While movies like Knives Out have heightened the public’s interest in the murder mystery genre as of late, television series of the same genre have yet to garner this same level of intrigue despite challenging preconceived notions about what crime-centric shows ought to encompass.
Since murder mystery series need to expound a critical deal of information toward the end of each season in order to keep viewers enthralled, it is crucial for these series to continue raising the stakes season after season. As a result, these shows regularly breathe fresh life into a genre that can often come across as contrived and formulaic.
10 Riverdale’s Early Seasons Pushed The Boundaries Of The Murder Mystery Genre
Despite receiving plenty of hate over the years, Riverdale‘s first season effortlessly combined the epic highs and lows of high school football with the unnerving mystery of who killed Jason Blossom. As a show that has become infamous for continuously attempting to jump the shark, Riverdale has taken plenty of risks throughout its six seasons.
One twist that began to change how viewers thought of the show was the reveal of Betty Cooper’s father being the homicidal Black Hood, the main antagonist of Season 2. While Riverdale is by no means the best mystery series out there, it undeniably broke boundaries and was unafraid to introduce elements that had no logical place in the show, which kept fans on their toes.
9 One Of Us Is Lying Keeps Viewers Guessing Until The Very End
Often described as Pretty Little Liars meets The Breakfast Club, One of Us Is Lying diverges from the former in that only four of the five students in detention live to tell the tale. While it is initially believed that the death of gossip blogger Simon was the result of an allergic reaction, an anonymous confession made by the killer informs viewers that Simon’s death was no accident.
Throughout the series, viewers learn more about each of the four students in detention, who are considered the prime suspects for Simon’s murder. While the Peacock series and the book it is based on have different killers, the TV adaptation gracefully convinces viewers that one person is guilty and makes them question their convictions in the very next episode.
8 Pretty Little Liars Paved The Way For Teen Drama Thrillers
Pretty Little Liars follows a once-close clique of five high school girls that falls apart after the mysterious disappearance of its leader, Alison. A year after Alison’s disappearance, the remnants of the clique are reunited by a malignant force (“A”) who threatens to expose their deepest, darkest secrets.
While the clique first believes “A” is none other than Alison, her body is discovered soon after. In addition to providing viewers with countless memorable moments, from the first ominous yet sassy message “A” sends to the clique to Adam Lambert’s unexpected cameo, the show proved that teen dramas can mesh incredibly well with nerve-racking murder mysteries.
7 Prodigal Son Is A Must-Watch For Anyone Who Loves Murder Documentaries
One show that is perfect for anyone who is captivated by Netflix’s many murder documentaries and docuseries is Prodigal Son. The series follows criminal psychologist Malcolm Bright as he grapples with the case of a copycat killer of “the Surgeon”—an infamous serial killer who ended up being none other than Bright’s own father.
In order to understand how this copycat killer operates, Bright must work alongside his father, who committed similar crimes over a decade ago—despite any resurfacing traumas that ensue. Although the show was canceled after its second season due to low viewership, Prodigal Son has since garnered a considerable following and is on its way to becoming a modern cult classic.
6 Elite Gives Viewers A Glimpse Into The Psyche Of Overly Ambitious Teens
Another series that proves how well teen dramas can mesh with the murder mystery genre is Netflix’s Spanish drama Elite. The series opens with three friends from modest backgrounds receiving scholarships to Las Encinas, the most elite boarding school in Spain, after their former school collapsed.
While the three transfer students are immediately bullied by their wealthy classmates, the show ironically begins to come to life after the murder of Marina, a student at Las Encinas who was in a love triangle with Samuel (one of the transfer students) and Nano ( Samuel’s rebellious older brother) before her death, and the mysterious circumstances of her death.
5 Veronica Mars Was An Instant Cult Classic
One series that garnered a large enough cult following for it to be revived for a fourth season after a 12-year hiatus was Veronica Mars. The show follows its eponymous protagonist as she works as a private investigator under the guidance of her detective father.
Although her biggest problems were once mundane in nature, Veronica’s life turns upside down after the murder of her best friend Lilly. From there, tragedy continues to strike and Veronica is forced to choose between her father, who had fallen from grace after pinning the murder on Lilly’s father, and her stuck-up friends. After siding with her father, the Marses start their own private investigation agency and attempt to restore order to the small town of Neptune.
4 How To Get Away With Murder Is A Mainstay Within The Genre
How to Get Away with Murder evocatively combines the legal drama and murder mystery genres. In addition to Viola Davis’ stellar portrayal of criminal defense attorney Annalize Keating, the show was lauded by fans for its ability to endear viewers to “The Keating 5,” five first-year students who Keating selected to intern at her law firm.
The students soon learn that being part of The Keating 5 is no walk in the park as they work alongside their professor on murder cases that threaten their own safety. Since its debut in 2014, How to Get Away with Murder has become known for its ominous end-of-episode sequences that gradually reveal more information regarding each season’s killer.
3 Big Little Lies Kept Even The Victim’s Identity A Secret
In most murder mystery series, viewers remain on the edge of their seats as they attempt to figure out who the killer is. However, Big Little Lies provides a fresh take on the genre by leaving both the killer and their victim a mystery until the Season 1 finale.
While the viewer is clued into the victim’s cause of death, the fact that the victim is not immediately revealed sets Big Little Lies separate. Even though many were skeptical of whether the series’ second season would live up to its first, Big Little Lies Season 2 achieved this in droves and left fans desperately hoping that the ground-breaking mystery series had plans for a third season.
2 Sherlock Quickly Became Unforgettable For All The Right Reasons
The second the murder mystery genre is mentioned, it is practically impossible to overlook the British crime drama Sherlock—and for good reason. Among many other things, the series has become notable for featuring the endearing dynamic between Sherlock Holmes and his right-hand man, John Watson.
Sherlock has become iconic in its own right as a show that possesses multiple distinct elements, from Sherlock entering his impenetrable mind palace to the precise manner in which Sherlock faked his death in the Series 2 finale. While many viewers are initially drawn in by Sherlock‘s unmatched, cunning wit, they stay for the show’s irreverent sense of humor.
1 Only Murders In The Building Wittily Breathes New Life Into The Genre
Although it can be tough for newer shows to measure up to behemoths within the murder mystery genre, Hulu’s Only Murders in the Building gracefully does so while offering compelling, dynamic elements that breathe fresh life into the genre. The show features an unlikely trio who are united by their shared appreciation of true-crime podcasts.
When a gruesome murder occurs in their lavish apartment complex, the trio take it upon themselves to start their own podcast and uncover the mysterious circumstances behind the victim’s death—with plenty of intergenerational misunderstandings and laughs along the way.
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