Crime series have the ability to snag human interest. They tap into emotional appeal while giving a vicarious look at the seedy underbelly ranging from true detective series to hard-boiled fiction. What first originated as a literary trope evolved to apply itself across a variety of media, and with it, brought about a refreshed approach to time-worn themes. Naturally, crime dramas leached onto television and streaming platforms. Original content flooded the airwaves and provided an over-saturation of crime-inspired programming. The rise in popularity, in turn, resulted in a surge in demand.
Peaky Blinders became one of Netflix’s most prized in-house crime series following its 2013 release. Doubling as a period piece, this British drama trails after the events of the Great War and ties into the conversation about the nation’s economic cataclysm. The titular gang, Peaky Blinders, sits at the heart of the series as they’s the most powerful crime syndicate at the time. Thomas Shelby (Cillian Murphy) and his family are determined to see themselves thrive and survive as the United Kingdom takes a new shape after the war. The series may be approaching its sixth and final season, though there are similar shows that keep the spirit of Peaky Blinders alive.
6 Breaking Bad
Breaking Bad keeps up with the daily life of mild-mannered high school chemistry teacher Walter White (Bryan Cranston) with an even bigger secret: his methamphetamine business. He turns to a life of crime after coming to the realization that he simply cannot survive on a teacher’s salary alone can not support his struggling family. Juggling the reality of a disabled teenage son, a pregnant wife, and a cancer diagnosis, White risks his reputation and his well-being to cook the illegal stimulant drug. Breaking Bad has been proclaimed as one of “the best shows of all time” as it presents a commentary on the American healthcare system and education system through a more extreme perspective.
After moving from Chicago, Ill., To the Ozarks, financial adviser Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) and his family adjust to their new life in the mountains. In Ozark, Byrde soon finds trouble as a money-laundering scheme goes awry, threatening to disrupt the peace that was once kept in mind for his family. The financial planner is asked to pay off his debts to a Mexican drug lord in exchange for the safety of his wife and their two children. The payments that he must keep up ultimately endangers Byrde’s stability, directly targeting the wellbeing of his fate. The financial planner who sought out the best for his family through their move is now responsible for keeping them connected as his life spirals away from him.
4 Boardwalk Empire
Boardwalk Empire clashes with the Prohibition-era head-on as Atlantic City looks past any rules set in stone. Town treasurer Enoch “Lucky” Thompson dually lives as a politician as he does gangster, keeping the coastal New Jersey town under his thumb. He, in the company of his brother Elias, keep watching over the city as they keep their eye on ward bosses that may pose themselves as a threat. Thompson finds himself among the ranks of some of the top gangsters, running alongside the lines of Al Capone while dealing out illegal alcohol. His illegal activity remains undisrupted until his former protégé poses a greater threat.
In Taboo, adventurer James Delaney (Tom Hardy) defies the rumors of his death as he inherits his father’s empire after returning from Africa to London. Upon his return, he is faced with fending off new enemies who are determined to make his return to civilization as troubled as possible. They are insistent on dethroning the Delaney shipping empire that directly wars against a similar corporation in East India. In the midst of his return to the United Kingdom is driven to avenge his father’s death. He pulls at the unraveling of death, conspiracy, bloodshed, and betrayal as he dodges a death sentence of his own.
2 Penny Dreadful
Lurking in the shaded corners of Victorian London, the retelling of classic literary horror tales unfold as creatures dominate the city in Penny Dreadful. Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) seeks out vengeance for his daughter’s death and will unwaveringly pay the price in order to mend her past. He joins forces with clairvoyant Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) as he hunts down the monsters of London while locating his daughter.
1 Better Call Saul
This direct Breaking Bad spin-off follows ace attorney Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) before he was defending the meth-making Walter White in court. The series presents Goodman in a new light as he lives as Jimmy McGrill, taking on small-scale cases while attempting to grow his reputation as a lawyer. He’s an underdog that is determined to give voices to the voiceless and defend the meek, even if his ambitious spirit and the self-aware moral code happen to grate against each other. Much like its companion series, Better Call Saul has been awarded high praise and critical accolades.
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