• (L–R) ‘Atlantic Crossing’, ‘Vienna Blood’, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, ‘The Unusual Suspects’, ‘Departure’. (SBS)Source: SBS
It’s been a big year of television at SBS On Demand – it’s time to look back on the standout series available to stream in a year that wasn’t short of quality drama.
By
Anthony Morris

2 Dec 2021 - 12:45 PM  UPDATED 2 Dec 2021 - 12:45 PM

Vienna Blood

Student of the cutting-edge practice of psychology Max Liebermann (Matthew Beard) teams up with old-school Detective Inspector Oskar Rheinhardt (Jürgen Maurer) in turn-of-the(20th)-century Vienna to tackle crimes where issues of the time – race, class, the still struggling acceptance of women’s rights – collide with the dark recesses of the mind. Full of suspects leading double lives and people controlled by desires they barely understand, it’s a compelling look at the dawn of our current understanding of how the mind works, with a series of mysteries as twisted as the urges of the criminals behind them.

Vienna Blood is now streaming at SBS On Demand.

 

Atlantic Crossing

It’s been a good year for dramas looking at the less explored corners of World War II – just see the post-war Berlin-based crime series Shadowplay. Atlantic Crossing shines a spotlight on a pivotal political relationship that just might have been personal as well: the bond between Norwegian Crown Princess Martha (Sofia Helin) and US President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Kyle MacLachlan). There’s more to this than flirting across maps of Nazi-controlled Europe; for all her royal trappings Martha is basically a refugee stranded in the US, and her personal plight is just as moving as her struggle to save her people from Nazi rule.

Atlantic Crossing is now streaming at SBS On Demand.

 

Departure

Season 1 of Departure saw crack accident investigator Kendra Malley (Archie Panjabi) brought in to investigate a plane crash in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean; season 2 had her looking into what made an experimental high-speed train go off the rails in the US. Sifting through a range of causes – human error, technical faults, criminal negligence – she also has to deal with those who don’t want the truth to come out for reasons of their own (it’s always money). It’s a series that leaves you wanting more – and wondering why someone didn’t try combining air crash investigations with murder mysteries years ago.

Seasons 1 and 2 of Departure are now streaming at SBS On Demand.

 

The Unusual Suspects

This SBS original series starts off with the theft of a $16 million necklace from a Sydney socialite’s home during a children’s birthday party and works backwards to reveal a heist involving an alliance between the upper crust – notably, influencer Sara Beasley (Miranda Otto) – and the migrant nannies and cleaners (played by Aina Dumlao, Lena Cruz and Susana Downes) who do all the real work. Sharply written and with a keen eye for society’s social fault lines (it’s the first Australian drama with Filipino characters in lead roles) it’s a crime drama with more on its mind than just getting away with the goods – though fans of increasingly over-the-top twists and outlandish characters will not come away disappointed either.

The Unusual Suspects is now streaming at SBS On Demand.

 

The Handmaid’s Tale

2021 was a strong year for post-apocalyptic tales, and not just on the nightly news: New Zealand comedy-drama Creamerie created a world without men and showed how it spiralled into a feel-good version of The Handmaid’s Tale’s gender dystopia. As for the original, in its fourth season June (Elizabeth Moss) realised freedom from Gilead’s tyranny wasn’t going to erase the pain she’d suffered, and that for her, real justice meant following her own, increasingly bloody path. It’s confronting, powerful viewing, taking the long-running series to new dramatic heights.

Season 4 of The Handmaid’s Tale is now streaming at SBS On Demand.

 

Bloodlands

There was no shortage of gruff old guys solving mysteries this year; both Bosch and Mr Mercedes featured stand-out performances from grey-haired crime fighters. As Northern Ireland DCI Tom Brannick, James Nesbitt balances a stoic side on duty with his more casual self around his daughter. But both sides of his life are set to collide when it looks like a serial killer from the 90s may have resurfaced. Back then, the killer was going after anyone who threatened the peace process. The killer also murdered Brannick’s wife. A lot of people on both sides of the law want the past to stay buried; Brannick’s quest for justice will make him a lot of enemies.

Bloodlands is now streaming at SBS On Demand.

 

The Good Fight

In previous years legal drama The Good Fight made the insanity of America under Trump its main focus; with him gone, where would the series look next? While Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) wonders if she’s the best person to lead a largely African-American law firm, the bogus courtroom run by Hal Wackner (Mandy Patinkin) focused the series on the allure of vigilante justice – and then showed exactly where that attitude ends, with the spectre of the Jan 6 riots in Washington hanging over the entire show. It’s already been picked up for a sixth season; it just keeps getting better.

Season 5 of The Good Fight is now streaming at SBS On Demand. Be quick! It leaves on 30 December.

 

Thin Ice

With a deadly conspiracy, billions in oil profits at stake, an all-star cast and killer polar bears on the loose, Thin Ice is Nordic Noir taken to a whole new level as a pair of local cops (one pregnant, the other world-weary) struggle with a hostage situation that’s putting a global climate treaty at risk. Filmed in Greenland during the coldest months of the year, it features a range of spectacular backdrops and an equally spectacular cast, featuring Lena Endre from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series, Alexander Karim from The Lawyer, Angunnguaq Larsen from Borgen, and Nicolas Bro from another of SBS On Demand’s best of 2021, The Killing.

Thin Ice is now streaming at SBS On Demand.

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