enticing blurb for ITV drama Innocent.
The critically acclaimed show has been a major hit with audiences, with a Radio Times poll revealing that 85% were satisfied with the gripping finale.
Unforgotten - series three
TV’s “most likable detective duo” is back for series three, says The Guardian.
Written by Chris Lang, the show first started in 2015 and stars Nicola Walker as DCI Cassie Stuart and Sanjeev Bhaskar as DI Sunny Khan. The pair solve historic cases, including tracking down missing people and identifying murderers.
In the third series, workmen carrying out repairs on the M1 uncover human remains - and Cassie and Sunny are called in to investigate.
One thing that Unforgotten is so good at is that - behind the police procedure and clever plot - “it doesn’t let you forget that at the core of a murder investigation is the saddest human tragedy”, says The Guardian.
Keeping Faith is a thrilling drama, once you get past the first episode, says the Radio Times.
Faith Howells, a lawyer and mother, is left searching for the truth after her husband vanishes one day.
“Faith is resourceful and clever as she tries to hold together her life, and the lives of her children, while investigating (there’s no other word for it) her husband, a man it seems she barely knew,” says the magazine.
A Very English Scandal
Russell T. Davies’ drama A Very English Scandal tells the shocking true story of Liberal MP Jeremy Thorpe, the first British politician to stand trial for conspiracy and incitement to murder.
He was tried and acquitted at the Old Bailey after one of the most notorious judgments in the court’s history, but the story behind this troubled politician cannot be done justice without fleshing out the details, which A Very English Scandal does with tragedy, comedy and poignancy to spare.
Hugh Grant stars as Thorpe in a performance described by The Independent as “compelling”, while Ben Wishaw, Alex Jennings, Jason Watkins and Patricia Hodge also appear.
Sven Nordin - star of black crime comedy Lilyhammer - stars as Detective William Wisting in this ten-part drama adaptation of Jorn Lier Horst’s series of novels.
The first series of the show is based on the first two books, The Hunting Dogs and The Caveman, and follows Wisting as he pursues a wanted American serial killer now living in a coastal town in Norway.
“Things get complicated when reporting by Wisting’s own daughter Line, an investigative journalist, lead her straight into the path of the killer,” says the Hollwood Reporter.
Cinenord’s Silje Hopland Eik says its ambition is to create a “Norwegian drama juggernaut that will last for many seasons”, while The Good Company Film’s producer Anni Faurbye Fernandez says the “thrilling” series has also received “overwhelming interest from foreign broadcasters and distributors”.
BBC America’s breakout hit from Fleabag writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge bagged two nominations at this year’s Emmys - and it’s not hard to see why.
Based on the Villanelle novellas by Luke Jennings, this eight-part adaptation stars Sandra Oh (Grey's Anatomy) as Eve, a bored MI5 security officer whose desk job does not fulfil her fantasies of being a spy.
When Eve is tasked with tracking down the fearsome Villanelle (played by Doctor Foster’s Jodie Comer) before she can strike again, “the two women are thrown into a cat-and-mouse game that turns the traditional spy-thriller on its head”, says Den of Geek. “What else would we expect from the rather remarkable Waller-Bridge?”
“Stylish, irreverent, and hard to categorise”, it is “already one of the most critically acclaimed new shows of the year”, says The Atlantic.
Jenna Coleman took a break from filming Victoria to star in a new BBC One thriller about a young mother whose baby is kidnapped while visiting Australia. The four-part series is an adaptation of Helen FitzGerald’s 2013 novel of the same name and is directed by Glendyn Ivin.
Australian actors Ewen Leslie and Asher Keddie star alongside Coleman, who described the experience of reading the script as “like walking a tightrope, racing page to page, unsettling, unknowable, uncomfortable and thrilling”.
The ABC Murders
John Malkovich will star as Hercule Poirot in a new Agatha Christie adaptation due out at the end of December. The 1936 title has been adapted by Ordeal by Innocence writer Sarah Phelps and also stars Harry Potter’s Rupert Grint.
The three-part drama is described by Phelps as a “brutal story of violence and lies”. Poirot must thwart a serial killer based only on the clues left in a copy of The ABC Railway Guide.
“At its centre, one of the most familiar, famous characters in crime fiction,” says Phelps. “We may all think we know Poirot but do we really know Hercule?”
In this enthralling BBC drama, Carey Mulligan stars as DI Kip Glaspie, investigating the murder of a pizza delivery man in south London.
The repercussions of the shooting are far-reaching in David Hare’s four-part drama, writes Radio Times, with a stellar supporting cast including Billie Piper, John Simm, Nicola Walker and Nathaniel Martello-White.
“From the beginning, the show was not only superbly high energy, but peopled with characters whose back stories are easily as gripping as the main action,” the New Statesman writes. “It never patronises, and it’s bloody, daringly funny,” exploring themes of immigration, sexual harassment in the workplace and the loss of public faith in the church and government.
The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
From the makers of American Horror Story and The People Vs. O.J. Simpson comes the nine-part story of how fashion icon Gianni Versace was killed, based on Maureen Orth’s book Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in US History.
Edgar Ramirez stars as the ill-fated designer, while singer Ricky Martin takes on his first big acting job playing Versace’s model boyfriend Antonio D’Amico, writes Dead Good Books. “Watch out too for what’s said to be a remarkable turn from Penelope Cruz as Gianni’s sister, Donatella Versace,” the site adds.
Sharp Objects is based on the debut 2006 novel from author Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl), and is surely definitive proof that TV can now draw in some of the biggest names in Hollywood. The HBO show follows the story of reporter Camille Preaker, played by Amy Adams, who “must contend with dark events from her past when she reports on two homicides in her hometown”, The Independent writes.
All eight episodes are directed by Jean-Marc Vallée who took the helm of last year's acclaimed series Big Little Lies, while Elizabeth Perkins, Madison Davenport, Chris Messina and Eliza Scanlen co-star alongside Adams.
The City and the City
David Morrissey stars in this four-part BBC adaptation of China Miéville’s fantasy crime novel.
The Britannia star plays Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad, in the crumbling fictional city of Beszel. A grisly murder with links to Beszel’s politically tumultuous twin city, Ul Qoma, provides the central narrative thrust.
“Both cities exist in the same physical space, but remain distinct because citizens of one are taught from childhood to 'unsee' the people, buildings and events of the other,” says The Guardian. Anyone caught crossing these psychological borders, or “breaching”, risks punishment from a merciless and all-powerful authority, confusingly referred to as “Breach”.
This post-soviet 1970s-style dystopia “is a police procedural but set in a weird world that will bend the mind”, says Radio Times.
Written by and starring Walking Dead actor Lennie James, Save Me follows washed-up sofa surfer Nelly Rowe as he tries to find his estranged daughter, who has disappeared. Rowe is led into a horrifying world of child sex trafficking as he tries to find Jody, played by Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness.
Set on a Deptford council estate, the series is “authentic” and “believable”, says the Daily Express.
Save Me is this year’s “most eye-opening TV drama”, says The Daily Telegraph, describing it as “chilling, upsetting and utterly unforgettable”.
Shetland - series four
Named after the bleak, stunning Scottish islands on which it’s set, Shetland has been a surprising hit since its original broadcast in 2013.
Initially an adaptation of the novel Red Bones by Ann Cleeves, the show format changed in series three, to include six episodes covering a single story, written exclusively for television.
The series stars Douglas Henshall as Jimmy Perez, a detective inspector working for Shetland police. After the death of his wife, Fran, several years ago, Perez moves back to Shetland to “create a secure home for himself and his daughter Cassie”, the BBC says.