If like me, there is a big, dystopian, handmaid-sized void in your life after finishing watching The Handmaid’s Tale (one of the most critically acclaimed and excellent TV series of recent years) – then you’re probably in need of your next twisted fix. But what made the television adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s classic 1985 novel so gripping? Perhaps its very real themes of female oppression and mistreatment, perhaps its gruesome depiction of the need for human survival, or even the sadistic thrill of seeing the horrors the future could hold for us. Undoubtedly, though, the secret to the Handmaid’s Tale’s binge-worthiness is its deliciously dark appeal; so here are 8 more can’t-look-away dark TV shows you are sure to get hooked on as the colder months creep in…
1. Sharp Objects
HBO’s mini-series adaptation of the book written by Gillian Flynn (author of Gone Girl, later adapted into 2012’s acclaimed psycho-noir thriller film), Sharp Objects is an atmospheric psychological thriller starring Amy Adams, which debuted in the UK on Sky Atlantic earlier this summer. Camille Preaker is a troubled New York reporter who is sent to investigate two child murders in her claustrophobic hometown, where she becomes reluctantly reacquainted with her overbearing mother, Adora, and mysterious new step-sister, Amma. While seeking the truth about what really happened in Windgap, though – and suspecting that the towns residents aren’t all they seem – Camille soon begins to realise that things might be closer to home than she could’ve ever imagined… This is definitely one of the best dark TV shows.
2. The Sinner
An ordinary suburban mother is enjoying a day on the beach with her husband and her little boy one sunny afternoon when a familiar song suddenly triggers something horrific in her mind. Without thinking, she rushes across the sand and brutally murders an unsuspecting teenager with the knife she was using to cut a pear for her toddler just minutes before. What follows is a desperate search for the truth about why Cora did what she did that day, and there are some things in the past which should not be revisited…sound dark enough for you? The Sinner, starring Jessica Alba, quickly became an international favourite last year as a devilish thriller where things only seem to become more mysterious, leaving you saying “just one more” after each and every episode. Following its success, The Sinner is also set to return to the UK with its second series this fall, so you’d better catch up, pronto!
3. Killing Eve
If black comedy is more your thing, then BBC Three’s new experimental drama Killing Eve might just be enough to grip you while giving you a kick or two at the same time. Killing Eve follows an intelligent but bored M15 agent, Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh, previously seen in Grey’s Anatomy), who becomes unwittingly embroiled in the escapades of a dangerous sociopath and assassin-for-hire, Villanelle (Jodie Comer, previously seen in Doctor Foster). As Villanelle becomes increasingly aware of Eve’s personal desire to bring her to justice, the chase is on, and the chemistry between the two women makes for a thrilling TV drama which is as fun as it is dark.
Often, police crime dramas can prove just as dark and twisted as dystopian thrillers like The Handmaid’s Tale; and BBC’s Marcella (which aired its second season earlier this year) is surely no exception. Anna Friel stars as D.S. Marcella Backland, a detective with a difficult personal life and hidden demons of her own, who is sent to investigate the brutal and bizarre work of some of the most deranged killers around. As a British take on the popular ‘Nordic noir’ style thriller, Marcella is both grisly and painfully real – and often the audience feels trauma and terror with as much emotional intensity as Marcella herself…this is not one of the dark TV shows to be missed.
5. Black Mirror
If The Handmaid’s Tale’s portrayal of a terrifying, yet entirely possible, dystopian future is what really grabbed your attention, then why not delve into Charlie Brooker’s sci-fi anthology of dystopian horror simply called Black Mirror. Each feature-length episode in the shows’ three series (so far) explore a different element of humanities tenuous relationship with modern technology, often playing on fears you didn’t even know you had. Take season three’s ‘Nosedive’, for example, which explores a reality in which people are given a rating using mobile technology. The lower your rating, the less money, friends, and privilege you have access to… and insecure people-pleaser Lacie discovers that it’s far easier to fall from grace than she once thought. Believe me, some of these dark timelines will surely keep you up at night. This is seriously one of the best dark TV shows.
6. The Tunnel
Another crime drama with a deliciously dark twist, The Tunnel (now in its third season) begins when a body of a politician is discovered strategically placed on the English/French border in the Channel Tunnel – in two separate halves. Undecided on how to handle the investigation, the British and French police forces must now work together against the clock as their killer, menacingly named the ‘truth terrorist’, prepares to strike again. This cross-channel team also brings together the unlikely pairing of determined English detective Karl Roebuck and apathetic and unusual French detective Elise Wassermann, who find themselves falling deeper into a web of clues and potential dangers. This one’s a real nail-biter.
7. The Kettering Incident
Dr. Anna Macy causes a stir when she returns to her childhood town of Kettering for the first time since she saw her best friend mysteriously disappear while cycling alongside her in the forbidden forests. A bizarre sense of unease now hangs over the town, and when a second girl suddenly goes missing, Anna is forced to face the reality of what really happened that night all those years ago. An Australian mystery-drama, The Kettering Incident cleverly combines drama with fantasy; as we learn that Anna recalls seeing strange lights in the sky that fateful night, it seems increasingly possible that there is more to Kettering than first meets the eye…
8. Penny Dreadful
Perhaps the most ‘out-there’ option in the mix, Penny Dreadful often borders on gothic horror in its portrayal of 19th Century Britain which is carefully interwoven with the sensational subject matter of the Victorian ‘penny dreadful’. Breathing new life into classic characters of myth and legend – such as Dracula, Van Helsing, Frankenstein, and Dorian Gray – Penny Dreadful is both deliciously dark and beautifully bloody. With an ever-growing sense of dread and unfolding mystery, this frightening retelling of folklore, film, and literature offers a ghoulish alternate reality which is best experienced from the comfort of your own home (and often from behind a pillow). This is one of the best dark TV shows you can watch!