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Miserable Sleuths: Our Binge Watch Year in Review (Part 1)

We have just watched the first episode of Top of the Lake, Season 2, and dang is it weird. There are a lot of episodes to go, and I think the weirdness plus the setting will mean that I'll remember details of the series long after we finish it up. I hope. I have a theory that my 54 year old brain can only enjoy binge watching crime dramas, but it's not built to retain more than vague memories of plots and character relationships. I'm picking on shows we binged because I don't seem to have the same problem with the shows we watch on a weekly basis. It seems sad that I can tell you the difference between what happened in Broadchurch and Gracepoint, but all I can remember about Marcella is that Nicholas Pinnock is very easy to watch.

So what follows is more for me than you. It's a quick remembering guide to the shows we binged this year, all of which have one common feature: miserable sleuths. Mind you, I LOVED watching these shows. I recommend all of them HIGHLY. If I say mean things in my review, it's not real.

Let's start with Marcella, while we're at it.

London noir starring Anna Friel as Marcella Backland, a detective who returns to the murder squad after a long hiatus when a serial killer starts doing his thing again after an 11 year break. LOTS of twists and turns.

Marcella's skills: Wears this coat a lot. Scans a lot of CCTV footage. Will tamper with evidence.

Why so miserable: Husband leaves her, and she has blackouts.

Let's just cut to the miserable: DI John River (Stellan Skarsgård) is sad. I mean so. very. sad. Well, the reason for that is that his former partner, Stevie (Nicola Walker)--the lady in the passenger's seat is deceased. She's been murdered, but River still has lots of lovely chats with her as he tries to find out why she was killed. That's what they are doing in this picture in fact.

This is another British noir procedural that is perfect as a single season series.

This one is the one with the red coat! Seriously, if you are watching this series any time close to watching Shetland, you're going to be damned grateful for that red coat. Unlike Marcella and River, this is a "can we have crime outside?" show that makes the most of its rugged Welsh setting. There's lots of driving, lots of hiking across properties, lots of witnesses and suspects who generally work in fields or large, open sheds. The three seasons are tied together by the events and repercussions of the first mystery that Detectives Mathias (Richard Harrington) and Rhys (Mali Harries) tackle together, which involves icky goings on at a remote (who am I kidding, EVERYTHING is remote in this show) orphanage in the mountains. VERY COOL DETAIL: the police station is right next to ocean.

Why so miserable: That's kind of a secret for both Matthias and Rhys, but I can tell you Matthias used to work in London and now lives in a trailer in Aberystwyth. Excuse me, caravan. Rhys' backstory gets a nice, full treatment in the final season.

Wow, on my 4th show for this list and every female detective is wearing a parka, with the exception of the dead one in River. Maybe I'm just into parka-dramas. Anyway, like Matthias in Hinterland, our main dude, DI Jimmy Perez (Douglas Henshall), used to work in the big city before moving back to the Shetland Isles. He's got his own parka-wrapped assistant, Tosh, and the first season tries its darnedest to out-sweaterThe Killing. Like Hinterland, there's lots of outdoor action and country-roading--think google street view, but with more crime tape strung up on the weeds and rocks. Fun fact: I know someone whose parents know the reverend who has a part in a wedding scene in Shetland. Not so fun fact, I don't recall a wedding scene. There is a weird pub with a bird science lab in the back, though. Or maybe I dreamed that.

Why so miserable: Perez's wife died and he's trying to raise his daughter in a wholesome environment that sort of turns into Cabot Cove, body-count-wise. I should mention she's got another Daddy, and he helps out, too, but not always in ways that Perez appreciates.

I know, I'm disappointed, too. That is not technically a parka. This is the one where Gillian Anderson, as London Metropolitan Police Superintendent Stella Gibson, goes to Belfast and tracks down a serial killer, Paul Spector, played by Jamie Dornan. I want to talk about the performances by Anderson and Dornan, which are weird. Not bad, just weird. Someone said, keep it low key, and boy, do they deliver. Imagine a perpetually horny but gloomy Scully on medicine that makes her mouth very small and her accent very distracting. Dornan seems to have a cramp in his eyebrows.

Why so miserable: Stella is seriously sexual with few boundaries, and that freaks people out.

Full disclosure--we stopped watching this one half way through season one, because it was more depressing than exciting. Then we went back to it on the recommendation of a friend. First season good, second okay, third: no idea what that was about. I think it's really tough to continue a convincing narrative when one of your mains is a psychopath. GA hit it lucky with Hannibal, in that regard. (Damn, she was awesome in that). In a way, the psycho becomes the least interesting thing about The Fall.

Coming up in Part 2 of our Binge Review: Happy Valley, Top of The Lake, Fortitude, Loch Ness, and Wallander (Yes, we binged Wallander)

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