And so it begins…
Doesn’t the year go quickly? Our Top 20 Crime Dramas Of The Year always catches me out, but here we are again – for our eighth year – to go through what we thought were the best of the best.
Of course, we couldn’t watch everything, but we’ve done our best and clocked up more viewing hours than we care to admit. When we sat down to write this list, we were convinced 2022 hadn’t been a great year. But taking a deeper dive into the offerings from the past 12 months revealed that it might have been one of the strongest years in recent memory. Yes, there was plenty of bang-average stuff, but the sheer quality at the top end produced by the traditional, terrestrial channels as well as the streaming services was not only surprising but also heartening.
Of course, there were things that just missed out – Hjerson, The Whitstable Pearl, Wisting, Bosch: Legacy and Bloodlands, for instance; and Black Sands, The Patient and Netflix’s much-maligned Dahmer we didn’t get to see. And not having Trapped – a former crime drama of the year winner – in an end-of-year crime list (or Entrapped as series three called itself) felt like pure heresy.
But with all that being said, you don’t want to know what didn’t make it, you want to know what DID make it. So let’s get cracking, shall we?
20. The Sinner (Series 4)
(Netflix in the UK)
Bill Pullman returned for a final fling as the broken Detective Harry Ambrose, this time investigating a seemingly open-and-shut case on a picturesque island off the coast of Maine. Ambrose was meant to be recovering with his partner Sonya after the battle royale of series three, but soon enough he finds himself embroiled in a missing person’s case that tore at his very soul. He becomes obsessed with the missing woman – Percy Muldoon (Alice Kremelberg) – and plops himself in the middle of two warring families in this small fishing community. As ever with The Sinner, we didn’t just get the crime but also some curious elements of spirituality and philosophy – in series three it was Nietzsche, and here, it’s cleansing rituals from the island’s mystics. Too much for some, and The Sinner is a deeply flawed show, and yet, in Harry Ambrose, we have a compelling lead character and there’s just something about it and the stories that draw you in and make you keep watching.
READ MORE: OUR REVIEW OF SERIES FOUR OF THE SINNER
(ITV in the UK)
Now here’s something we didn’t expect. ITV’s adaptation of Graham Norton’s debut novel – Holding – turned out to be a hugely enjoyable four-parter, boasting fine performances. Set in the sleepy, West Cork village of Duneen, we’re introduced to a range of quirky characters, not least timid, kind local gardaí, PJ Collins (Conleth Hill). Collins’ life is turned upside down when human remains are found on a local farm. It’s determined that the remains belong to Tommy Burke, a man who went missing 20 years before. We’re then introduced to the women in Tommy’s life – Bríd Riorden (Siobhán McSweeney), who Burke left at the alter, and his lover, Evelyn Ross (Charlene McKenna). The case acts as a coming-of-age journey for Collins, but it’s the performances of McSweeney and McKenna that really elevate this from a jolly, cosy crime into something more rounded and with real depth. Add in a welcome return to our screens by Brenda Fricker, and Holding was a surprising hit.
READ MORE: OUR REVIEW OF HOLDING
18. Karen Pirie
(ITV in the UK)
It’s always difficult to introduce a new crime character, but at least ITV’s Karen Pirie has award-winning, best-selling Val McDermid’s source material on which to lean. Series one also benefits from emerging star Lauren Lyle, who confidently and brilliantly stepped into the lead role as the titular character. In terms of plot, series one – based on McDermid’s 2003 novel A Distant Echo – is set in1996, where three drunken students find a barmaid, Rosie, strangled and stabbed in the cathedral grounds of St Andrews. But do they have more to do with the death than they admit? A compelling plot, a strong lead performance and an examination of a woman’s place in a traditionally man’s world… more please.
READ MORE: OUR EPISODE ONE REVIEW
READ MORE: OUR EPISODE TWO REVIEW
READ MORE: OUR EPISODE THREE REVIEW
17. The Tourist
(BBC One in the UK)
From the prolific Williams brothers, The Tourist was a satisfyingly stylised, twisty-turny slice of modern noir, often reminiscent of the Coen brothers’ No Country For Old Men. It stars Jamie Dornan as a man in the Australian outback who is run off the road, leaving him in a hospital with amnesia. From then on he has to piece together clues that lead him to find out who he really was, all the while trying to stay clear of hulking hitman Billy Nixon (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson). The questions are: what is he trying to escape from and how will he react when he finds out the true nature of his identity? Once he finds out that his former self – Elliott – was not a nice person (an accountant for a drug lord who escaped with a wad of cash) he has to work out who he wans to be from that moment on. There is a divisive ending and there’s the possibility of a second series, but for now, series one was a fun, exciting and very watchable noir.
(All4/Walter Presents in the UK)
An Icelandic series starring Trapped’s Ilmur Kristjánsdóttir, this felt like a Nordic version of Unforgotten. The story goes something like this: a 14-year-old teenage girl vanishes without a trace at the turn of the millennium, and 25 years later her body is discovered at a quarry near Ólafsvík on the west coast of the island. Three women are at the centre of this mystery: chef Anna Sigga (Jóhanna Friðrika Sæmundsdóttir), upstanding priest Elísabet (Lilja Nótt Þórarinsdóttir), and Karlotta (Kristjánsdóttir), a nurse with addiction issues. All three have secrets to spill, and their, well, sisterhood and bond formed when the incident happened becomes fragile and threatened. When investigators Einer and Vera start to circle, it’s a case of who will crack first and what really happened to the girl. Sisterhood is a heavy, interesting drama with a real focus on character and one that has the confidence in its leading performers to really take its time to unravel its story.