Crime dramas often center around and unintentionally create icons out of male serial killers and their crimes. La Mante flips this from the outset by focusing on Jeanne Deber, an infamous murderer who offerers to collaborate with the police to help solve a series of killings inspired by her own from decades before. Known as The Mantis, Deber only has one stipulation: that she gets to work alongside her son who’s severed all ties with her after her crimes. La Mante is a fantastically satisfying, chilling, and engaging thriller. This miniseries will have you hooked from the first episode ’til the last.
The Chalet is about as far from our first entry as you can get. This pulpy miniseries is essentially a slasher film set over six episodes, and from the ridiculously outlandish ending of the first episode, you’re in for a joyride. When a group of old friends return to the small village where they grew up–or in some cases spent summers–they’re trapped by an accident and quickly begin to get killed off one by one. Falling somewhere between And Then There Were None and I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Chalet is silly and often pretty scary.
This Belgian offering is both brutal and beautiful. The Break centers around a broken police officer returning to his small hometown only to get drawn into a gruesome murder case that exposes the dark underside of the picturesque setting. So far, so Agatha Christie. But where The Break really excels is atmosphere, not to mention using an original narrative device which sees the ghost of the murder victim appear to interact with the village’s inhabitants at the opening of each episode. Though arguably uneven, this series excels at subverting your expectations and revels in uncovering the dark truths behind suburban front doors.
Anna Friel is a stone cold British television icon, so this complex leading role is perfect for her. Playing the titular Marcella, Friel is a frenetic character who subverts the male troubled cop trope. We meet Marcella just as her husband has left her, taking her two children with him, while a dark figure from the detective’s past reemerges. Marcella stands out as a show that allows its central strong female character to have flaws. One of the overarching mysteries is a series of blackouts that Friel’s character suffers, leading her to worry that perhaps she’s involved in the new spate of murders that seem worryingly familiar.
Stellan Skarsgård is a powerhouse in this BBC supernatural serial which somehow manages to stay surprisingly grounded despite the hook: Skarsgård’s River can see dead people. Though this sounds like an exceedingly corny premise, it actually works incredibly well and plays with the “fridged woman” trope. Although River is driven by the death of his former partner, her ghost actually appears frequently as a confidante and friend. Jackie isn’t the only spirit River communicates with and his detective skills are often aided by the dead, whether it’s an 1800s serial killer or the latest victim of a contemporary crime. Skarsgård’s acting chops make this a must-see oddity.
Tabula Rasa is a powerful and frightening mystery that has you guessing from the moment you start to watch. Mie is a woman locked in a psychiatric institution after a calamitous car accident that left her with retrograde amnesia. Oh, and she’s also embroiled in a missing persons case. Throughout the nine episode series we join Mie as she tries to regain her memories and solve the mystery that brought her to her current state of being. Show creator Veerle Baetens stars in this taught thriller that utilizes stylish direction to showcase the instability of our protagonist’s mind and memories.
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Images: BBC, TF1, Eén TV, France 2