Top TV crime as the nights draw in: Giri/Haji (Japan/UK), Guilt (Scotland) & Unbelievable (USA)

There are some outstanding TV crime series on our screens at the moment – just perfect for those dark winter evenings when going out feels like too big an ask.

These three are the top of my heap at the moment.

Giri/Haji (Duty/Shame) – BBC 2 (Japan/UK) 

Giri/Haji is billed as a ‘soulful thriller set in Tokyo and London, exploring the butterfly effect of a single murder across two cities. A dark, witty, and daring examination of morality and redemption’. And that’s pretty much spot on.

I was hooked from the first episode, which sees frazzled Japanese police detective Kenzo Mori (Takehiro Hira) sent to London to find his wayward brother and stop a Yakuza war. The characterization of the main players is fantastic – including Kelly MacDonald as Detective Sarah Weitzmann and Will Sharpe as Rodney, a rent boy whose dad is from Kyoto and whose mum is from Peckham… There’s also some really inventive use of film techniques and genres, like sequences that draw on manga. Thanks to my friend Morgan for alerting me to this series – it’s a keeper!

Guilt, BBC 2 (Scotland)

Guilt is a four-part darkly comic crime caper set in Edinburgh.

On their way home from a wedding one night, brothers Max and Jake (Mark Bonnar and Jamie Sives) accidentally run over a pensioner in the dark. Rather than call for an ambulance or the police, the duo carry the body back into the man’s house and settle it into an armchair before leaving. But of course, they make mistakes… And in trying to cover up those mistakes, they end up making more…

There’s a great oddball chemistry between the brothers: short-tempered, impatient lawyer Max, and the more laid-back Jake, who runs a failing record shop. Add in the dead man’s niece Angie, who’s over from America to sort out dearly departed Uncle Walter’s estate but smells a rat, and you have a recipe for plenty of criminally good fun.

Unbelievable (Netflix / USA)

Unbelievable completely blew me away. The story of a serial rape investigation in Colorado and neighbouring states, it places the female victims squarely at the heart of its narrative, along with the tenacious and meticulous police-work of two women – Detective Karen Duvall (Merritt Wever) and Detecive Grace Rasmussen (Toni Collette).

The story unfolds along two timelines: the first is 2008, when police are called to the apartment of 18-year-old Marie Adler (an outstanding performance by Kaitlyn Dever), who says she has just been attacked and raped. The second is 2011, when Duvall and Rasmussen spot similarities between the cases they’re investigating and start to work together. The series gives us a detailed insight into how police cultures and attitudes can shape rape investigations, for good and ill, and highlights the urgent need for police cooperation across county and state lines, to stop perpetrators who deliberately commit crimes over a wide area to evade justice.

Unbelievable is based on a true caseas you can read in detail here – although I would strongly advise you to watch the series first and read the piece afterwards. Compelling, illuminating and thought-provoking.

What are you watching right now? Any recommendations?

21 thoughts on “Top TV crime as the nights draw in: Giri/Haji (Japan/UK), Guilt (Scotland) & Unbelievable (USA)

  1. Unbelievable is brilliant. Once you’ve watched it, listen to the podcast from This American Life, which is equally shattering.

    I’m downloading Guilt, and will grab Giri/Haji now, too!

    We recently watched One of Us, which was pretty good, if a bit overwrought. Unforgotten wasexcellent. And, of course, there’s the second series of The End of the Fucking World, which is absolutely on our watch-soon list.

    • Thanks, NomadUK. Will follow up on the podcast, and must catch up with Unforgotten… EOTFW is new to me, though I’ve seen the name float by a couple of times and have been intrigued. On the list!

  2. Thanks for the recs! Giri/Haji is very entertaining, I was also taken by the brilliant, somber HBO series Our Boys

  3. So glad you’ve been enjoying these, Mrs. P. I can’t wait until Guilt crosses the pond. I keep hearing great, great things about it. And you’re right about the time of year, too. It’s just right for these sorts of shows. It’s nice to see there’s excellent stuff out there; shows that people still actually care about creating high-quality drama (and not just melodrama).

    • There’s nothing nicer than snuggling down on the sofa when the rain is lashing outside 🙂

      Yes, we’re going through a very good patch at the moment – hope it continues! And hopefully Guilt will reach your shores sooner rather than later.

  4. I like Vienna Blood. I read one of the Frank Tallis the books are based on some years ago. Watching the first episode prompted me to read the third book. Good sense of time and place.

  5. Morning Mrs P. Guilt is great and really funny, and appeals to my odd sense of humour. The Brokenwood Mysteries from New Zealand on Drama is also very good. It’s not a gritty thriller in any sense of the word, more like Midsomer Murders with a comedic touch. And the latest series of Spiral, the French drama just finished on BBC4 which was very gritty. Vienna Blood that Anonymous mentioned, is almost Sherlockian if I can use a made up word 😊.

    • Hello, Kathy P! Thanks for bringing Brokenwood Mysteries to my attention – hadn’t heard of that one, but really enjoy NZ crime drama. Spiral, yes – that seems to have a lot of fans and a great female lead. I need to backtrack and start from the beginning with that one! ‘Sherlockian’ is a fine word 🙂

  6. We’re so far behind that we’re currently watching the latest series of Spiral here. Your recommendations sound great but I can’t see when I’d have time to watch them which is a shame.

    • I know that problem all to well, Stella. It’s probably impossible for us to watch everything we’d like – so many great series, so many channels, but only so many hours in the day!

  7. I am still in mourning for the end of Spiral which I’ve been watching for years but would suggest a total contrast in the shape of ‘The Mafia only kills in summer’ on Channel 4. It’s not as black as the title would suggest and is described thus ‘Coming-of-age black comedy from Italy about 10-year-old Salvatore and his family who try to avoid any involvement with the Mafia, in Palermo, Sicily, in the 1970s’

  8. I am watching Craith on S4C, via I-player, with subtitles as I am not a Welsh speaker! The first series of Hidden was the best thing I had seen in a long time, series two was initially quite slow but is gathering pace. There are a number of deeply unpleasant young people involved. Promising. Apparently the English language version will be screened next year.

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