At the nights begin to draw in we find ourselves seeking comfort in front of a roaring fire and an engrossing series on the box.
Maybe it’s because we’ve been stuck inside for the last 18 months, but it seems the lure of serialised crime drama has never been greater. Following the “Bleak Wave” of Scandinavian crime dramas across the world it seems that nothing gets people talking or speculating like the premier murder mysteries of recent years.
These are often populated with a starry cast, have labyrinthine plots filled with red herrings and grisly dead ends. They crash upon the coastline of the national consciousness with cliffhangers to tease and tantalise. And most importantly they get their audience coming back week on week to see what secrets are uncovered, what crimes are solved and punishments meted out.
Those of us who follow week by week are often drawn to social media, with hashtags and theories at our fingertips, to discuss and detect the guilty parties. It’s no surprise but during lockdown one of the most social activities we could partake in were hours of online speculation with observant fans.
This seems to be something that the program makers are very aware of. Classic crime dramas have always tried to be a couple of steps ahead of the audience, but it seems there is great enjoyment on both sides of the screen setting up false leads and the construction of elaborate theories until the ultimate reveal is made.
As something of a celebration of these intriguing and enveloping drama series, ITV Studios are releasing five of the most recent nailbiting drama series on DVD.
Featuring grand production values and big names in the main cast, these five series are finally tuned to keep their captive audiences guessing until the very end. We’ll take a look at each of them one by one in this feature, but all are worth diving into, all are perfect for the long winter nights ahead.
The most recent drama on this list kept audiences on the edge of their seats over the last couple of months. From Tom Edge and the team behind Line of Duty, Vigil saw Suranne Jones board a Royal Naval submarine to get to the bottom of a gruesome murder while fighting to stay afloat.
Containing a drama mainly to a submarine was a great way to dramatise the claustrophobic feeling, and pressure cooker environment of these murder mysteries. There’s a fine supporting cast including Game of Thrones’ Rose Leslie and Sex Education’s Connor Swindells, but it is Suranne Jones’ vulnerable and tenacious performance that leads us willingly down the very dark corners of this particular crime drama. Submechanophobics need not apply.
VIGIL is available to now from Amazon
The Pembrokeshire Murders
Real life cold cases have proved fertile ground for crime dramas over the last 10 years. The ability to tell two stories, the present day and the past, and to uncover the ties that bind them together is put a great use here in this series based on the book The Pembrokeshire Murders: Catching the Bullseye Killer by Steve Wilkins.
Luke Evans gets to enchant us with his deep Welsh tones, taking on the role of Detective Superintendent Steve Wilkins. Evans’ performance as well matched by that of Keith Allen as serial killer John Cooper. Allen has always been one of our great small screen actors and this gives him the opportunity to bring some dark and chilling nuance to a character, and a real life person, whose acts implies that no such humanity should exist. It’s a compelling doubleheader and really propels this drama forward.
Set against the bleakness of the Welsh county of Pembrokeshire, the show’s deliberate pacing and complex unveiling of the mystery makes a real impact. The message that these crimes have consequences that are played out over decades after the initial act is well made here.
THE PEMBROKESHIRE MURDERS is available now from Amazon
This was one of the biggest series of recent years. It was a huge ratings hit and its slowly unfolding twists and turns gripped the nation backin 2018. Starring another Game of Thrones standout, Richard Madden, and Keeley Hawes, the show was able to infuse a complex political drama with thrilling action and precipitous cliffhangers every week.
It was one of those shows that gave you no idea where it was heading each week. And when it ended you were in a very different place to the one that you expected to be.
This is not easy to do week on week, and yet Bodyguard was an excellent example of how motives and desires could work in harmony or cause unbearable friction. It was a masterpiece in compelling crime drama.
What elevated it from other similar fare was the exploration of vulnerability and shattered identity of Richard Madden‘s character Police Sergeant David Budd. Many of these crime dramas seek to explore the psychosis of the criminals, few have managed to so starkly bear the vulnerabilities of its lead character.
BODYGUARD is available now on Amazon
This dramatic four-parter from Mike Benson and Gareth Tunley gave a torrid account of the moment when lives are changed forever, as well as the destructive aftermath. After a failed burglary, during which one of the teenagers is stabbed to death, Sam and Rebecca Hinkley begin down a path of deciet and despair, threatening to fracture their once united front.
Dealing less with the crime that its fallout, Intruder’s lasting impression is largely due to a fine cast who detail how fragile and precarious so many of our relationships are. It’s best not to know too much about this before going in. Just get comfy – once you see the first episode you won’t want to stop.
INTRUDER is available now from Amazon
Telling the true story of serial killer Charles Sobhraj, The Serpent is a seductive and sinister story. It stars Tahar Rahim, who impressed so much with his role in the award winning film A Prophet, as the titular character and he conveys so much in the physicality of his performance. He’s joined by Doctor Who favourite Jenna Coleman who plays his accomplice Marie-Andrée Leclerc. The two are great on screen together, and manage to compel us as an audience to get close to the murderous couple even as the police close in.
THE SERPENT is available now from Amazon
All of these series are available from ITV Studios on DVD right now.