Paloma’s Picks: Non-English European Crime Dramas

In an effort to increase the amount of written content on the site, we have decided to launch a new weekly column! Welcome to Paloma’s Picks, where our own Paloma Bennett will give her recommendations for quality television content, especially within niche genres, that you can check out. So without further ado, here are her first picks:

Do you need more crime drama shows to watch, but have exhausted all of the American and British shows? Then I have some gems for you. They may be in a foreign language, but if you can get past the subtitles, these will be well worth the watch!

1. Unit 42 (2017-)

Unit 42, created by Julie Bertrand, Annie Carels, and Charlotte Joulia, is a French-Belgian crime drama that most likely flew under your radar. The series premiered in 2017, but it took until 2019 for it to be released worldwide through a Netflix deal. The story follows the eponymous team as they investigate murders that are tied to social media, surveillance, and other forms of cyber crime sources. Their team is a motley crew of crime solving types, including their leader Sam (Patrick Ridremont) who is less experienced with technology, the hacker Billie (Constance Gay) whose technical prowess is countered with her inexperience with the law, the deaf pathologist Alice (Danitza Athanassiadis), and more.

This show has everything you can ask for in a quality crime drama: intriguing murders, a compelling cast, and a fluid through-line narrative that unifies seemingly unconnected plot points the further you get into the seasons. We’ve seen shows that amateurishly explore cyber crimes in a way that comes off as amateurish and overly obsessed with the ‘magic’ of the internet (Yes I mean you, CSI: Cyber), but this show takes a more hard-boiled approach that grounds the fantastical concepts with strong characters and a no-nonsense tone you’d expect from a European drama. Sam and Billie’s arc especially resonated with me. Though the ‘two characters who hate each other learn to get along’ plot has been done before, it’s how the show and actors flesh out this eventual mentor/mentee friendship that makes it so compelling.

Check out Unit 42 on Netflix right here.

2. Babylon Berlin (2017-)

Babylon Berlin is a three season German neo-noir TV show created by Run Lola Run’s Tom Tykwer, Achim von Borries, and Henk Handloegten that also was eventually distributed through Netflix. Based on the novels of German author Volker Kutscher, this three season show primarily follows two lead characters solving crimes in Berlin during Germany’s 1920’s Weimar Republic era. One is Cologne police inspector Gereon Rath (Volker Bruch), who has come to Berlin to dismantle a massive extortion ring. The other is Charlotte Ritter (Liv Lisa Fries), a flapper from Neukolln who works as a police clerk and hopes that aiding Gereon’s case will lead to her becoming the first female homicide detective in the Berlin Police.

The show has received universal acclaim from critics and has become the highest rated non-English show ever aired on Sky TV. My favorite aspect though is seeing how the cultural shifts of Germany transitioning into the 1930’s affects Gereon and Charlotte. As you might expect, the social upheaval following World War 1 leading to the rise of fascism plays a significant part in the world of Babylon Berlin. From the gradual removal of flapper culture to seeing the moral decay of Gereon’s police department as new people take charge, no one is safe from what will eventually happen. However, the show has much more to offer than foreshadowing inevitable events. It’s a cinematic masterpiece of stellar production values and inspired direction, anchored by two lead actors who nimbly carry a number of labyrinth plots on their backs. If you have the patience to follow the story and understand its historical context, this will be a pleasure for you to consume.

Check out Babylon Berlin right here.

3. Ultraviolet (2017-)

Guess what? Ultraviolet is also a Netflix show! The service has evolved into a formidable curator of foreign content and these three are simply the icing on the cake. Be sure to check through the rest of their international catalog for more gems

Ultraviolet is a two-season Polish crime drama created by Dexter alum Wendy West. The story primarily follows thirty-year-old Aleksandra ‘Ola’ Serafin (Marta Nieradkiewicz), who, while working as a ride share driver, witnesses a suspicious incident. This leads to her crossing paths with ‘Ultraviolet,’ a group of online amateur sleuths that often aids the local Lodz detectives on investigating unsolved cases. The members of Ultraviolet are an odd crew to be sure, ranging from kid tech geniuses, surveillance experts, YouTube makeup tutorial stars, and more. However, together they are able to make a difference in bringing justice to crimes that were previously considered unsolvable.

Though Ultraviolet shares a lot of qualities with Unit 42, this show is much more procedural and lighter in tone. Think of it more like CSI or Law and Order, while Unit 42 is more of a prestige crime drama. That doesn’t make it any less enjoyable to watch though. Ola is a dynamic lead character who stubbornly pursues the truth no matter what. Yet, unlike many shows with these types of characters, the writes and actress refreshingly give Ola an ‘every-woman’ vibe. She’s not an investigative genius or master programmer, nor does she have inexplicable wealth to help with the investigations. She’s simply a regular person who cares so much about justice that she’s willing to tackle cases no matter how complex. This makes watching her story, and her interactions with the rest of her online team, a real pleasure.

Check out Ultraviolet right here.

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Thank you for reading! Keep your eye out for my three recommendations for female-centric sports TV shows next week. Every Wednesday, I will have a new list for you to enjoy.