8 bingeable crime series to keep you on your toes

2019-07-27 06:00
Idris Elba and Wunmi Mosaku in the series, Luther.

Cape Town - This is one genre that tends to engender seriously excellent TV series. Think about it - The Wire, The Sopranos, The Killing (the original Danish version, obvi). These are the shows that TV bucket lists are made of.

These titles may be too new or too low-profile to have generated the same level of hype as the classics, but they’re still worth your time, your data and your emotional investment.

1. City on a Hill (DStv Now)

It’s the 1990s in Boston, a turbulent time for the city, rife with racial tensions, violence and organised crime, all helped along by a lax criminal justice system and cops who are just as crooked as the criminals. It might sound like a grim place, but this crime series unfolds as a love letter to the city, in all its darkness and all its hope. Starring Kevin Bacon as a grizzled Fed who teams up with an idealistic assistant DA, played by Aldis Hodge, who wants to bring down the whole corrupt core of the city.

2. Luther S1-5 (Showmax) 

In star Idris Elba’s own words, Luther is “a show about a detective and his obsession with murder and dark characters. [Season 5] is one storyline over four episodes, but of course from that storyline all these different tentacles spread out. It’s extremely complex. That’s the way Luther is. You unfold it and unfold it and unfold it. There is one criminal and that person gets themselves into a lot of trouble. Some old characters also come back to the forefront…”

3. Fortitude S1-3 (Showmax) 

This Nordic Noir/British thriller is a bit of a genre-buster and not strictly a crime series. It’s set in the tiny Arctic town of Fortitude, where no major crime has ever been reported - until now. Creator Simon Donald said, “We set it in a community where there’s a very small police force that is brilliant at search and rescue, but they’re not investigative detectives. So they’re trying to solve a crime without any of the routine choices that cops make in big city shows, where their responses to murder are driven by experience and tested procedures. Our cops don’t have any of that. And they’re in a small town with a population of 780, so they know everybody. They’re not used to investigating dark, hidden motivations in people they know well.”

4. Secrets and Lies S1-2 (Showmax) 

Juliette Lewis plays the ruthless Detective Andrea Cornell in this crime anthology series. Season 1 sees Ryan Phillipe playing a father who stumbles on the dead body of his friend’s son while out on a run - but things are not what they seem. In season 2, Eric Warner, the heir to his family’s private equity firm, comes under Detective Cornell’s suspicion when his new wife is murdered.

5. Burden of Truth S1-2 (Showmax) 

Kristen Kreuk executive produces and stars as Joanna Hanley, a hot-shot lawyer who defends a pharmaceutical company but soon finds herself switching sides to fight for a group of sick girls. In season 2, Kreuk reprises her role as the tough-as-nails lawyer. A year after the events of the previous season, she's working on a new case for a different law firm. But her client is about to turn her life upside down.

6. Top of the Lake S1-2 (Showmax) 

Elisabeth Moss. Jane Campion. Nicole Kidman. Remote New Zealand scenery and a Bondi Beach manhunt. This British series about Robin Griffin, a detective with a torrid past who specialises in sexual violence, is a thing of devastating beauty and gripping mystery. Seasons 1 and 2 are about separate, unrelated crimes investigated by Detective Griffin, so it’s almost an anthology series, but they’re both 100% worth watching. If we could unreservedly recommend just one crime series on this list, it’s this one.

7. Line of Duty S5 (DStv Now

This fan-favourite British police procedural follows the members of the Anti-Corruption Unit 12 (AC-12) as they investigate dirty dealings in the force and uncover the links between the police and criminals. Nobody knows who can be trusted, and undercover cops are often the unit’s prime suspects. The latest season follows DI Kate Fleming and DS Steve Arnott as they look into the case of a missing undercover policeman with ties to a prolific organised crime group.

8. Hinterland S1-3 (Netflix)

Set in Aberystwyth, Wales, this mystery series is billed as a “Celtic Noir”, which we didn’t realise was a thing - but when you watch this show, you’ll see why it deserves a sub-genre all its own. The backdrops are bleak and blustery and stark in their beauty, and DCI Tom Mathias is appropriately brooding as he solves brutal, baffling murders in this centuries-old town.

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