No violence but dark TV?
August 21, 2014 4:41 PM   Subscribe

I like dark and/or intriguing television shows. I like shows with interesting characters and long pay offs. What I do not like are any sudden scenes with violence against women or children. I have access to all counties of Netflix but no other streaming services. What can I watch?

I am burning through Netflix catching up on things I have missed. I enjoyed Orphan Black, Utopia, Hannibal, Downtown Abbey, etc.

I am not put off with the violence in Hannibal because it doesn't revolve around sexual violence of women/children. I was enjoying Battlestar Galactica until they threw in an episode where a cylon was going to be raped.

I don't want to watch children's shows. I have a hard time watching just seasons of comedies (not dense enough plots to hold my interest). I don't really enjoy English mysteries. I don't really enjoy twee or Dr. Who. I want darkness and intrigue. I just don't want sexual violence.

Can you think of any shows that fall under this? Or if you can recommend shows and specifically point out episodes with such violence I can skip that would be ok too?
posted by kanata to Media & Arts (37 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Definitely try to watch Black Mirror, though I don't know if it's on Netflix.
posted by homesickness at 4:59 PM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There's a lot of comedy but it's actually very dark and emotionally resonant. There's a lot of violence but it's mostly cartoonish violence against vampires and demons. There are probably two instances of sexual violence toward women that you can skip (I'll google the episodes if you're interested). There are a couple of episodes with children in peril, but it's Grimm's Fairy Tales style peril. The characters are very interesting and will grow on you quickly. A caveat: the first season is the worst one.
posted by ejs at 5:14 PM on August 21, 2014 [7 favorites]

The first season of The Hour would be a good fit, but avoid the second season. The good news is that the first season stands alone. It was described to me as Mad Men meets The Newsroom, with a triller vibe.

I don't know if either would be dark enough, but Dead Like Me and The West Wing might also be good fits. Dead Like Me is by the same show runner as Hannibal, but more towards the quirky end of the spectrum.

Since you like Downton Abbey, I'd recommend the recent BBC adaptations of Bleak House, Jane Eyre, North and South, and Wives and Daughters. None of these are particularly dark, but they satisfy me in a similar way to Downton Abbey.
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 5:34 PM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

The Wallander series - both the original Swedish version and the BBC one - are on Netflix and lean towards the darker side of police procedural, and there is generally little violence, if I recall correctly.

It's a shame you don't have access to the HBO series True Detective, because I was very impressed by its darkness yet it's relative lack of any real violence, save a very few scenes throughout the whole season.
posted by mbatch at 5:49 PM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

That BSG episode bothered me in a big way, too, so I think you're pretty safe with Mad Men, but in the interest of full disclosure:

In Mad Men, there is an instance of rape in S2E12 where a major character is raped by her fiance. She isn't thrown around, she isn't choked, the whole thing happens quietly and I believe there are even people in the next room who are completely unaware, but she makes it clear she does not consent. The scene is brief.

Also in S2 (The Benefactor), a main character grabs a recurring character in a sexual way. The scene is also brief. It happens so fast you actually find yourself saying, wait, did that actually happen?

There's also a scene in S3 (Souvenir) where a main character does a favor for a naive young woman and convinces her she owes it to him to sleep with him. Nothing is shown. If you're highly sensitive to rape it's something to mention, as it's not entirely consensual due to her naivete.

There are scenes in multiple seasons where sex is used in a transactional way.
posted by mochapickle at 5:51 PM on August 21, 2014

Bron/Broen (also adapted to English, The Bridge). Both versions are free on Hulu. The Swedish/Danish one is better.

Damages - it's got some moments of violence but not towards women and children and each season has a majorly long arc.
posted by microcarpetus at 6:06 PM on August 21, 2014

Six Feet Under. There is a death at the beginning of every episode, and it's sometimes violent, but usually not (or if so, in a completely accidental way). I'm usually bothered by TV violence but didn't mind what's in Six Feet Under at all.
posted by snorkmaiden at 6:39 PM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

Supernatural -- there is violence, but it's really quite PG and not usually sexual violence. It gets darker as it goes on.

Merlin was also quite good.

And the most recent season (S4) of Haven definitely took a darker turn. Occasional violence, but not of a sexual nature.

Also Sherlock.
posted by mibo at 6:42 PM on August 21, 2014

The Wallander series - both the original Swedish version and the BBC one - are on Netflix and lean towards the darker side of police procedural, and there is generally little violence, if I recall correctly.

With regard to the Swedish version, you will want to avoid episode 3 in the first season. Without going into too much detail, there is an incident involving a main female character.
posted by invisible ink at 6:58 PM on August 21, 2014

Seconding True detective - if you can find it on DVD or through some other means it's excellent.

Have you watched Twin Peaks?
posted by duoshao at 6:59 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also "The Killing" -- there's an original Danish version and a US remake. Both were good but the Danish version felt darker.

It revolves around an investigation into a woman's murder but it's all after the fact and I don't remember any disturbing violent scenes.
posted by duoshao at 7:04 PM on August 21, 2014

Also, the Fargo TV series. It continues the Coen brothers' tradition of copious violence motivated and offset by absurdity.

Women are killed, but it's not sexual.
posted by duoshao at 7:16 PM on August 21, 2014

The 8-episode French series "Les Revenants" is on Netflix as "The Returned". It is dark and creepy and atmospheric and wonderful. There is one sudden act of violence against a woman in one of the episodes, but it is not sexual violence. Very little is resolved at the end of the series, but somehow it doesn't matter. Good stuff.
posted by baseballpajamas at 7:16 PM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Six Feet Under is indeed an awesome show, but there is a harrowing episode of violence against a beloved character at the heart of one season (male to male, but some sexualized overtones) that is played very seriously and has lasting emotional effects on the character and his loved ones. In fact I'm still kind of traumatized thinking about it years later.
posted by matildaben at 7:23 PM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

House of Cards (the American version, can't speak to the British one) might be right up your alley. Excellently gripping intrigue, and it gets darker and darker as it goes on. Two possible caveats, both in season 2: there is at least one act of violence against a woman that is not sexualized, and there's a rape in the backstory of one character that plays a substantial role in the plot (but is never depicted).
posted by ootandaboot at 7:38 PM on August 21, 2014

I'm going to have to give a big (-) to the recommendations of True Detective.

Don't get me wrong; I thought it was an awesome piece of drama and character development!

But while there was relatively little compared to other series, what violence there was happened abruptly, often directed against women and children, and quite nightmarish in nature.

Twin Peaks (the first season) is about the investigation of a high-school girl's murder. Again, while not graphic, the subject is the core of the plot.

Maybe you'd enjoy the first season of Fringe? The characters of Walter and Olivia have a well developed back story, in the framing of investigating paranormal weirdness of the week. Jumped the shark in later seasons, though.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 7:53 PM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

I was also going to say the American version of House of Cards. In addition to what ootandaboot mentioned, there's a brief instance of violence involving an animal in the very first episode (which I realize is not the same as sexual violence, but I have similar sensitivities, and it almost put me off the show from the beginning, which would have been a shame because it's a great, dark show).
posted by unknowncommand at 7:59 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Knick just started and is well reviewed already. Can be pretty gory (surgical procedures performed 100+ years ago = lots of blood and lost patients), and the characters are dark and complicated themselves, but I don't recall any real violence.
posted by HoteDoge at 8:27 PM on August 21, 2014

Forbrydelsen. The original, in Danish. Minimal violence considering it's a police drama.
posted by zadcat at 9:24 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I forgot to say I watched House of Cards and enjoyed it after I got over being upset about the first scene with the dog. Fringe was OK but fell out of interest in the second season though right now is my default watch.

I can handle killings and even graphic depictions of bodies. It is sexual violence of any sort that I can't get through. (Forgot to include male rape as well because it doesn't come up as frequently). References to rape are tolerable unless described graphically. Vague inappropriate sexual conduct is tolerable but not ideal.

I haven't watched Buffy in years and missed the first few seasons so that's a good reminder. I will check out the other recommendations. Thanks a lot. Seems like there is a lot here to keep me glued to the screen. Any other recommendations are eagerly wanted.
posted by kanata at 10:08 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Twin Peaks is great, but there's one caveat. In episode 14 of season 1 there's a sudden scene where a female character is murdered. It's pretty intense and it's central to the plot, so if you decide to watch the series but skip the episode you should probably read a plot summary to keep up with what's going on. Come to think of it, there's also domestic violence in an earlier episode that had quite an impact on me, even though it mostly happens off-screen.
posted by rjs at 10:11 PM on August 21, 2014

Haven isn't the best show but it does have one of the best female cops on tv. And it's kinda dark. It's supernatural themed so people do die but its pretty cartoony, usually.
posted by fshgrl at 10:39 PM on August 21, 2014

I'm going to second Rube R. Nekker's [-] for True Dectective and add a big old OH HELL NO. I watched it and thought it was very well done, but not only is the whole series about sexual violence against women and children, there are multiple very disturbing visuals that are related to those themes. According to your criteria, I strongly recommend you avoid it. It would be very triggering.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:43 AM on August 22, 2014

See if you can find the spy drama Rubicon.
posted by Obscure Reference at 2:21 AM on August 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm here to second (third?) Black Mirror, Les Revenants and Rubicon. Black Mirror is especially chilling. I'm also really, really enjoying The Knick, even though the critical response has been a bit meh.

Here's a bit of a wildcard: Mr Fish recently discovered the CW show 'The 100' and, after the first few genuinely awful, no-good episodes, we were totally hooked. The first 2-3 episodes are typical CW sexy teen bilge, but it becomes a surprisingly compelling sci-fi thought experiment in the later episodes, with elements of Battlestar Galactica and the more intriguing bits of Lost filtered through a CW sexyteen lens. A++ will binge again.

And if you have any interest at all in anime, there's a reason why Attack on Titan is so popular. It's also kind of... poorly animated, which makes the titans even more horrifying and uncanny. There's loads of splat-bam-slice anime splatter, but no sexual violence (though I haven't seen it all though I could be wrong?). There are also gloriously hammy moments, like a character anime-screaming 'I WILL ADVOCATE FOR HIS STRATEGIC IMPORTAAAAAAAAAAANCE!' during a baffling court trial. We love 'Attack on Titan.'

Edited to add: AV Club's Best of 2014 is a pretty killer list.
posted by nerdfish at 2:29 AM on August 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Fall is maybe worth a look. There are some violent scenes but not gross, gory or prolonged. It is about a serial-killer who preys on women but does not glorify the violence. Mostly focuses on the police investigation to capture the killer.
posted by evil_esto at 2:32 AM on August 22, 2014

Just a note about Forbrydelsen (The Killing) and Wallander. A basic theme to both series is that perfectly ordinary people can and will do disgusting things in extreme enough circumstances. As a result the violence isn't in your face or portrayed in a titillating way in any sense, but it is very creepy and gets right into your head. You're forced to think about implications. It's haunting and oh-so-very believable. Given your sensitivities I'm not sure you would enjoy either of these two.
posted by glasseyes at 6:03 AM on August 22, 2014

How about the Grand-daddy of them all: Dark Shadows? Pretty sure all of it is on Netflix.
posted by Hanuman1960 at 6:58 AM on August 22, 2014

This feels too obvious, but Breaking Bad?

If you want more sci-fi options, I'd consider Deep Space Nine (dark, for Star Trek and long, complicated character arcs) and Firefly/Serenity (the episode Heart of Gold is set in a brothel and is about a powerful customer trying to kidnap a woman's just-born baby, so that might cross the line of what would be comfortable for you to watch, but I can't think of any other problematic bits).
posted by snaw at 8:22 AM on August 22, 2014

Dark Shadows is no longer on Netflix, IIRC. A few of the Barnabas episodes were on a while ago but they have been removed.

If it is back, and it's the whole thing, you wont be hearing from me for a while...
posted by Billiken at 8:40 AM on August 22, 2014

The first episode of Black Mirror, The National Anthem, revolves around a man being coerced into sex with an animal.

I know most viewers did not read the situation as rape, but I wouldn't recommend that particular episode to anyone trying to avoid scenes of sexual violence.
posted by Ballad of Peckham Rye at 9:20 AM on August 22, 2014

unknowncommand there's a brief instance of violence involving an animal in the very first episode (which I realize is not the same as sexual violence, but I have similar sensitivities, and it almost put me off the show from the beginning

does the dog die? is a helpful resource.
posted by mlis at 10:21 AM on August 22, 2014

Have you seen...all...of Downton?
posted by Charity Garfein at 2:32 PM on August 22, 2014

The Fall has at least two fairly bad murder scenes of women by a sex obsessed model looking guy. I wouldn't watch that if you're sensitive to such.

How about The Wire? Not on Netflix, but could be acquired elsewhere. Damages is a good Netflix show. Orange is the New Black has dark humor. I love that show. There's also a show called Women Who Kill on Netflix if you want to get real true crime dark. X-Files is also on Netflix.
posted by amodelcitizen at 4:56 PM on August 22, 2014

snaw: "Firefly/Serenity (the episode Heart of Gold is set in a brothel and is about a powerful customer trying to kidnap a woman's just-born baby, so that might cross the line of what would be comfortable for you to watch, but I can't think of any other problematic bits)"

A woman is forced to perform oral sex on a man in this episode. Also the episode Objects in Space contains a fairly graphic description of potential rape and the episode Our Mrs. Reynolds revolves around whether Mal is taking advantage of a naive woman.
posted by Mitheral at 7:54 PM on August 22, 2014

Twilight Zone. Science-Fiction / Horror TV series that ran on US TV from 1959-1964. The darkness came from using metaphor, allegory and fables to comment on the Cold War (the USA - USSR nuclear arms race and standoff) and the social issues of the day and, topics one couldn't touch in TV fiction. Excellent writing, some from the best writers of the era.
posted by Homer42 at 5:08 AM on August 25, 2014

Some organizations rate media for age appropriateness, which always considers sex and violence. See, for example, this assessment of Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series:

Sites vary in how general or specific they make the assessments. One, for example, includes counts of particular words and behaviors children might mimic. Some of the sites are Christian centered, others are secular. I can't recommend any specific site because although I'm aware of them, I don't use any of them.
posted by Homer42 at 5:23 AM on August 25, 2014

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