Best Crime Dramas of 2013

1 Breaking Bad

The series that was a hit by virtue of word-of-mouth rather than huge ratings or, in the UK, even being

broadcast by a national channel. In the US, of course, makers AMC showed it, but in the Britain such was the anticipation for the concluding fifth series of Walter White’s journey from decent chemistry teacher to methamphetamine-manufacturing gangster and all-round monster that Netflix showed it soon after its US broadcast. With powerful performances from Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul and Dean Norris, BB became a cultural phenomenon, setting the social networking world alight and taking up acres of print columns. It was at times surreal, dark, horrific, hilarious, tense, but always compelling. In terms of ambition and daring, it was a series that showed the best US television is in a different league to British drama.


This was a labour of love for writer Chris Chibnall, a series he wrote on spec, without commission, because he had the itch to do it. Which suggests that tinkering from executives at ITV was kept to a minimum and the eight-part series flouished as a gripping, character-rich series. Terrific writing and a great cast – David Tennant, Olivia Colman, Jodie Whittaker, Andrew Buchan among them – lifted this way above your average whodunit. Chibnall is now writing a new version for American TV with David Tennant again starring, and Broadchurch 2 will hit ITV probably some time in 2015.

3 The Fall

Another series that was the inspiration of one writer. Allan Cubitt worked hard to create a chilling, realistic serial killer for this five-parter, and Paul Spector (played with icy menace by Jamie Dornan) was unforgettable. The character was far more compelling than the ludicrous genius killer cliches of the Hannibal Lecter type, Spector being a normal family man in a caring profession (grief counsellor) whose secret obsession was murdering women. Gillian Anderson was formidable as the detective who could match his calculating precision and managed to close in on the killer in a cliffhanger ending that will see the series make a much-anticipated return.

Peaky Blinders

Quite a few ‘historical’ dramas like to use ‘period’ as a way to pretty-up a series. Shows such as The Tudors and even Downton Abbey are not overly concerned with getting under the skin of the past. But Peaky Blinders takes its setting and time seriously, and is fascinated by the inter-war era of gangs in Birmingham. It merged a little known true story with a tense drama, as Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) tried to build a seriously powerful crime empire in the face of gang rivals and the scary Inspector Campbell (Sam Neill). The drama looked stunning too, and has deservedly been commissioned for a second series.


Channel 4
Utopia was different. In a sea of costume crime dramas and whodunits (Foyle’s War, Marple, Poirot, Ripper Street, WPC 56, Father Brown etc etc etc), it stood out. A conspiracy hidden in a graphic novel and a flood of conspiracies designed to hide a real conspiracy certainly grabbed the attention. It was quirky and scary, but kept most of us intrigued through its six episodes. Neil Maskell certainly arrived on the TV radar with his performance as the torturing psycho Paul, and the whole cast – Fiona O’Shaughnessy, Alexandra Roach, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett and Adeel Akhtar – kept the drama sparking along. With dramas such as Utopia and Southcliffe, C4 offered something fresh and distinctive this year.

Justified 4

This year’s season revolved around a rather garbled storyline that was pretty hard to make sense of, kicking off with a prologue about a guy with a defective parachute plummeting to earth and landing with bags of cocaine and an ID for ‘Waldo Truth’. This McGuffin tied-in mafia figures, Raylan’s father, a snake-handling preacher and Wynn Duffy. Despite the messy story arc, on a week-to-week basis, deputy US marshal and cowboy-hat wearer Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) still gave good value for money. The character was the creation, of course, of Elmore Leonard, who sadly passed away in August, aged 87. He left behind some wonderful novels, and this sharp, cool TV series, which has been recommissioned for a fifth series. When so many mainstream US crime series are obsessed with forensic porn and buff model cops, it’s a joy to take the back roads of Kentucky for a sassy, gritty crime saga.


Fox UK
It’s a wrap for Dex, one of the most audacious and subversive dramas yet to emerge during the TV renaissance that’s occurred since the late 1990s and the arrival of the US subscription channels – HBO, Fox, Showtime and AMC. Getting us on the side of a serial killer was a spectacular trick to pull off, but we were there with Dexter Morgan as he duelled with other killers, maintained his front as a blood-spatter analyst for Miami Metro Police, and tried to be a brother to cop sister Debs. This was a high-wire act for the character and the writers, and in seeking to close the drama (Debra dies and Dexter fakes his own suicide) the show polarised fans. But it was still a stunning, if bloody, series, and Michael C Hall and Jennifer Carpenter were compelling to the end.


The Inspector Morse spin-off prequel capitalised on its hugely successful pilot by becoming a character-driven series that remained true to the original. Everyone remembers John Thaw’s grumpy, lonely older Morse, but here we got an insight into how he grew into that person by watching Shaun Evans’s gifted, stand-offish younger detective. The cases were suitably challenging as brainteasers for our hero, and the cast, particularly Roger Allam and Anton Lesser, brought the drama alive. A new series is on the way.


Sky Atlantic
A bloody, racing, furiously aggressive show with a crazy premise that was nevertheless addictive viewing for anyone who can’t bear cosy mysteries in period costumes or anything resembling a traditional police procedural. Antony Starr is ‘Lucas Hood’ – we never learn his real name – who leaves prison and is immediately on the run from the Russian mobsters he betrayed. He finds himself in Banshee, an Amish town, looking for the beauty with whom he stole the Russians’ diamonds, Anatasia (Ivana Milicevic). The opportunity presents itself for our man to assume the identity of the new sheriff in town, who conveniently is killed in a bar brawl before he can officially take the post. It’s filled with great characters, sex, violence that is wince-inducing and preposterous, and rounded off with a great finale. Fortunately, there’s more to come with a new series for 2014.

10 Arne Dahl

Nordic noir continued to cast its spell in the shape of this Swedish crime thriller about an elite team of detectives. It was a shift away from the angst-riven brilliance of Sarah Lund in The Killing towards a more mainstream cop series of the kind made in the US and Britain. But this series, based on Jan Arnald’s novels, had a cast of interesting characters and an intriguing and tense conspiracy to explore.

Series that were worth investigating but failed to make the Top 10: Scott & Bailey, Spiral, Sons of Anarchy, The Americans, Young Montalbano, Top Boy 2, The Great Train Robbery, Lucan, Top of the Lake, Montalbano, The Tunnel, Boardwalk Empire 4, Law & Order: UK

Series that never proved their cases beyond reasonable doubt: The Ice Cream Girls, Mayday, Foyle’s War, Prisoners’ Wives, Hannibal, The Following, Life of Crime, Mad Dogs 3, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher 2, Luther 3, What Remains, Vera 3, Southcliffe, New Tricks, Bates Motel, Case Histories 2, The Guilty, Wentworth Prison, Whitechapel 4, Ripper Street 2, Homeland, By Any Means

Series that plodded along: Father Brown, Silent Witness, Vegas, NCIS, Criminal Minds, Death in Paradise, WPC 56, Poirot, Murder on the Home Front, Jo

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Dexter’s 10 best moments

Dexter caught in the act by his sister Debs. Pics: Fox

SOME MOMENTS on Dexter (Fox UK, Sundays, 9pm) shock you, and others break your heart. Sometimes you feel your heart beating out of your chest with anticipation or you can’t breathe because you’re so nervous about what will happen. Those shocking moments really make the show.
But sometimes, we see another side of our favourite anti-hero Dexter Morgan. Times when we see him as a human instead of a monster, or when he does the tough things that have to be done.
And these are some of Dexter’s biggest and most redeeming moments. They’re the real reasons we cheer for him and keep watching from the beginning to this year’s final season.

1. Dexter’s first on-screen kill

Debra is key to Dexter’s life

In the opening scene of the first episode of Dexter, we see him on the hunt for a man he deems worthy of his killing code. His first on-screen kill is an absolutely vile choir teacher, and seeing him take out this guy gets viewers on his side right from the beginning.

2. Killing Brian

At the end of season one, Dexter has to choose between his adopted sister Deb and his actual brother Brian (who just so happens to be the Ice Truck Killer, the guy who’s planning to kill Deb). Despite Dexter’s Dark Passenger, he realises that his brother has to go and makes the ultimate decision, therefore saving Deb. Dexter has always said that if there’s one person in the world he’d be capable of loving, it’d be Deb. Here we see the proof.

3. Killing Lila

Dexter and Rita

Season two involves plenty of back and forth with Dexter and Rita and Dexter and Lila. You don’t really know what will happen with Dexter’s ‘love life’, but in the end, Dexter takes out another monster when he goes to Paris to completely finish things with Lila.

4. Dexter with Rita

Rita is one of the first people we see Dexter actually care for. At the beginning of the series, Dexter’s feelings for Rita aren’t completely sincere, but over time they do grow to be real. For someone like Dexter, this is huge. And that makes the Trinity season hurt even more.

He’s behind you! The Trinity Killer

5. Dexter and Trinity

Trinity is undeniably the best Dexter villain. Over the course of the season, the two almost bond… and that bond is what leads to one of Dexter’s greatest mistakes. He lets his guard down and lets Trinity live longer than he should, giving us the biggest season-ending scene ever and one you won’t soon forget.

6. Getting away with murder with Lumen

Dexter with Lumen

The Showtime hit is best when Dexter is in danger of getting caught. In one of his closest calls yet, Dex and Lumen have finally gotten revenge on Jordan Chase, when, of course, Deb walks in. Luckily, the two killers are hidden behind plastic sheets and Deb can’t see who it is and warns them to hurry up because the police will be there soon. It’s a close call, but it shows how much Dexter needed Lumen in his life.

7. Dexter with Harrison

Who would have thought a serial killer like Dexter could raise and care for a child? With Harrison, we

Dex with son Harrison

see a whole new side to Dexter, and he’s like a completely different person. Being a father truly changes him for the better – he starts to think about what he’s doing.

8. When Dexter drops his blood slides

One of those few times you see Dexter show real emotion is when he accidentally drops his prized blood slide box, breaking them all into pieces. As strange as it may sound, it’s heartbreaking to watch him lose something that’s so important to him. You can see (and feel) the hurt on his face as he watches his slides and memories drop to the ground.

Debs finds out the truth about her foster brother

9. When Deb catches Dexter in the act

It was the moment we were all waiting for – the day Deb would find out about Dexter’s secret hobby. Deb walks right into the church as Dexter is ending Travis Marshall’s life. Both of them look completely horrified. It’s definitely not Dexter’s best moment – he should have been much more careful – but it’s one of those unforgettable scenes that take your breath away.

10. Telling Deb the truth

Dexter tries to maintain his relationship with Debra

The incident in the church ends season 6, and season 7 begins with Deb asking Dexter the biggest thing she’s ever asked him: “Are you a serial killer?” Dexter’s got a split second to decide what to say. By coming clean, it shows Dexter’s human side and how much Deb really does mean to him.

With only a few episodes left in the final season, there’s no telling how the show will end. Many more big moments are sure to come!

Also check out…

Dexter on Fox UK

Season 8 review

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