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James Spader stars as the renegade Navy officer Raymond Reddington (or “Red”, for short) who turned fugitive two decades prior to the series setting, even making it onto the ’10 Most Wanted’ list, only to hand himself in to the authorities in Washington D.C.
The catch? Red has spent his years in criminal exile compiling a list of the most dangerous terrorists in the world, the majority of which are so cunning that the FBI does not even know of their existence. Red is willing to trade this information for his own immunity from prosecution – and extended communication with a rookie female detective, Elizabeth Keen.
The unique idea of having each season revolve around a different set of characters in a different setting, and, crucially with different leading actors, makes ‘True Detective’ one of the most innovative series like ‘Dexter’ on this list, or indeed one of the most innovative series in recent memory.
With the second season about to premiere, it’s unclear just how fucked up the new protagonists, played by Vince Vaughn and Colin Farrell, will be; but if their predecessors (played by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson) are anything to go by, these detectives will also be truly unhinged.
Idris Elba carries this tightly-wound detective thriller series as John Luther, the unconventional maverick who might not always play by the book, but damn sure gets results. Elba is hugely compelling as the sympathetic but sometimes unlawful detective, while an excellent supporting cast and an intriguing script make for TV that is very hard to turn off.
Though not an outright killer like ‘Dexter’, the series pilot begins with Luther’s questionable role in the inducement of a coma of a prime suspect in one of his cases.
This French detective series, originally entitled Engrenages, could most accurately be translated as “a spiral of violence”, or perhaps “getting caught up in the spiral”. It was put on hiatus after its first season in 2005, but since has enjoyed a popular worldwide resurgence, with a new season every two years and exportation to more than 70 countries.
It focuses on a team of French law enforcers, ranging from a nonconformist police captain and her two subordinates to a judge and various magistrates. Though none are quite as psychotic as Dexter, all of them are dysfunctional in one way or another, whether it be drug abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder or an inability to form personal relationships.
Okay, so ‘Death Note’ is a Japanese anime series adapted from a graphic novel-style manga. Comparisons with ‘Dexter’ might not be immediately forthcoming – but bear with me. Even if you’ve never watched anime before or hadn’t been aware of an interest in the format, you should give ‘Death Note’ a go, especially if you like ‘Dexter’.
Why? Its premise is fascinating, that’s why. Imagine an ordinary citizen (a gifted university student, say) had the power to kill indiscriminately, inducing death in any manner he chose, simply by writing down the name of his intended victim in a magical journal he has encountered called the ‘Death Note’. Sound ridiculous? Perhaps it is, a little bit; especially when you factor in the shinigamis… but it’s also bloody brilliant.