There is no doubt we are living in a golden age of television. New series continue to premiere to shock and amaze audiences all the time. But one thing I have recently noticed is that most of the critically acclaimed TV shows are also the most distressing.
It is human nature not to be able to look away when something awful happens. It is how we are wired as human beings to be so curious about the bad things that happen in this world. Most of us live such sheltered lives that the mere sight of evil entices our curiosity like nothing else. One would think that beautifully illustrating the depths of human depravity would be an awful thing, but for most people, it is one of their favorite guilty pleasures. So with that being said, I have found ten TV shows that shine a bright light on the dark side of humanity.
The way these studios bring to life these obscenities with amazing visuals, solid performances, and next level cinematography is genuinely something to be impressed by. These heinous acts of violence, abuse and hate are gorgeously depicted in a sixty-minute time slot. These acts of deplorable human behavior are so stunning; they end up engraved in our brains, staying in our thoughts long after the credits roll. While these series storylines are entirely different, the one thing they for sure have in common is that they are as addictive as they are disturbing.
1. The Leftovers
HBO has several TV shows on the list, but the one that truly stands out with our current them is The Leftovers. The premise of this dark series is the unexplained nature of an event that results in 2% of the world’s population disappearing in the blink of an eye. No one saw this coming, and no one can even explain what happened or where everyone went. This was utterly random from babies disappearing out of wombs to a woman disappearing while knocking boots with the series star Justin Theroux. The show picks up three years after the event and revolves around a group of people as they struggle to continue their lives, while they cope with the tragedy of the Rapture-like event. The show focuses on how people react differently and examines the consequences of loss, but what ends up standing out the most in this series is how excellently it showcases the sick twisted ways people overcome these losses. The characters go through a dark maze of doubt and depression that ends up having them do things.
While one would assume a tragedy like this would bring people together, it does the exact opposite. This rapture-like event makes people lose their faith in not only religion but humanity as a whole. Morals are thrown out the window, and people are attempting to deal with this event in very deplorable ways. Instead of picking up the pieces, individuals take advantage of the situation in several despicable ways. Cults pop up all over the place causing the ATF to add them to their jurisdiction. They harass, stalk and provide a reminder for those that would instead move on from the incident. This causes so much turmoil that one of the ladies in the cult is violently stoned to death just for wearing their colors. There is also a company that profits off of these losses charging crazy amounts of money for life-size replicas of the ones people have lost. It is sickening to see the human race go through technically one of the most significant losses of life at one single moment to only solidify the rapture theory by proving everyone left is drenched in sin.
The realism Damon Lindeloff and Peter Berg exhibit in this HBO series is a clear indication of the behavior of human beings during a crisis where little is known to the why and the how of it all. People genuinely fear what they don’t understand, and The Leftovers is a dark testament to that theory. Here is hoping if the rapture does come or if a similar event occurs, most of us won’t be around to see what happens with the leftovers
2. The Handmaids Tale
It is scary nowadays when you turn on the news, look out your window, or have a conversation by the water cooler of how much it feels like the first five minutes of one of those dystopian sci-fi films. The world has become a bizarre place, and we know art is supposed to imitate life, but sometimes that can be terrifying. Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale which has been adapted into an award winnings series on the streaming service Hulu feels way too real and is very relevant right now. The show is of course set in a dystopian future where a religious group has taken over the United States and stripped women of all their rights. It’s also important to mention is that the world is experiencing a very alarming problem with infertility. Babies aren’t being born and Gilead, the religious group, believes drastic steps must be taken to save the world from extinction. This revolves around persecution, slavery, and some ritualistic rape all in what the show’s antagonist claim is in the name of God.
The TV show follows Offred, a woman who is still fertile and is forced to become a Handmaid. Handmaids are baby-making vessels for the elite members of Gilead because their wives cannot have children. They are held down during a ceremony by the wife while the husband attempts to make a child without the handmaid’s consent. If they disobey or get out of line, they are beaten and poked with cattle prods. If problems persist, eyes and other body parts are removed as well as the occasional stoning. Not to mention the streets constantly have people hanging from walls to remind those what happens if they do not follow the rules. Women are treated like animals, and it is just an awful thing to witness. But it isn’t as hard to watch as a newborn baby taken from its mother by a crazy person, boxes that happen on more than one occasion. This award-winning series is as dark as it is distressing, but audiences everywhere can’t seem to look away. We all need to cross our fingers and hope it doesn’t happen in a world that sometimes feels like it is on the brink of dystopia.
3. Sharp Objects
Another HBO series that makes the cut in showcasing the worst of the worst when it comes to the human species is Sharp Objects. This addictive drama adapted from the Gillian Flynn novel of the same name is not one to miss. The story follows Camille, a reporter who confronts demons from her past when she returns to Wind Gap, the place where she grew up, to cover a violent child murder. It turns out her hometown is a hive of lewd acts and dark secrets. While the deplorable actions of the killer are nothing to shy away from, the people’s reactions to this horrible event are actually what will make viewers cringe.
Some parts of Camille’s investigation trigger painful memories of her past regarding her dead sister, certain instances with older boys, and troubled history with her mother. This enhances her alcohol abuse, self-mutilation, and random sexual acts in her way of numbing the pain and not dealing with her demons. All this while she is amazed at how quickly the rest of the town is to blame someone to quickly be able to move on. People’s attitude toward being normal is almost cult-like and gives off an uneasy feeling that outsiders are not welcome. Everybody is quick to gossip and get their name in the paper rather than have a proper investigation done to prevent other girls from dining. This all on top of a disturbing case of parental abuse showcasing that small-town America has its recipe for evil, and it is not pretty.
4. The Walking Dead
One of the most watched and talked about shows since The Wire or Breaking Bad is undoubtedly The Walking Dead. The AMC series starts with Rick Grimes, a deputy Sheriff who wakes up from a coma only to learn that the world has turned into a zombie movie and he ends up leading a group of survivors to stay alive. While one would think that dealing with flesh-eating zombies would be the worst thing in this situation, they end up being far from the major problem. It is unfortunate when you have a world full of reanimated corpses wreaking havoc and the most depraved characters in the series are living, breathing people.
So far, the ragtag crew of survivors has encountered several evil dictator-like characters who have established their form of order in what is left of a broken world: cannibals posing as saviors, saviors posing as good guys, and just groups of deranged individuals that have lost their minds. The Walkers are a massive threat throughout the series, but the human beings are worse. If The Walking Dead excels at anything, it is a courageous visual interpretation of what kinds of beasts unleash when society crumbles. While the show is a pretty picture, the thought of living this storyline is not.
5. The Terror
Imagine you are trapped at the top of the world with no sunlight, no heat, and barely any hope for survival. Well, you don’t have too because the AMC hourlong series The Terror does all that and more. The show vividly shows audiences what happens to a person when hope starts to fade away and insanity begins to take its place. The story takes place in 1848 where two real-life warships, the Terror and the Erebus, were sent on an expedition to find the Northwest Passage and ended up getting trapped in ice near the Arctic. While this was not ideal, it was expected to happen, and the captains continue to stress that they have enough supplies to survive for years if need be and that the ice should begin to clear up anytime. This never happens as their ego eclipses basic logic to the apparent destitution they are involved in.
See first hand what happens when men are stranded miles from civilization and all hope is lost. They begin to turn on one another. Several of the men have become sick from the tainted food; others are just going mad from the cold. This ends up with several disturbing instances of violence, men lighting themselves on fire and some heinous acts of cannibalism. Good men are killed, tortured, or left for dead in the cold over what boils down to a disgusting mix of arrogance and fear. The Terror has no villains, just flawed men that have lost hope as well as their minds from the desolation of the vast cold wilderness that would be the last thing they would ever see. And not to mention there is a rather large demonic polar bear creature hunting them down. The show does an excellent job of living up to its name.
Shootings, hostage situations, and bombings have become way too familiar in today’s day and age. It is unfortunate when a person’s mental state deteriorates to the point where needless violence is the answer. But one event everyone remembers wasn’t a wild random shooter doing all the devastation, It was the US government with all the firepower and an unorthodox religious group that was the victims during the events at Waco. People remember turning on the news and seeing the FBI and ATF surround the compound of religious leader David Koresh near Waco, Texas in 1993. This event led to the deaths of many members of the group including Koresh himself. Politics and publicity trump justice in this compelling story of oppression and abuse of power. Many themes expressed in the series from Paramount Network are very relatable to what is happening in today’s world. This series resonates with those that remember the tragedy and attempts to pull back the curtain on what happened in Waco.
The story starts with a woman being shot and killed during a standoff in Wyoming involving the FBI and ATF. This became big news and threatened the future of the ATF who were blamed for the incident. Desperately seeking a win, they learn of a religious group called the Davidians, who sell a lot of guns like most people in Texas do. They attempt to paint them as an evil Jim Jones-esque cult planning an attack and proceed to take them down to restore their image with the public. The idea was to win back the country by getting news footage of ATF agents carrying out kids from the compound to safety. Instead, what they got was news coverage of a burning building with dead women and children inside. The fire came about because hey used CS gas, which is illegal by the Geneva Convention in warfare and extremely flammable, which they knew according to the series. All this over some seriously poor decision making from all parties involved. Lives are lost thoughtlessly, and innocent people suffered in front of a nation that is still confused by the events to this day. Looking at the world in its current state and watching this mini-series makes you think about what people are capable of when they believe what they are doing is for the greater good.
7. Patrick Melrose
Based on the Patrick Melrose Novels by Edward St. Aubyn, the show is a perfect illustration of how one horrendous act is extremely contagious to its victims, just in a different form. Not only was the wit and sharp dialogue taken from the written pages of the famed series but also all the pain, anguish, and self-destructive behavior. Instead of showcasing the perversion of the species on a larger level, this show focuses on the ripple effect one atrocious act can have and how many more suffer because of it. A father abusing his son, drug and alcohol addiction and all the damage that ensues from it is how this Showtime miniseries makes the list.
As the tale begins, we are introduced to Patrick Melrose, a somewhat functioning addict who has some serious daddy issues. Unfortunately, it is not the usual here as his problems with substance abuse stem from being sexually abused by his father at a young age. The damage from his father and neglect from his mother has damaged Melrose to the point where he does the same to those around him while needlessly killing himself very slowly with addiction. Melrose may be a mini-series, but it shines the light of human depravity at its worse while highlighting the aftermath as well.
In the late 1970s, two members of the FBI attempts to expand the scope of criminal science and get a better understanding of how the fractured mind of a serial killer works. This show sees the worst of the worst in this countries history of killers and then goes the extra mile by traveling inside the minds of these psychos to figure out why they committed these heinous acts. David Fincher is no stranger in the world of serial killer flicks. He shook the cinematic world when he brought Seven to cinemas and shocked viewers everywhere with realistic visuals of horrific deaths revolving around the seven deadly sins. This is done here with chilling dialogue that feels so real and intimate you’d swear you were honestly having a conversation with some of the worst people this world has ever seen.
Mindhunter isn’t just a visual horror show but an addictive glimpse into the dark mind of a serial killer. The way these actors become these killers and give their descriptive take on what it takes to bludgeon another human being is taken from live interviews. The realization that these are real people not only chills audiences to the bone but showcases the depths of human depravity exquisitely. The way these agents attempt to travel within the mind of these poor lousy excuse for human beings gives people an uncensored viewing of what it truly means to be a killer. The worst of the worst are broken down like a college course and while it is undoubtedly groundbreaking to attempt to get in front of crazy, it will also shake you at your core to learn that your fellow man is not only capable of, but that they could be anywhere and you probably will never see them coming.
What if you could wear a White Hat and save the day? Alternatively, be a black hat and get in as much rape, torture, and killing as humanly possible? Which would you decide? Well, according to the HBO series based on the Michael Crichton Novel of the same name, Westworld, many people are reaching for that back hat. The show is set at the intersection of the near future and the reimagined past, where wealthy visitors can explore a world in which every human appetite can be indulged without consequence. Beneath its next level visuals, stellar performances, and gripping story lies a cavalcade of instances where these entitled human beings are showing their true nature. If humans have something to beat up on and claim ownership of, they will do it whether man or machine.
An amusement park where the wealthiest people in the world can get away with anything up to and including murder, yeah this one was making this list. Now I know these acts aren’t happening to other humans, but to robots who happen to look ridiculously like humans. The individuals are scalped, cut open, and raped with the cavalier attitude of playing a game of whack a mole. The darkness that resides in everyone comes out in full force for one hour every Sunday night. As time and technology advance, people don’t change, only their methods do. Also, when this all results in an uprising from the robots, you not only understand why but are actively rooting for the robots to defeat their evil captors. Down with the Human Race!
10. Game of Thrones
They say when you play the Game of Thrones you either live or you die. From what we have seen so far on HBO’s award-winning series Game of Thrones this sentiment is very accurate, and there is no shortage of depraved acts in between. The show based on George R.R. Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice series started as a political drama in a medieval era that quickly begins to trickle down the coolest of fantasy tropes like magic and dragons. This perfect balance of real-world issues in a fantasy setting has fans witnessing the chaos that ensues when everyone with an army makes its way to the Iron Throne and become king or queen. All along the way a plethora of deplorable and heinous acts continually unfold and because its HBO, it is very graphic. War, torture, bloodshed, incest, and sexual violence are the name of the game in the seven kingdoms of Westeros which is surprisingly celebrated by critics and massively adored by fans all over the world.
The pilot sets the tone for the series with an onslaught of disfigured corpses spread out in a sick ritualistic manner, some of which are young children. Then after a few deceptions, the show pulls back with some political stuff and a right amount of sexual encounters that aren’t, always consensual. The Thrones opener ends with some incest and attempted child murder. The series continues this for several seasons upping the ante each time. While these great battles and set pieces are the stuff of legends, the way the show illustrates the depths people will stoop too for power is almost traumatizing. Burning children alive and stabbing a pregnant woman right in the baby, all in order win the game of sitting on a very uncomfortable throne are just a few of the terrible things the show vividly portrays without holding anything back. The series stays true to its attempts at an authentic 11th-century moral code, and even though it showcases a pattern of unhealthy bloodlust at times, it contains enough moments to make audiences not feel utterly guilty about waiting on pins and needles to see which of their favorite character dies next. It is safe to say Game of Thrones is TV’s most expensive guilty pleasure with an onslaught of depraved acts served up for our entertainment.
If you think there are any shows we should have included on the list, please feel free to share them in the comments below.