They’re a cornerstone of the procedural genre; the often contrary, often unique pairings that make for a crack team of mystery solving.
At the more contrary end is the coupling at the foundation of the ten-part Swedish series Anno 1790, new to SBS On Demand.
In the final breaths of 18th Century Stockholm, army physician turned police commissioner Johan Gustav Dåådh (Peter Eggers) - sober atheist - and his right hand man, former soldier Simon Freund (Joel Spira) - wavering drunkard and believer - investigate grisly and curious crimes.
It’s an endearing, if fraught relationship, and an atypical one for the genre thanks to the show’s unique period setting.
In the spirit of the show, we’re celebrating some of the more memorable and dynamic sleuthing duos on TV by looking a little outside the square. You won’t find any CSIs, Law & Orders or Sherlocks here.
Dexter and Debra Morgan – Dexter
Let’s start with one of the most twisted couplings of the genre, that of serial killer of serial killers Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) and his adoptive cop sister Debra (Jennifer Carpenter).
In one of those unlikely scenarios used to create tension and show longevity, forensics expert Dexter was able, for the better part of the series run, to cat-and-mouse his way around Lieutenant Debra finding out about his gory, retributive moonlighting.
Reason aside, it’s this dynamic of on-the-edge deceit; codependence and mutual enabling that make this coupling an electrifying one. That and the fact they’re chalk and cheese; Dexter the retiring one (except when he’s slicing and dicing), Debra the sweary, ball-tearing one.
Fun fact: Hall and Carpenter were married for the better part of the series run, which must have made for some interesting pillow talk.
Temperance “Bones” Brennan and Seeley Booth - Bones
For 11 seasons (the upcoming 12th will be their last) the unlikely pairing of forensic anthropologist Brennan (Emily Deschanel) and FBI special agent Booth (David Boreanaz) – also known as ‘B-Squared’ - has proved a winning, if bumpy one.
Besides investigating a myriad of colourful murders over the years, they’ve weathered some crazy turbulence – including the irony of Brennan being buried alive and stalked by a serial killer called ‘The Puppeteer” - to eventually marry and start a family.
Both are spirited and obstinent, and long past the resolution of URST, sparks continue to fly.
Dana Scully and Fox Mulder – The X Files
One of TVs most enduring odd couples (give or take a few seasons when Mulder went M.I.A), scientist and skeptic Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) and conspiracy theorist Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) tackled alien conspiracies and beasties of the week in a maligned FBI unit.
It was despite - or because of - their conflicting ideologies that made this such a watchable duo. The on-screen chemistry was real, even if it wasn’t off-screen with the stars having an uneasy relationship during the show’s original run. The X Files renaissance cliffhanger this year, in true X Files form (spoiler alert: it involved a UFO!) may or may not be the duo’s swansong.
Sarah Linden and Stephen Holder - The Killing
OK, let’s acknowledge the (very pale) elephant(s) in the room. Yes, we’re including the leads of the American remake of The Killing, not those of the Danish original Forbrydelsen.
The remake divided critics and viewers but detectives Linden (Mireille Enos) and Holder (Joel Kinnaman) proved a formidable pairing, sartorial standards notwithstanding.
They’re complete opposites, again, sartorial standards notwithstanding. Jumper-clad lead detective Lindon is intense, driven and diminutive. Hoodie-clad with a greasy two-dollar haircut, partner Holder is cocky, street-smart and lanky.
There’s is a barbed, quietly engaging dynamic; a tumble drier of experience and instinct in a long-running hunt for a young girl’s killer.
Karl Roebuck and Elise Wassermann – The Tunnel
What’s that you say? Another inclusion of another remake of a Scandi hit? You betcha.
In two seasons of this Franco-British version of Denmark’s The Bridge (Bron/Broen), Game of Thrones’ Stephen Dillane (aka surly Stannis Baratheon) and Clémence Poésy (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Pts. 1 and 2) have created a disarming odd couple.
Amid investigating brutal crimes, it’s the quiet, unexpected build up of humour and empathy between the detectives - the worldly-dry Roebuck and the socially awkward Wassermann (who also favours the jumper as a wardrobe staple; not to mention a diet of baguette and chips) - that makes the pairing a standout.
Richard Castle and Kate Beckett - Castle
Jessica Fletcher did it long before but she can’t hold a candle - charisma wise at least - to cheeky crime novelist turned amateur sleuth Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion).
Teamed with by-the-book detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic), they’ve driven each other crazy for eight seasons (ok, so it’s been the freewheeling Castle that’s driven Beckett crazy) with plenty of spark and not a little fun investigating the wackier side of crime.
Some would argue that making the ‘Caskett’ union official invoked the ‘Moonlighting Curse’. (In a possible case of writers’ cold feet, Castle did get kidnapped on their wedding day.)
Katic quit the show this year - reported on set tension between the leads may have been a factor - effectively ending the show and a colourful on-screen partnership.
Rust Cohle and Marty Hart - True Detective
We’ve left one of the most curious couplings to last. It’s no slight to say that Woody Harrelson’s portrayal of crotchety Detective Marty Hart played second fiddle to Matthew McConaughey’s almost not-of-this-world philosopher Detective Rust Cohle.
But together, they were a potent, brittle force of the enigmatic and brutally pragmatic in their investigation of an occult murder in a southern gothic landscape. A procedural partnership for the ages.
For a truly unique partnership, check out the complete first season of Anno 1790, which is now available to stream on SBS On Demand: