Best new TV crime dramas of 2022 – and older shows to binge
Murder in Provence, Black Bird and Maryland are on the must-watch list
Murder in Provence
Previously streamed on BritBox, mystery drama Murder in Provence has made its free-to-view debut on ITV. Roger Allam stars as investigative judge Antoine Verlaque, who along with his partner Marine Bonnet (Nancy Carroll), unpick the murders, mysteries, and dark underbelly of their idyllic home in the south of France.
Adapted from the Verlaque and Bonnet novels by Canadian author M.L. Longworth, the role of the judge “could almost have been created for Allam”, said Sean O’Grady in The Independent. He makes this great drama “sublime”.
With three two-hour long episodes, Murder in Provence is “chic, sun-dappled” and set in France, yet it is the “most English drama on TV”, said Anita Singh in The Telegraph. The “beautiful backdrops” of Aix-en-Provence are “more scintillating than the pedestrian plots”, but Allam is “as watchable as ever”.
Black Bird’s premise is so neat, it sounds like something dreamed up by scriptwriters; but in fact, it’s rooted in a true story, said Anita Singh in The Daily Telegraph. Jimmy Keene (Taron Egerton) lived the high life as a drug dealer, until he was caught, and given a ten-year jail term. Then the FBI offered him a deal: if he elicited a confession from a suspected serial killer, he could walk free. Keene agreed to the challenge, and over six episodes, we find out if he pulled it off.
The Apple TV+ show weaves together two timelines: Keene’s dealings with the killer, Larry Hall (Paul Walter Hauser); and the investigation into Hall. The most moving performance comes from Ray Liotta in his final TV role: his turn as Jimmy’s “regret-filled father” is a powerful testament to his range as an actor.
Award-winning playwright Lucy Kirkwood has adapted her 2021 play – written in response to a spate of high-profile murders of women – for the small screen. Starring Daniel Mays, Zawe Ashton and Hayley Squires, this is a “blistering” 30-minute adaptation, said Hollie Richardson in The Guardian. Squires and Ashton are “brilliant”.
This short film seeks to “jolt society from its violent indifference towards the continued abuse and assaults suffered by women at the hands of men”, said the FT. Originally staged at the Royal Court Theatre, the production was “spontaneous and performed script-in-hand”. This “arresting” BBC Two adaptation “has lost none of this urgency”.
Maryland is a “powerful” drama and the “most important thing you’ll watch this week”, said Katie Rosseinsky on Stylist. It airs on BBC Two at 10.05pm on Wednesday 20 July and will be available to watch on iPlayer shortly afterwards.
Life on Mars star John Simm has returned as troubled detective Roy Grace, in a second instalment based on Peter James’s crime novels. Last year’s triumphant first episode Dead Simple, a two-hour ITV adaptation, was described by The Independent’s Ed Cumming as a “cut above the average detective drama”. Aired on 24 April, the second episode, Looking Good Dead, was “solid” with some “superb, layered character acting” from its lead, said Gabriel Tate in The Telegraph. Simm’s “gloomy detective” looks set to become an “ITV staple”.
Series two of Grace will consist of four new separate tales – Looking Good Dead, Not Dead Enough, Dead Man’s Footsteps, and Dead Tomorrow – which are set in and around Brighton. Each instalment, lasting two hours, will explore a death surrounded in “suspicious” circumstances, said Kate Lally in the Liverpool Echo. In a star-studded cast list, Richie Campbell also returns as DS Glenn Branson and is joined by Zoe Tapper as Cleo Morey and Line of Duty’s Craig Parkinson as DS Norman Potting.
James Graham’s six-part BBC drama is the television equivalent of “bowling a strike”, said Lucy Mangan in The Guardian. “Everything you could hope for is here”: a writer who knows the “setting and themes in his bones”; a dream cast; and “beautiful” direction, by Lewis Arnold and Ben A. Williams.
The story draws on two real-life murders that took place in Nottinghamshire in 2004, close to where Graham grew up. Alun Armstrong plays Gary, an ex-miner who is killed by a crossbow bolt not far from the home he shares with his wife (Lesley Manville). When local detective Ian (David Morrissey) is tasked with solving the murder, it seems straightforward enough – until he learns that Gary’s arrest records have been “inexplicably redacted”.
Without sacrificing story or suspense, Sherwood creates out of this a “magisterial state-of-the-nation piece”; for my money, it’s the “most compelling” and moving TV series in years. It certainly won me over, said Rachel Cooke in The New Statesman. As a crime drama, it grips in all the ways you’d hope; but it’s more than that – it’s a “good, even gorgeous thing”, a portrait “of one small place and all the people in it”.
It struck me as a bit try-hard, said Camilla Long in The Sunday Times. This is a “full-fat, hire-everyone” BBC blow-out, but too much of it is slow and ponderous, “like Tolstoy squished into a small, Midlands-shaped hole”. And while there’s an intriguing story at the heart of it, the twist emerges “far too late”.
The sixth and final season of Peaky Blinders has now aired on BBC One and it bowed out in “a blaze of glory”, said Michael Hogan in The Guardian. The epic gangster saga left “plenty of feuds for the future”, so “see you on the big screen, Peakys”.
Starring Cillian Murphy as crime boss Tommy Shelby, the show has been an “absolute British triumph of television” and “one of the best things the BBC has made in years”, said Marc Chacksfield on Shortlist. “If Gangs of New York had a sequel and that sequel was set in Birmingham, this is what it would be.”
Another TV smash hit, Killing Eve, has also come to an end. Starring Jodie Comer as psychopathic Villanelle and Sandra Oh as intelligence agent Eve Polastri, the show is “funny, sexy and the source of numerous already brilliant actors’ best work”, said Jack Seale in The Guardian. The final series may be “still recognisably” Killing Eve and is “still kinda cool”, but “it’s out of new ideas”.
After four seasons of “cat-and-mouse” between Villanelle and Eve, it doesn’t mean fans have seen the last of the two characters, said Kadin Burnett on Bustle. “AMC is working closely with Killing Eve producers Sid Gentle Films to produce potential spinoffs to expand the show”.
This BBC original show is billed as a “distinctive new take” on crime drama, said the Liverpool Echo. Written by Tony Schumacher, a former Merseyside Police officer, The Responder highlights “life on the front line” of Liverpool’s streets.
Martin Freeman stars as “crisis-stricken, morally compromised” urgent response officer Chris Carson who works night shifts in and around Liverpool, said Stylist. The series follows Carson over the course of five shifts, at a time when he’s struggling “both personally and professionally”.
Freeman is “magnificent” in this “tour de police force”, said Lucy Mangan in The Guardian. The script is an “astoundingly tough, vigorous, sinewy thing without a wasted word or moment” and Freeman “does every bit of it justice”.
Line of Duty’s Vicky McClure stars in this police drama on ITV. Full of bomb factories and banter, Trigger Point is “utterly preposterous” but “what a blast”, said Lucy Mangan in The Guardian. “Just go in thinking CSI: Peckham or Line of Bomb Duty and you’ll have a great time.”
From the makers of Line of Duty, Jed Mercurio’s fingerprints are “all over this explosive thriller”, said Anita Singh in The Daily Telegraph. But despite the “identikit casting”, this turns out to be a different show. Mercurio “specialises in stunning plot twists”, said Christopher Stevens in the Daily Mail. “No spoilers for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, but episode one ends with an eye-popper.”
Line of Duty meets The Bridge in this promising Irish drama, said Rachael Sigee in The i Paper. Forget AC-12, this complex crime series introduces Ireland’s CAB – the Criminal Assets Bureau.
Hidden Assets is a co-production between Irish company RTE and its counterparts in Belgium and Canada, the Belfast News Letter reported. After making its debut on Irish TV last year, the hit show “went down a storm with viewers who were kept on the edge of their seats throughout its six-part run”.
Angeline Ball heads the cast and she is “very much front and centre”. She describes the TV show as being “quite Scandi-noir”, so it “should fit nicely into BBC Four’s Saturday evening slot”, the Belfast News Letter said.
Fifty Shades star Jamie Dornan is “explosive” in his action-packed role as “The Man”, said Lucy Mangan in The Guardian. This outback thriller from the writers of The Missing is a “fun, stylish and confident caper” which is well worth watching.
The Tourist “has gone down a treat with viewers”, many of whom binged the BBC crime drama, said the Daily Express. As a result, the six-episode series “helped break BBC iPlayer streaming records with its impressive viewership.”
In the BBC’s factual drama Four Lives, Stephen Merchant transforms into real-life serial killer Stephen Port, Entertainment Daily said. The series tells the story of the horrifying case from the perspective of the families of Port’s four victims and their fight for justice.
If Merchant is “a convincing villain”, then co-star Sheridan Smith is “an equally believable hero campaigning for justice in this real-life case”, The Independent said. After A Very British Scandal and The Tourist, someone at the BBC “has had their Weetabix”, as this drama is another “that’s hard to take your eyes off”.
Landscapers “shouldn’t work”, said Barbara Ellen in The Observer. Sky Atlantic’s four-part drama is pretentious, wayward, hyper-conceptual; it breaks all the rules of true crime, “including the good ones”. And yet it’s also extraordinary and disquieting; “television as art”.
Olivia Colman and David Thewlis star as real-life couple Susan and Christopher Edwards, the “Mansfield murderers” who, in 1998, killed Susan’s parents and buried them in a garden. They then used their money to buy celebrity memorabilia, while spinning a web of lies explaining their disappearance. We meet the killers in France, where they’re on the run. Their cocoon seems on the verge of shattering, and it does. The show then becomes a “writhing screen-Hydra” of techniques and moods, from black-and-white court scenes to a Western sequence.
Without the anchorage of the two leads, it could have turned into “so much experimental shrapnel”; with it, it is “mesmeric and audacious”. Still, it does feel rather “off”, said Carol Midgley in The Times. The bodies of the elderly couple were found only eight years ago; if I were related to them, “I’d be furious” that their death is being served up as entertainment.
On the other hand, I have to admit this is “one of the most original dramas I’ve seen in years”. Colman and Thewlis make a “Barbour-clad Bonnie and Clyde”, said Ed Cumming in The Independent, but the real hero is director Will Sharpe, who has managed to turn a “grim” murder story into a comedy, a love story, and even “a celebration of English eccentricity”.
You Don’t Know Me
Tense new BBC crime show about a young South Londoner charged with murder. Pleading innocence, he sacks his barrister to tell his own story. In this courtroom drama “the audience gets to be the jury”, said Rebecca Nicholson in The Guardian. “Hopefully the members of the jury, including those at home, will have the patience to see it through.”
Adapted from a novel by Imran Mahmood, You Don’t Know Me stars Samuel Adewunmi as the accused, known only as “Hero”. The whole thing revolves around Adewunmi, who is in practically every scene, “walking the line between trustworthy and suspicious”, said Ed Cumming in The Independent. It is “testament to his warm, canny star performance” that we keep guessing. “Guilty or not”, this Hero makes a “very plausible case”.
Jimmy McGovern’s three-part BBC prison drama Time is “just about perfect”, said Hugo Rifkind in The Times. It stars Sean Bean as a middle-class teacher, Mark, jailed for causing a death through drink driving, and Stephen Graham as a prison guard, Eric. Mark is an older man guilt-stricken about his crime, and is “immediately clocked as a victim by vicious young inmate bullies”; Eric is a decent person coerced into bringing in drugs by a gang.
A common theme unites their stories and a handful of equally “deft” subplots: how is it possible “to atone for past inhumanity” in a system that “perpetuates inhumanity anew”? The acting is superb, said Lucy Mangan in The Guardian, and the drama becomes more moving and “enraging” at every turn. “Time well spent.”
Showtrial starts, of course, with a murder: Hannah (Abra Thompson) is a student, found dead after a ball in Bristol. Chief among the suspects is her ex-friend Talitha Campbell (Celine Buckens) – rich, arrogant and “deeply unpleasant to everyone she meets”, said Alison Rowat in The Herald.
I thought it was “great”, said Hugo Rifkind in The Times. Away from the students, much of the drama concerns technical wranglings between the police and the Crown Prosecution Service; there’s also an abuse storyline and a “grief subplot” centring on the victim’s mother. All these strands could have stood alone, but here they are “twisted together”. It’s Buckens, though, who steals the show, turning in a mesmerising performance “right on the edge of ham” as a rich kid with emerald nails “clearly destined to break”.
The BBC brought out the big guns for this submarine-set drama: Martin Compston (AKA Line of Duty’s Steve Arnott), Doctor Foster’s Suranne Jones, Connor Swindells (best known for playing Adam in Sex Education) and Downton Abbey’s Rose Leslie are just a handful of the notable names in this gripping maritime crime series. Vigil is a “dense, sharply written” and “absolute treat of a show”, said The Guardian’s Lucy Mangan. “It’s one that viewers will surely want to dive into”.
The popular French language mystery thriller Lupin returned for a second series on Netflix. Inspired by the adventures of Arsène Lupin, gentleman thief Assane Diop (played by Omar Sy) sets out to avenge his father for an injustice inflicted by the wealthy Hubert Pellegrini. Created by the British writer George Kay, the first series was one of the most successful ever on Netflix and if you haven’t streamed it yet then “you’re seriously missing out”, said Lauren Morris of Radio Times. “An exciting, gripping and action-filled heist caper featuring a terrific performance from Sy, Lupin is guaranteed to steal your heart.”
Mare of Easttown
Kate Winslet is mesmerising in the new HBO crime drama Mare of Easttown, said Carol Midgley in The Times. Make-up-free and “permanently sour-faced”, she plays Mare Sheehan, an “unhappy, junk-food-eating” detective in a small Pennsylvania town that “reeks of poverty and dead ends”. At the outset, she’s working on the case of a 19-year-old woman who disappeared a year ago. And then the body of another teenager, a young mother, is found.
Written by Pennsylvania native Brad Ingelsby, this is “a perfectly conjured study of a community”, said Lucy Mangan in The Guardian, focusing as much on how the locals endure these terrible events as on the process of finding the culprits. Everything and everyone feels “real”, and you care about “every tiny part” – not least Mare’s new relationship with an author and college lecturer, played by Guy Pearce, whom she picks up in a bar. The series reminded me of BBC One’s Happy Valley, said Anita Singh in The Daily Telegraph, but I didn’t think it was in the same league as that top-notch drama. Still, the plot – which is too slow to start – does get going, and Winslet aces a role that could have seemed clichéd in less skilled hands.
Line of Duty (series six)
Trainspotting’s Kelly Macdonald joins the Line of Duty cast for series six of Line of Duty. Macdonald plays DCI Joanne Davidson, a “senior investigating officer of an unsolved murder, whose unconventional conduct raises suspicions at AC-12”. Martin Compston (DS Steve Arnott), Vicky McClure (DS Kate Fleming) and Adrian Dunbar (Superintendent Ted Hastings) reprise their roles as the key investigators.
The lives of the people of Allende, a Mexican border town, are overtaken by a powerful cartel’s operations, leading to tragedy. Inspired by true events, Somos “flips the script on brutal cartel crime epics”, said The Guardian’s Jack Seale. This Netflix drama “centres on the people who are usually peripheral casualties in crime shows like Narcos - the residents of Allende, who were all killed in a horrific real-life massacre”.
Before We Die
In this high-octane six-part drama series Lesley Sharp stars as Hannah Laing, a senior police detective who is forced to make a terrible decision as her son, Christian (Patrick Gibson) goes off the rails. With their relationship seemingly beyond repair, Hannah gets a chance at redemption when Christian becomes caught up in the investigation into the brutal murder of one of Hannah’s colleagues and their paths cross again in unexpected circumstances.
From the close-up of a knife plunging into a piece of meat at a dinner party, the plot of Intruder was “signposted like a golf sale”, said Victoria Segal in The Sunday Times. It stars Elaine Cassidy as Rebecca, a journalist whose husband Sam (Tom Meeten) stabs a burglar in the back during a break-in at their seaside house. It’s an “intriguing” opening, but things spiral into absurdity when Rebecca takes responsibility for the killing, and tries to pass it off as self-defence. Her friend Angela (Helen Behan), who is having an affair with Sam, then turns into a Fatal Attraction-style liability – whereupon Rebecca forges an alliance with the local drugs kingpin. Sally Lindsay is stuck in the middle of it all, playing an honest copper.
Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston stars as a New Orleans judge forced to confront his own convictions when his son is involved in a hit and run. The ten episode mini-series from Showtime is “elegantly shot, with credible dialogue and a robust, well-made quality”, said The Independent. And Cranston is “back doing what he does best – playing the devoted parent”.
Who Killed Sara?
Released on 24 March on Netflix in the UK, this Mexican crime series has “gone down a hit with fans”, said the Daily Express. Starring Narcos’ Manolo Cardona, the story follows Álex Guzmán, who is hell-bent on exacting revenge and proving he was framed for his sister’s murder. He sets out to unearth much more than the crime’s real culprit. Fans of shows like Money Heist, Sky Rojo and Narcos should be excited about this murder mystery.
Set in Victorian London, the series follows a gang of troubled street teens who are manipulated into solving crimes for the sinister Doctor Watson and his mysterious business partner, the elusive Sherlock Holmes. As the crimes take on a horrifying supernatural edge and a dark power emerges, it’ll be up to the Irregulars to come together to save not only London but the entire world. The Irregulars “feels like Netflix threw every one of its originals into a blender”, said Cosmopolitan. The show “might not knock your socks off”, Empire adds, but it offers “more than enough intrigue to warrant hoovering up the show’s entire eight-episode run”.
This six-part Danish-language drama from Tobias Lindholm is a “radical take” on the true-crime genre, said The Independent. When 30-year-old Swedish journalist Kim Wall disappears, attention turns to a wealthy inventor and his private submarine. This feels like a “new direction for true crime”, said The Guardian, an “antidote of sorts to the showier serial killer documentaries that seem to be everywhere”.
The Flight Attendant
Summer came early to Sky One with the arrival of The Flight Attendant – a “lively” HBO thriller that’s “the TV equivalent of a beach read”, said Daniel Fienberg in The Hollywood Reporter. Kaley Cuoco stars as Cassie Bowden, the titular flight attendant and party girl, who flirts with a “scruffy-but rich” stranger (Michiel Huisman) on a red-eye to Bangkok, only to wake up the next morning, after an alcohol-induced blackout, in a hotel room, next to his bloody corpse. Panic-stricken, she cleans up as best she can and flees, but with the FBI, a mysterious flick-knife-toting villainess (Michelle Gomez) and sundry other dark forces on her tail, moving on from this does not prove easy.
Cassie Bowden is a “powerhouse” of a role, and watching Cuoco ace it is “absurdly pleasurable”, said Suzi Feay in the FT. Played for laughs at first, her vodka habit soon comes to seem as darkly troubling as the corpse itself, and the series cleverly uses her memory loss to confuse the timeline. Based on a novel by Chris Bohjalian, it is “pitch black”, but also “pulpy and surreal”, with real “comic spark”, said Caroline Framke in Variety. This is a series that you may find “hard to stop watching, even if you try”.
This “astute” thriller is a fine addition to the growing Irish noir genre, said Lucy Mangan in The Guardian. James Nesbitt stars as weary detective Tom Brannick, whose investigation into a kidnapping puts him on the trail of “Goliath” – the suspected killer of four people in the lead-up to the Good Friday Agreement. His superiors in the Northern Ireland police don’t want him reopening old wounds, but for Brannick it’s personal. The plot is dense, but enjoyably so, and there’s black humour mixed in to let it breathe.
BBC One’s four-part drama is written by Chris Brandon, said Anita Singh in The Daily Telegraph, but it has executive producer Jed Mercurio’s fingerprints all over it: “You don’t know whom to trust, none of the characters ever smile and senior detectives spend their time looking broodily out of windows.” Laced with clues and fine set pieces – among them a heart-thumping bomb-disposal scene – it adds up to a “jolting” thriller. Nesbitt eases into his role “like a favourite coat”, said Ed Cumming in The Independent, giving Brannick the “anguished, unforced humanity” of a decent man driven to distraction. The opening is sluggish, but this “ruggedly” realistic series soon hits its stride.
Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar return as DCI Cassie Stuart and DI Sunny Khan for series four of Unforgotten on ITV. The main cast will be joined by Sheila Hancock (New Tricks), Susan Lynch (Killing Eve), Phaldut Sharma (EastEnders), Liz White (Life On Mars), Andy Nyman (Peaky Blinders), Clare Calbraith (Baptiste) and Lucy Speed (Marcella). The fourth series opens with the discovery of a dismembered body in a scrap metal yard, which the team believe has been stored in a domestic freezer for thirty years. Various clues lead to the victim being identified as Matthew Walsh, a young man in his mid-twenties who went missing in March 1990.
The “brash, expensive” eight-part crime drama ZeroZeroZero has arrived on British screens a year after it appeared in the US and Italy, said Ed Cumming in The Independent. Based on a novel by Gomorrah writer Roberto Saviano, its grand ambition is to explore the global cocaine trade by focusing on the suppliers in Mexico, the buyers in Italy, and the middlemen operating out of New Orleans. Packed with spectacular set pieces, it’s “about as subtle as an elephant loading a dishwasher” - and it makes for “exuberant”, if “bleak”, entertainment for “long February nights”.
True-crime drama The Serpent helped give BBC iPlayer viewing figures a “dramatic boost” when it was released in the new year, said Digital Spy. It tells the disturbing real-life story of Charles Sobhraj, the chief suspect in a series of “grisly unsolved murders of attractive young female backpackers across Asia in the mid-1970s”, Dead Good reports. It could well be one of the “darkest crime dramas of the year”.
The Pembrokeshire Murders
This mini-series on ITV is about the cold-case pursuit of John Cooper - the most notorious serial killer in Welsh criminal history. Starring Luke Evans and Keith Allen, The Pembrokeshire Murders gives justice for the victims, who are central to the narrative. “It is sensitive when it needs to be, and never loses sight of who suffered,” said The Guardian’s Rebecca Nicholson.
Based on a story idea from best-selling crime writer Val McDermid, this six-part thriller stars Line of Duty’s Martin Compston. Set in Scotland, three women try to unearth the truth about an unsolved murder that’s very close to home. Traces is an “easy watch”, said The Arts Desk, but it has a bad habit of “spraying coincidences and startling revelations like machine-gun fire, as if it’s frantically crushing 12 episodes into six”.
Channel 4’s Deadwater Fell is “basically Broadchurch in Scotland”, said Lucy Mangan in The Guardian. “David Tennant is a doctor rather than a policeman, and at the centre of a crime rather than investigating it, and he’s letting his freckles show, but switch your mind to its Broadchurch setting and you will not be disappointed,” said Mangan. The actor plays Tom, whose wife and three children die in a house fire but it soon becomes apparent that all is not as it seems.