Top 10 TV Crime Couples

Julie Corbin, author of WHAT GOES AROUND, selects her favourite TV crime couples.

Posted on April 6, 2017 in Guest Author
Tags: Author Content, TV Crime

There’s no shortage of great crime dramas on TV these days. Quality dramas that grip, terrify, and surprise us. They hold our attention, spark emotions and are talking points when we get together with friends.

Writers have stories to tell, and developing the plot through the eyes of two main characters is a well-trodden path but that doesn’t mean these characters are generic or stereotypical.

The definition of a couple is everything from ‘two people sharing their lives’ to ‘a system of opposing forces’. The best couples unite and conflict, deliver a push-pull of challenge and support.

My current favourite TV crime couples:

1) Unforgotten, created by Chris Lang. Series two aired on ITV earlier this year. It stars Nicola Walker as DCI Cassie Stuart and Sanjeev Bhaskar as DS Sunil ‘Sunny’ Khan. As the title suggests, the team investigate cases where the trail has long gone cold. Cassie and Sunny’s interaction feels real, humorous, both supportive and at times critical. The plot is complex and it takes them working together with dogged persistence, talking through their suspicions and listening to each other to solve the puzzle just before the viewer does.

2) Scott and Bailey, created by the talented Sally Wainright and Diane Taylor. Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp play police officers Rachel Bailey and Janet Scott. Bailey is young, free and single; she takes risks and speaks her mind. Scott is motherly, thoughtful, principled. They’re more than just work mates – they’re friends, confidantes. They have each others backs. Their friendship withstands betrayals and slights because despite their differences, they get each other. There is a generosity in their relationship that I think is particular to female friendships.

3) True Detective, season one, created by Nic Pizzolato. Filmed in Louisiana over a three-month period, the landscapes are vast, often simultaneously bleak and beautiful. Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) are two detectives from wildly different backgrounds and viewpoints who are brought together to solve a murder. The action is non-linear as they recall the case and what happened subsequently. The murders are gruesome – I shy away from those details! – but the dialogue is electric as Cohle talks with an almost casual, philosophical pessimism and Hart counters with hope.

4) Follow the Money, season two, created by Jeppe Gram, is a Danish financial crime thriller and the first of my choices in a European language with subtitles. Mads and Alf work in the fraud department in Copenhagen and investigate businesses suspected of law-breaking. It should be boring but it isn’t. The plotting is layered, and there is the push-pull of risk and reward as Mads is more inclined to act on instinct, Alf with due process.

5) Ripper Street, written by Richard Warlow, is set in Whitechapel in 1889. Season one begins six months after the infamous Jack the Ripper murders. It could be argued that this series relies on more than a crime couple but I feel that lying the heart of the series is the working relationship between DI Edmund Reid (Matthew Macfadyen) and DS Bennett Drake (Jerome Flynn). Reid strives to live on, despite tragedy in his past. In a need to bring order to his world he painstakingly catalogues descriptions of suspects and crimes. Drake falls in love with a prostitute and lives in hope of them marrying one day. Both men work together to solve the often brutal crimes that take place in the murky backstreets of Whitechapel. They don’t always agree, nor do they understand each others positions, but there is always mutual respect.

6) Broadchurch, created by Chris Chibnall, is back on our screens. Alec Hardy (David Tenant) is brooding and morose, Ellie Miller (Olivia Coleman) is the perfect antidote to his dour pessimism, her face able to express every tiny shift on the empathy barometer. The coastal cliff-top scenery and happy blue skies contrast perfectly with the subject matter. In series three, Hardy and Miller are investigating a brutal rape. And as they slowly piece the evidence together, their home lives begin to implode; Miller is dealing with her son’s worrying behavior and Hardy with his daughter’s moods and what might lie beneath. Nothing is straightforward. No easy fixes. Just truth and compassion and a smattering of humour to lighten the load.

7) The Americans, created by Joe Weisberg, a former CIA officer. This is not a crime drama as such but a period drama set in the 1980s, during the Cold War. Elizabeth and Phillip Jennings (Kerri Russell and Matthew Rhys) are a married couple with two children. They are deep-cover, Soviet KGB officers who blend perfectly in their Washington DC suburb. They didn’t marry for love but they grow to love one another. They care deeply for their children. They murder, they have sex with people they want information from, they are deceitful, duplicitous and downright cruel. Their internal conflict is very well portrayed. And they can only be honest with each other. But are they? I was gripped from season one and continue to be gripped as season five is close to airing.

8) Homeland, developed by Howard Gordon, is described as a crime thriller. Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) works for the CIA. Her boss is Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin). We’re on season six now and I wouldn’t know where to start describing what it’s about. Suffice to say – a lot happens. The character development over the seasons is intense. Carrie is taken to hell and back on numerous occasions. The plotting is intricate, sometimes patchy, but I always return for more because of Carrie and Saul. They are survivors. Patriots. At times they are pitted against each other but they always end up falling back on each others talents. They have committed too many wrongs and survived against all the odds. They have a co-dependency that feels serious and compassionate.

9) Spiral is a French crime and legal drama created by Alexandra Clert. Police Captain Laure Berthaud and her lieutenant Gilou are constants throughout the seasons. Laure is spiky, driven and emotionally dismissive. Gilou is steady, loyal and trustworthy. He makes mistakes and so does she. Sometimes they are careless of each other but as with the best couples, when it matters, they have each others backs. Highly recommended.

10) The Bridge, created by Hans Rosenfeldt, is a Danish/Swedish thriller. A body is found on the Oresund Bridge, exactly halfway between Denmark and Sweden, which necessitates a joint investigation with both jurisdictions. Danish Martin Rhode and Swedish Saga Norensen form a close working relationship. Martin has a family, is empathetic and good with people. Saga lives alone, has casual sex and poor social skills. She is honest and forthright whereas Martin is inclined to spare other people’s feelings. The physical bridge between the two countries is a reminder of their need to meet in the middle. And they do. She listens to him; he listens to her. Together they make a difference.

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