Do you listen intently to your friends’ conversations just so that you can drop “well… time is a flat circle” when it’s least expected? Do you now know the word “McConaissance”? Have you hurt yourself trying to carve out stick figures out of beer cans? Congratulations! If you answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, then you have at least as much cultural cred as my grandma!
Good news: You had something to talk about with that awkward coworker each time you went into the kitchen to get coffee for the past two months. Bad news: You either are, or will go through Cohle-drawal—this is similar to withdrawal, but involves a period where you speak in a Southern drawl and contemplate what you’d look like with a moustache and ponytail. To help get you through this rough time, I’ve compiled a list of five miniseries to fill that empty spot in your heart with.
Quick—what’s it about? The small coastal town of Broadchurch is rocked to its core after the murder of eleven-year-old Danny Latimer. On the case are detectives Alec Hardy, an unsentimental man with much experience (David Tennant of Doctor Who), and Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman of Peep Show), a close friend of the Latimer family. The two embark on a hunt for the killer that sends ripples of distrust and tragedy throughout a small community.
Why would I like it? Much like True Detective, the series features two odd-couple police officers that are personally touched by the darkness of the case they are tasked with. While the show’s main question is a whodunit, the detectives’ compelling personal journeys to the answer take center stage. During the show’s run, Hardy must wrestle with the consequences of his past investigative failures, while Miller must come to terms with the devastating fact that someone in her tight-knit town is capable of murder. Unlike True Detective, the show features a fantastic set of fully developed female characters whose stories will have you on the edge of your seat.
On a scale of 1 to “making flowers,” how messed up is it? No ritual murders on this show, but certainly enough suspicious townspeople to fill up the skeeve quota (including Filch from Harry Potter and Rory from Doctor Who!).
How much of an investment is this? The first season’s mystery is solved within eight episodes.
TOP OF THE LAKE
Quick—what’s it about? Jane Campion’s New Zealand-based miniseries focuses on detective Robin Griffin’s quest to uncover the mystery surrounding pregnant twelve-year-old Tui, daughter of local drug kingpin Matt Mitcham. In returning to the town of her childhood, Griffin must battle demons of her past trauma as well as predatory men who use physical and political power to hide the town’s dark secrets.
Why would I like it? While the story stays put in one town like Broadchurch, the show is considerably darker in its use of unsettling and dangerous characters. Where True Detective was an exploration of how deeply men can fail women, Top of the Lake examines the effect of that failure on women themselves, with great success. The cast delivers excellent performances, but Mad Men’s Elizabeth Moss steals the show with her gripping portrayal of the damaged (and authentically-accented!) Griffin.
On a scale of 1 to eunuch evangelist, how messed up is it? If weirdness is your bag, on this show you’ll find mommy issues, self-flagellation, and a cult of women living out of storage containers run by Holly Hunter (who seems to be doing her best Clint Eastwood wearing old-man pants impersonation).
How much of an investment is this? The mystery is solved within seven episodes.
Where can I find this easily? NETFLIX! YAAAAAAS.
Quick—what’s it about? A hybrid of the Twilight Zone and Tales of the Unexpected, UK’s Black Mirror is remarkably different from the aforementioned shows. For one, each episode is set in a separate narrative microcosm from what came before it. While casts, settings, and time periods vary wildly, the series is connected by a central theme of techno-paranoia. Creator Charlie Brooker attempts to answer the question “if technology is like a drug—what are its side effects?”
Why would I like it? If you’re looking for a show about a character’s introspective journey, Black Mirror is not for you. But if you’re looking to make an introspective journey, then give this cerebral series a go. Like True Detective, Black Mirror engages in a complex exploration of retribution, justice, love, loss, and power. The only difference is that it’s you looking for Carcosa, rather than Rust. This show will have you questioning everything from your TV addiction to the very importance of human connection.
On a scale of 1 to scarred hillbilly on a lawnmower, how messed up is it? At this point you might be thinking “Elena, that’s all great, but why are you recommending a series without any child murder in it?” Well, fear not. At some point in this series, a child is totally murdered. I don’t want to give anything away, but let’s be frank here—this series is fucked up. But I promise it’s all purposeful and intelligently created. If you’re a little squeamish, I suggest you start with S1E3, or S2E1—they’ll mess less with head and more with your heart.
How much of an investment is this? The series is ongoing, but only six episodes have been made over the past three years.
Quick—what’s it about? Based on the Academy Award-winning film of the same name, Fargo is yet another crime drama set in a small Minnesotan town. The series has a different plot from its inspiration, with the story focusing on violent drifter Lorne Malvo’s (Billy Bob Thornton) violent influence on insurance salesman Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman). Much like the movie, Fargo features an intelligent and capable female officer; Deputy Molly Solverson (Allison Tollman) teams up with fellow officer Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks) to investigate the murderous mess Malvo and Nygaard create. The show features numerous other talented actors such as Kate Walsh, Adam Goldberg, and comedy duo Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key.
Why would I like it? The great cast, intelligent source material, and expert mix of black comedy and drama make Fargo a standout show.
On a scale of 1 to Reggie Ledoux wearing a bear mask while in dirty underwear, how messed up is it? The show explores the depth of rationalizing evil within the everyday person, much like its namesake. Expect to be unsettled.
How much of an investment is this? The show is an anthology, much like Broadchurch and True Detective. Its first season has a ten episode run. The second season is set to explore the adventures of Molly’s father in the 1970s.
Where can I find this easily? The series premiered April 15th at 10PM on FX.
Quick—what’s it about? Based on a quartet of books that fictionalized some of England’s most notorious crimes, Red Riding follows a set of recurring characters in the county of Yorkshire over the course of nine years. Helmed by three different directors, the show follows various anti-heroic figures’ wavering search for truth in a community plagued by brutal deaths, police corruption, and organized crime.
Why would I like it? Arguably one of the best parts about True Detective was its use of narrative temporal shifts. Red Riding functions much in the same chronologically fractured way—the show moves forward and backward, explaining cryptic conversations in later episodes and revealing the importance of earlier background characters through flashbacks and dissections of the past. The show is also beautifully shot in a noir-style, with each director adding his own stylistic flourish to the evolving story.
On a scale of 1 to green-eared spaghetti monster, how messed up is it? Well, it has—you guessed it!—child murder! Lots and lots of child murder (based on the 1960s “Moors murders”) and lots of lady murder (based on the 1970s Yorkshire Ripper killings).
How much of an investment is this? There are only three episodes, but they are each about an hour and forty-five minutes long.