There are few things I enjoy more than a good box set and as we’ve just finished watching Prime Suspect, I thought I’d share five of my fave female-led policey dramaz. Because kickarse policewomen are basically my absolute favourite.
So in no particular order, here are five series I recommend you get watching as the rain lashes at the windows and the outside world feels like WAY too much effort. Winter is made for duvets and DVDs, after all.
(They’d also make great Christmas presents! Can you tell I feel guilty for not having written any gift guides?!)
I’m still annoyed that Sarah Lancashire didn’t win the BAFTA for her undeniably sensational performance as Catherine Cawood, she was genuinely phenomenal in this series.
Set in Yorkshire and brutally realistic, Happy Valley couldn’t be further away from some of the more popular cop shows that Hollywood churn out. It’s dark and actually quite exhausting to watch in parts (there are some really horrible scenes) but it’s ultimately one of the most thrilling series I’ve ever watched and has all the grit, danger and drama you want from a police series. And it’s gimmick-free, which is refreshing.
I want to tell you what it’s about, but I think I enjoyed it so much because I knew NOTHING about it when I watched the first episode. Let’s just say it starts by being about a kidnap plot gone wrong but it ends up being a much darker tale of revenge.
It was originally broadcast on BBC1 in early 2014 and it passed me by completely (I think I saw the name and assumed it was some sort of comedy – it really isn’t) but I bought it on DVD after watching the first episode on a plane. The first series is six episodes long and a second series is confirmed for 2016 so HURRY UP.
You can buy it on DVD for £7 here.
Again, I didn’t see this when it was first broadcast on BBC in 2013 and 2014 (there have been two series and a third is confirmed) but we watched it on DVD this summer and became fully hooked, especially thanks to the plentiful one-liners that make you want to shout “YES STELLA YOU QUEEN”.
Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson) is sent by the Met to help with a murder investigation in Belfast. The serial killer she’s there to help catch – Paul Spector – is played by none other than JAMIE DORNAN and it’s a brilliant game of cat and mouse which spans across two series. The character of Stella Gibson is impossibly brilliant (fierce feminists FTW) and I always like a story where the viewer knows exactly who the killer is from the opening scenes. There’s no “trying to work it out” with The Fall, just the suspense of whether or not the police will ever be able to catch him.
Every role is played brilliantly (I’m a massive fan of Spector’s daughter) and I am SO pleased there’ll be a third series. Oh and look out for Stella’s sensational silk shirt collection.
Gillian Anderson for president please.
You can buy series 1 and 2 as a box set for £15.30 here.
A big thank you to my parents for getting me into The Killing, another show I was late to the party on. I am slightly obsessed with Detective Sarah Lund (played by Sofie Gråbøl) and whilst I’ve not seen the US remake, I can’t imagine it’s a patch on the Danish original I’m talking about here.
There are three standalone series and I’ve not watched the third yet, but the first two are brilliant. I definitely preferred the first series as I loved the sub-plots but both are great.
The first series centres around the murder of 19-year-old student Nanna Birk Larsen, with all sorts of people becoming suspects over the course of the series including her friends, teachers, family, lovers and – awesomely for the story as you’ll see when you watch it – HIGH FLYING POLITICIANS.
There are so many rich stories interweaving in this series that it’s hard to pinpoint favourite bits, but I love the relationship between Lund and Meyer and, although it’s harrowing to watch, I like that the series focuses so much on the Birk Larsen family’s grief in the weeks after Nanna’s death. There aren’t many shows I can think of where this aspect is examined so thoroughly, but it makes the whole show that much more poignant.
The second series focuses on a string of murders within the military so there’s still a fantastic political edge and the third series (which I’ve not seen) has murders, kidnaps and staged suicides set against the backgrop of the global financial crisis.
If you like your political dramas as much as your crime thrillers, you need to watch The Killing. Sarah Lund is a brilliantly crafted character, expertly portrayed.
You can buy series 1-3 as a DVD box set for £22.99 here.
So after being on my high horse about the fact you MUST watch the Danish version of The Killing, I am embarrassed to say I am now going to recommend the British/French remake of The Bridge…aka The Tunnel.
Like Happy Valley, I discovered The Tunnel on a plane and I didn’t realise it was an adaptation of The Bridge, which I’m still yet to see but it’s firmly on my MUST WATCH IMMEDIATELY list. But my parents have seen The Bridge *and* The Tunnel *AND* the US remake of The Bridge (yep, they’ve literally watched all three) and they claim the stories are different enough (or at least entertaining enough) to warrant all three series being watched.
But back to The Tunnel! The series opens with the body of a French politician found in the Channel Tunnel and, cleverly, it’s been placed at the half way point so that half the body is on British soil and the other half on French soil. British and French murder detectives therefore have to work together…and they soon realise they have a serial killer on their hands who is targeting victims on both sides of the Channel.
The killer is sophisticated and the killings are elaborate (to say the least) with the intention of highlighting five ‘truths’ about our morally bankrupt society. Or, in other words, this series has everything you could ever possibly want from a TV show.
Whilst the other four shows in this post have a definite female lead, the investigations in The Tunnel are led jointly by a British man (Stephen Dillane) and a French woman (Clémence Poésy) but I am including it here anyway because Poésy’s character Elise is still very much a lead role. There’s just also a lead man. I’m sure you’ll forgive me when you watch it either way as Elise might just be one of my favourite female characters *ever*. She is sensational.
A second series focussing on the crash of an airliner into – you guessed it – the English Channel, is set to air early next year.
You can buy the first series on DVD for £11.10 here.
I never saw Prime Suspect growing up, but I’ve watched all seven Prime Suspects over the past couple of months. The first Prime Suspect aired way back in 1991 (srsly, it’s worth watching just for the nostalgia) and the last one aired in 2006, so I’m well aware I’m hardly the first to say “hey have you heard of Jane Tennison? She’s a great policewoman maybe check her out”. THAT BEING SAID, if you’re my age there’s a chance you never watched Prime Suspect and in that case I feel like it’s my duty to make you rectify that.
You must watch Prime Suspect.
Each Prime Suspect examines a different murder case but they all have Jane Tennison (Helen Mirren) at the helm and it’s as much about Jane as it is anything else. As one of the first female Detective Chief Inspectors in the Met, she’s having to deal with a lot more than just horrible ol’ murderers.
Having watched all seven cases (they’re not really long enough to be called series, more like two part/three part dramas) some are definitely stronger than others, but Helen Mirren’s performance as Jane Tennison is never short of mesmerising. It’s Helen Mirren for god’s sake, it was always going to be fantastic, but Jane Tennison really is a marvellous character and the way each story deals with sexism is quite something, especially in the earlier series when it (sadly) must have been quite ground breaking in terms of storylines. It’s a shame really to think that Stella Gibson in The Fall is still dealing with the issues Jane Tennison deals with in Prime Suspect in 1991, but THERE YOU HAVE IT.
I have to apologise to all the other policewomen in this post but Tennison trumps them all. We could all be a bit more Tennison. (Except for, errrrr, the alcoholism and crushing loneliness).
Amazingly you can get all seven Prime Suspects as a DVD box set for £15.20 here. It might be on Sky OnDemand or ITV Player too, but this was the box set I bought in August.
Are there any other amazing female led police series I’ve missed?
TELL ME IF SO BECAUSE I NEED MORE THINGS TO WATCH! x