Five tv-series to binge when you crave a little darkness

This time of year is one of the most magical in Sweden. The beautiful light of summer still lingers while fall slowly makes its presence known; the air is higher, a little crisper.

One day, you look up and realize that, after a summer of never-ending days, the evenings are suddenly dark again.

I love watching a new season enter and, for a short time, coexist with the old one.

Unfortunately, for the past four years, this time has also been associated with my mother’s death. Time has made it easier, but when difficult dates approach, my mood gets a bit dark.

When I feel this way, I don’t try to cheer myself up. Instead, I hibernate in my apartment for a few days and immerse myself in stories that are darker, more morally complex. If it’s one thing I can’t stand when I feel like this, it’s too-good-to-be-true heroes that can do no wrong.

So, in no particular order, here are five of my favorite tv-series to binge when I need to be angry at the universe for a few days.

JUSTIFIED

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Based on the short story, Fire in the Hole by Elmore Leonard, Justified centers around US Marshal Raylan Givens. A man with a mannerism (and style) more reminiscent of an old-school lawman than a member of modern law enforcement.

In the first episode, Raylan is involved in a shooting that he believes is justified, but his superiors find problematic. As punishment, he’s transferred from Florida to his home state of Kentucky; a place he, for various reason, are not interested in returning to.

I love this show. The acting is on point and the writing sharp and witty. Despite its, sometimes, difficult themes it never takes itself too seriously, and the show can be genuinely funny.

All the characters are superbly acted by people like Timothy Olyphant, Walton Goggins, Jeremy Davies, and Margo Martindale.

The chemistry between the actors are outstanding, and the frenemy relationship between Raylan and Googins character, Boyd Crowder, is fantastic.

The best part is that the show is refreshingly free of moral pointers, or ready-made answers about the world. The characters, good and bad, as well as the situations, are complex and flawed: just the way I like it.

The show consists of six seasons available on streaming services like HBO and Amazon Prime Video.

MINDHUNTER

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The second season of this suspenseful and, at times, disturbing show premiered recently on Netflix. It was created by Joe Penhall and inspired by the book Mind Hunter, written by former FBI agent John Douglas.

Set in the late 1970s, Mindhunter revolves around two FBI agents, Holden Ford, and Bill Trench. Together with psychologist Wendy Carr, they create the first FBI Behavioral Science Unit.

Season one centers around the work they do to understand and define the term serial killer. They do this by conducting interviews with already imprisoned serial killers and using what they learn in ongoing cases.

This is not an action-packed show. It’s dialogue-heavy, and most of it centers around conversations. However, the interviews with the serial killers and the relationship these agents form with them are intriguing.

My only negative comment about the show is that they played their trump card too soon. Cameron Britton’s portrayal of Ed Kemper, the Co-Ed killer, is fantastic.

This makes his very brief appearance in, an otherwise solid, season two a disappointment.

PENNY DREADFUL

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If you like your darkness and dysfunctional characters combined with the supernatural Penny Dreadful might be just your thing.

This Showtime show combines genres like drama, dark fantasy, horror, historical fantasy, and thriller to create something truly unique.

Borrowing famous characters from the gothic novels of the 19th century, Penny Dreadful puts them side by side with strong original characters.

Eva Green is incredible as the tortured and mysterious Miss Vanessa Ives. Josh Hartnett delivers a convincing portrayal of Ethan Chandler, a gunslinging American trying to outrun his inner beast. While Timothy Dalton is excellent as the repentant explorer Sir Malcolm Murray.

Besides telling a good story, the show is also absolutely beautiful with stunning costumes and captivating visuals and cinematography.

Overall the cast is terrific, and the dark, gothic storylines are, at times, truly scary. A word of warning though, the ending of this three-season show is good, but maybe not the one you’d want.

The series is available on streaming services like HBO and Showtime

Despite being off the air for a few years now, Penny Dreadful is still very much alive and kicking.  The series has been continued as a comic produced by Titan Comics and Showtime.

One run is a prequel and the other chronicles the aftermath of the series finale. Having read it, I’m not thrilled about the art-style of the comics, but the plot is excellent.

There’s also a spin-off currently in production that will move the setting from England to 1930s Los Angeles. If the rumors are true, the spin-off will focus heavily on Mexican-American folklore.

BOSCH

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Based on Michael Connelly’s novels about police detective Harry Bosch this show is a pretty formulaic police procedural. However, the quality of the acting and solid writing make it something more than “just another cop show.”

As a protagonist, Bosch, portrayed by actor Titus Welliver, is pretty standard for the genre. He’s a loner and suffers from PTSD, but he’s an excellent detective with a higher arrest score than most. He has a strong moral compass but, if it aligns with his own moral code, he’ll both bend and break the rules.

Bosch delivers strong, solid storylines focusing both on crime and characters. There’s also a substantial side-plot involving the clandestine battle for influence and power between rival political offices in the city.

What makes the show so suitable for a marathon sitting is the focus on one story throughout a season. This allows the writers to dig deep and create satisfying plots and characters that are allowed to be flawed.

These are characters who act and react to each other’s actions and choices. Because of that, the relationship between them is always shifting, which adds an extra layer of depth and realism.

The first five seasons are available for streaming on HBO, and Amazon Prime Video; a sixth season currently in production.

HANNIBAL

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This show, inspired by the “Hannibal Lecter books” by Thomas Harris, was adapted for the small screen by Bryan Fuller.

The show is neither a faithful adaptation of the books nor the movies. Instead, it mostly centers around events that transpired before and leading up to Hannibal’s crimes being revealed.

The main protagonist is Will Graham, a criminal profiler for the FBI with a unique ability to empathize with almost anyone. This ability comes with a prize. When he’s asked to assist in a series of murders, Dr. Hannibal Lecter is brought in as a forensic psychiatrist to help Will handle the side-effects of his abilities.    

Starring Mads Mikkelsen and Hugh Dancy, the chemistry between the two leading men is, at times, so intense it completely sucks you in.

Other notable cast members are Laurence Fishburne, Gillian Anderson, and Richard Armitage as Francis Dolarhyde in season three.

Apart from being an incredible psychological thriller, the show is absolutely beautiful. Bryan Fuller has a unique artistic style, if you read my post about American Gods, you’ll know I love his visuals.

You’ll find yourself starring at the screen marveling at how beautiful it is, only to remind yourself that what you’re looking at is a horrifically mutilated corpse.

With that said, this show is not for everyone, it’s “artsy” and overflowing with dialogue and subtext. I adore it. But, it’s not easily digestible.

Hannibal pops in, and out of streaming services, I’ve watched it on both Prime Video, HBO and Netflix. You’ll have to check if and where it’s available in your region.

So there you have it; five shows I like to binge when I need a little edge and complexity, a little darkness in my entertainment. Of these, Justified, Penny Dreadful, and Hannibal are shows I’ve rewatched over and over. I will casually view an episode or two regularly when the mood strikes.

Did you find one of your personal favorites on this list? If so, feel free to rave enthusiastically in the comments. Should you happen to find a new one, I’d love to hear about it.

4 thoughts on “Five tv-series to binge when you crave a little darkness

  1. If you hadn’t recommended Penny Dreadful, I would have! It’s one of my favorite TV shows!

    Have you ever seen The Fall? It’s a BBC show on Netflix now and stars Gillian Anderson, Jamie Dornan, and Colin Morgan. Police are searching for a serial killer in Northern Ireland. It’s intense, and Gillian Anderson is incredible in it.

    1. Yes. Penny Dreadful really is fantastic.

      The Fall is absolutley fantastic. Despite having loved The X-files since childhood, The The Fall and Hannibal is what really made me a fan of Gillian Andersson. She’s so fantastic.

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