While the critically acclaimed House of Cards is deservedly getting all the attention these days as one of the hottest shows on the small screen, Netflix viewers should be mindful that there are also any number of other ‘dark’ shows worth discovering on the Netflix site. Netflix audiences do not have to settle for yet another re-run of Law and Order when they can find lots that is new, exciting and fresh. If viewers take the time to look, they will discover a wealth of first-rate shows, particularly from Europe, that are dark, edgy, even shocking, with as may twists and turns as House of Cards might offer. House of Cards is not the only dark Netflix offering.
In particular, Netflix is home to some exciting European television series in the drama-detective genre, particularly tense detective series with as many frightful House of Cards or Breaking Bad vibes as they can handle. Most often, these shows have never been seen on U.S. television, network, cable or otherwise. Some are relatively new, while others have been on European television for years and have built up hordes of loyal fans. A sprinkling of the British produced shows have been seen once or twice only on PBS.
A great case in point is Spiral a.k.a. Engrenages from French television. Centered in Paris, this dark, on edge series looks over the shoulder of an elite squad that tracks down murderers and terrorists in the French capital. Certainly “binge worthy,” this series, which has almost documentary style cinematography, has close to 40 episodes available on Netflix. Each episode is blood pressure inducing and ends with a cliff hanger. Starting in 2005, the show is a major hit in Europe. It was nominated for an International Emmy Award in 2011 for best drama series. American audiences won’t recognize the actors but they are all first-rate. Some critics hail it as the best police investigation series ever.
Spiral, a.k.a. Engrenages continues to be made with another season set to debut soon. A season six has also been green lighted. Interestingly, the series shoots every other year but may switch to a yearly production schedule. The only caveat is that viewers have to read English subtitles.
Another sinister series is The Fall, starring former X–Files star Gillian Anderson. Season One consists of five episodes and is currently available on Netflix.
The Fall is a edge of your seat, psychological thriller that is both disturbing and uneasy. The story focuses on two adversaries, the hunter detective Anderson, and the hunter serial killer. It spends equal time with each of these characters with uncanny intimacy. The series takes place in Belfast, Northern Ireland and has moody, atmospheric cinematography. Season Two is in production and should be available later in the year from Netflix.
Another series worth checking into is Sweden’s Annika Bengtzon Crime Reporter. The protagonist in this Swedish series is a no-nonsense newspaper reporter who assists the police in solving crimes. There are six episodes available and each could work as a stand alone movie. The stories are based on the novels of Lisa Marklund.
Then there is Wallander. No, not the PBS produced series about the famous Swedish detective Kurt Wallander. This is the home-grown series starring popular Nordic star Krister Henriksson as Wallander and has more than 32 episodes available. It is a giant hit in Europe.
Another show is from Australian television called Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries about a lady sleuth in the Melbourne, Australia of the 1920s. Some 26 episodes are available. It’s in a class by itself production wise.
The reality is that there are so many first-rate offerings now on Netflix in every genre that many viewers do not know about that it is almost impossible to catalog them in one sitting. Other highly touted shows covering a variety of genres inlclude The Secret Circle, The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret, Blackadder, Call the Midwife, Alphas, Luther, Torchwood, Dr. Who, and Sherlock. There are also some Netflix original shows like the spooky Hemlock Grove.
When one starts to watch these far-flung shows, Netflix “smart” agents will suggest similar shows, leading the viewer to yet more undiscovered territory.
When viewers finish watching all of the new House of Cards episodes and go into withdrawal, the way viewers did after Breaking Bad, they should realize that there is a lot more available they will probably like. House of Cards is not the only dark or hot show on Netflix.
By Jim McCullaugh