Because sometimes the news (though important), is all a bit much
It's been a hell of a few years for women on TV and though they are the primary focus of much of our selection, the common thread of each show is that they all made for exhilarating viewing.
The brilliant psychological thriller examines the lives of two hunters – one is a serial killer (Jamie Dornan) who preys on victims in and around Belfast, Northern Ireland, and the other is a female detective (Gillian Anderson) drafted from the London Metropolitan Police to catch him. The local authorities have no suspects and no experience with cases involving sexually motivated serial killers; DSI Stella Gibson has.
She heads a task force dedicated to solving the crime spree, with a simple motto: Anyone not part of the solution is part of the problem. The killer? He's Paul Spector, a father and a husband leading a double life, as viewers learn from the outset. He's hiding in plain sight, the protagonist in a cat and mouse game that is every police officer's worst nightmare.
The Fall is available to stream on Netflix
Little Fires Everywhere
It's a story made for a series: beneath the surface of a quiet Ohio town lies a tragedy that will, in one way or another, befall the characters — the mystery lies in figuring out how they got there. Our story starts with a house fire, and key questions: Who set it, and why?
We know the house belongs to Elena and Bill Richardson, a wealthy white couple who seem to have picture-perfect success with their four teenage children, including girl-next-door Lexie and the troubled prankster Izzy, who is suspected of arson. Other residents have disappeared since the fire, including single mother Mia Warren who befriended the family, and secrets are everywhere.
Little Fires Everywhere is available to stream on Amazon Prime
The Handmaid's Tale
Atwood's dystopia in The Handmaid's Tale is a terrifying vision of oppression that's frightfully relevant to our times; set in the Republic of Gilead, formerly the United States of America. There's been a coup, and an all-powerful, Christian fundamentalist army has imposed a terrifying new order on its citizens. There's no escape and rules that must be obeyed. It's within this brutal regime that we meet Offred, a Handmaid (Elisabeth Moss), the literal property of a high-ranking commander, who must forcibly bear him children. It's so close to the bone, it's almost unbearable to watch but it is an absolutely necessary one to include. Compelling, cinematic and full of mesmerising performances, it's one of the best TV series to air in years.
The Handmaid's Tale can be streamed on All 4
Big Little Lies
First and foremost, Big Little Lies has a stellar cast: Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern and Shailene Woodley – all actresses of incredible calibre — take leading roles for the HBO limited series based on Liane Moriarty's best-selling 2014 novel of the same name. The plot revolves around three mothers living seemingly perfect lives until a dark turn of murder leads to everything unravelling, but what it also does is capture a sure truth on-screen: how obsessed we are with other people's lives. Yes, it revolves around money-obsessed, very attractive Americans, but it does what the best David Lynch films do so well — takes a hard look at the cracks beneath a seemingly perfect surface. Series 2 is equally compelling.
Big Little Lies is available to stream on NowTV
Netflix's Spanish-language series Ingobernable is vastly underrated. It has subtitles, but don't let that put you off for even a single minute — it's a cracker and at its heart is a woman to be reckoned with. It follows the First Lady of Mexico, Emilia Urquiza (played by a captivating Kate Del Castillo), after a violent fight with her president husband leaves him dead — and her the target of a national manhunt. The real drama starts when she's forced to hide from the people who apparently framed her for Diego's murder. It's intriguing and exciting from the get-go with a brilliant heroine and plot twists you'll never see coming.
Ingobernable is available to stream on Netflix
Billed as "Gossip Girl meetsthe CW's stylised teen murder mystery was a hit following a confident pilot and immediately gained a devoted fandom. Based extremely loosely on characters from Archie Comics, Riverdale begins with New York 'it girl' Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes) arriving in the titular small town, just after the mysterious death of a wealthy local teenager. The first season had ups and downs but it was distinctive, intriguing and kept everyone guessing — and it kept it up as the seasons progressed.
Riverdale is available to stream on Netflix
The highly anticipated seven-part series Keepers attempts to explain the events leading to, and following, the brutal murder of young, beloved nun, Sister Cathy Cesnick. Sister Cathy was killed in November 1969, and her body was found two months later, in early 1970. Ever since the 26-year-old nun and school teacher went missing from her apartment in Baltimore, Maryland, the details of what happened to her that night remained a mystery. This isn't just about her tragic death but the quiet quest she was on prior to it to expose the abuse of Father Joseph Maskell who taught at the school she worked in. Haunting, hard to watch, yet extraordinarily gripping, you won't be able to look away.
The Keepers is available to stream on Netflix
Much more than your standard show about infidelity, The Affair's strong cast and multi-perspective storyline makes something different out of a show which could have been bland had it simply showcased a grieving waitress, Alison, who starts an extramarital affair with Noah, an accomplished teacher and budding novelist. Each episode, you see the same version of events but from the perspective of different characters – which tips the scales up entirely. You're never quite sure who is telling the truth and it means you'll be hooked from the very start.
The Affair can be streamed on NowTV
Top of the Lake: China Girl
Robin Griffin is trying to come to terms with her past by trying to find the daughter she gave up for adoption 17 years previously. At the same time, she finds herself caught up in a new case when the body of a young woman washes up on Bondi Beach hidden in a suitcase. She then finds herself returning from New Zealand to Sydney to work with a new partner on the investigation which sees them plunge into the dark side of Sydney's sex industry. Helmed by one of the most incredible female directors working today, Jane Campion, all eyes were on this noir-tinged series, the theme of which is, she says, "whatever you try to sink rises again". It's a must-see.
Top of the Lake: China Girl can be streamed on Netflix
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