7 best shows like 'True Detective' to watch right now

Jodie Foster in True Detective season 4 poster
(Image credit: HBO)

 “Light versus dark.” It’s the story that gripping series like "True Detective" keep finding haunting new ways to tell. In 2014, the HBO anthology from writer Nic Pizzolatto set a new standard when it debuted with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson’s Rust Cohle and Marty Hart tracking a Louisiana serial killer over a 17-year period.

Where to stream "True Detective"

"True Detective" seasons 1-4 are streaming on Max

A decade later, under new showrunner Issa López, the drama has returned to form with its fourth installment, "True Detective: Night Country." Jodie Foster and Kali Reis star as reluctantly reunited partners Liz Danvers (Jodie Foster) and Evangeline Navarro (Kali Reis), who become convinced the fate of eight men who’ve vanished from an Arctic research station in Alaska is somehow linked to the brutal unsolved murder of Iñupiaq activist Annie K. (Nivi Pedersen). While they search for answers, questions lingering from their own past traumas prove as dangerous as the ice that surrounds them. If you’ve finished that story, here are shows like "True Detective" to fill the void.

'Mare of Easttown'

After a string of heartbreaking twists, the biggest shock of this 2021 HBO limited series is that it, too, finds ways to leave you feeling comforted in the end. Kate Winslet is riveting as Mare Sheehan, the kind of blue-collar Pennsylvania detective with whom Danvers would absolutely enjoy a drink. Mare’s inability to solve the disappearance of a young woman a year prior warrants her being forced to work with a partner, surprisingly congenial county detective Colin Zabel (Evan Peters), when a teen mom is found murdered. Whether the cases are related is just one mystery. 

Equally compelling is whether divorced Mare is capable of finally dealing with the death of her son and how Jean Smart — as Mare’s live-in mother, Helen, and the show’s occasional comic relief — manages to steal so many scenes. Winslet, Peters, and Julianne Nicholson (as Mare’s friend Lori) earned Emmys for their performances. 

Watch on Max

'Broadchurch'

Some prestige dramas bring Academy Award winners to TV, and others make you correctly predict, “This person will one day win an Oscar.” Such is the case with this 2013-17 British import from creator/writer Chris Chibnall and eventual Oscar winner Olivia Colman. She stars alongside the always wonderful David Tennant as newly partnered detectives investigating the murder of 11-year-old Danny Latimer in the titular coastal town. Colman’s Ellie Miller is a friend of the family, which means she’s holding back tears when she’s not butting heads with her new superior, Tennant’s Alec Hardy. He can be as prickly as his beard and is hounded by a previous case that ended in scandal and a health issue. 

The Peabody Award-winning first season is the ultimate eight-episode whodunit with shifting suspicions, striking visuals of the cliffs and sea, and an aching, atmospheric score. Season 2 places the murderer on trial and has Miller help Hardy revisit his past. Season 3 pairs the platonic duo again to ID a rapist while the emotional carnage of Danny’s death continues.

Watch the full series on Roku Channel, Tubi and PBS Passport
Season 1 streaming on Prime Video

'Sharp Objects'

Gillian Flynn’s debut psychological thriller is adapted into this 2018 HBO limited series, which proves that an abrupt but earned last-second reveal can be more chilling than an ambiguous ending. Amy Adams stars as alcoholic crime reporter Camille Preaker, who, having recently been released from a psychiatric hospital, is sent on assignment to her rural Missouri hometown. A young girl was murdered a year ago; now another one is missing. As she tries to break the case before detective Richard Willis (Chris Messina), she flashes back to her own disturbing childhood, and her history of self-harm — and a trauma she’s not even aware of — comes into focus.

Patricia Clarkson slithers about as Adora, the sharp-tongued socialite mother of Camille and her half-sister, Amma (Eliza Scanlen). You’ll want to watch through the end credits to fully appreciate the levels of manipulation and jealousy at play.

Watch on Max

'The Fall'

An impenetrable fortress draped in soft silk: Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson, at her most hypnotic) is not the kind of female detective we typically see on TV. At the start of the dark 2013-16 series, she arrives in Belfast to review the handling of an unsolved murder — then stays to lead the investigation when it turns out to be the work of a serial killer. The audience knows she’s after Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan, in his breakthrough role), a family man and grief counselor by day and terrifying stalker and rapist by night. But the cat-and-mouse game takes turns you’d never expect, particularly in Seasons 2 and 3 when the two finally share scenes, we learn what made them each hunters, and their fates are revealed.

The performances, and writing from creator Allan Cubitt, will have you hanging on every word and closeup in a 20-minute interrogation scene. You’ll never look at Dornan the same.

Watch on Prime Video

'Luther'

Idris Elba has said he’d play the career-defining role of John Luther forever, and we’d allow it. In this gritty British nail-biter’s 2010 premiere, the envelope-pushing detective chief inspector meets Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson), a brilliant woman he suspects is a sociopath who just murdered her parents. It’s the beginning of what will turn into a beautifully twisted friendship — and perhaps something more — over the course of the Neil Cross-penned series’ 20 episodes. Along the way, you’ll meet other villains who make you check your locks before bed and witness shocking supporting character deaths that keep both the stakes and the likelihood of Luther crossing the line high.  

Elba and the obsessive detective’s signature Tweed superhero coat return in the 2023 Netflix film ‘Luther: The Fallen Sun.'

Watch on Pluto, Tubi and BritBox

'Dark Winds'

AMC’s vivid adaptation of Tony Hillerman’s best-selling Navajo tribal police novels was originally developed at HBO — which passed on the series because it already had "True Detective." The year is 1971, and laconic Lt. Joe Leaphorn (a mesmerizing Zahn McClarnon) is trying to solve a double murder that’s stirred up memories of a past loss, plus locate a helicopter that was used in an armored truck heist in Gallup, New Mexico before flying into tribal land. He knows he can trust his veteran sergeant, Bernadette Manuelito (Jessica Matten), but the verdict is still out on his ambitious new recruit, deputy Jim Chee (Kiowa Gordon), who’s been planted there by his scheming FBI supervisor Leland Whitover (Noah Emmerich). 

With a predominantly Native American cast and crew (and invested Hillerman fans Robert Redford and George R.R. Martin among its exec producers), the series, which debuted in 2022, weaves the tribe’s customs, oppression, and resilience into the mystery. The vistas are breathtaking and unnerving in their isolation. And McClarnon shines even brighter in the more personal and action-packed second season. He’ll be back in uniform in 2025. 

Watch on AMC Plus

'Fargo'

This year also marks the 10th anniversary of Noah Hawley’s lauded FX anthology series. You can start with the acclaimed inaugural outing, starring Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman as a hitman and the insurance salesman he corrupts and Allison Tolman and Colin Hanks as the cops chasing them. Or, if you found the kind of justice dealt in "True Detective: Night Country" particularly satisfying, we’d suggest the fifth and latest season. Juno Temple is an absolute marvel as Dorothy "Dot" Lyon, a Minnesota housewife who thwarts her own kidnapping John McClane-style but has to fight even harder once her past — namely militia-leading North Dakota sheriff Roy Tillman (Jon Hamm) — catches up to her.

The show’s signature dark-comedy tone doesn’t stop it from being suspenseful, moving, and mystical as it muses on the concepts of debt and sin-eating. Jennifer Jason Leigh has a delicious arc as Dot’s ice queen mother-in-law, Lorraine, who you’ll hope melts before it’s too late.

Watch on Hulu 

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Mandi Bierly
Writer


After spending more than a decade as a reporter and writer at Entertainment Weekly and EW.com, Mandi served as an editor at Yahoo Entertainment and TV Guide Magazine. As a freelance writer, her work has appeared in The New York TimesTV Insider, Vulture, Thrillist, Billboard.com, ArchitecturalDigest.com, HBO.com, Yahoo.com, and now Tom’s Guide. She is an expert on Hallmark movies, Shark Week, and setting an alarm to watch the Olympics live.

  • Flixmaker
    All good, but very safe and obvious picks. I would STRONGLY recommend "The Head" which is another HBO mystery/thriller that is crazy similar to Night Country. I would even say the conclusion and the overall pace is actually better than this season of True Detective.
    Reply