Top 5 Best Psycho Thrillers on TV

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There are dozens of TV shows that focus on psychos and serial killers as the main anti-protagonist throughout the show or in individual episodes. Some of the popular shows are Dexter, The Mentalist, The Following, Hannibal, True Detective, Those Who Kill, Bates Motel, The Fall, Eye Candy, Castle, etc. After watching all of these, here is my top 5 list based on the most intriguing, intense, exciting and gritty of thrillers.

Top #1: Dexter (2006 - 2013)

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Dexter featured for 8 seasons on Showtime and revolved around Dexter Morgan, a forensic analyst in the Miami Metro Police Department by day and a deadly serial killer at night. The show was one of a kind and struck an intense chord with thriller lovers due to a couple of unique aspects:

  • The entire show was narrated by the killer himself.
  • Dexter was an avenging angel who only killed other serial killers who had escaped justice.

This is an intense show that takes you through the dark thought process of the protagonist while he is stalking and hunting his victims, his elaborate rituals before killing them, all the while managing to cover up his trails and avoiding scrutiny of his cop colleagues, including his sister and homicide detective Debra Morgan, the second primary character of the show.

Read more about Dexter

Dexter - TV's Best Serial Killer

Dexter Finale - Top 5 Biggest Flaws

Top #2: The Fall (2013 - running)

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The Fall has completed 2 seasons on BBC and involves 2 primary characters:

  • Paul Spector, a soft-spoken seemingly happy family man who works as a therapist in Belfast, who is a serial killer in reality and hunts down young professional women in their twenties and thirties, strangles them, bathes them and poses them like dolls.

  • Stella Gibson, a gritty detective superintendent brought down from London by the Belfast police in order to catch the serial killer.

This is one of the most dark and disturbing psycho thrillers I have seen, even though it does not have the usual gory violence that most serial killer series have.

The killer in question, Paul Spector, is a complete pervert who has absolutely no qualms about having an extra-marital affair with the 15-years old baby sitter who throws herself at him. The necrophiliac pleasure he gets out of washing his dead victims is truly disturbing, not surpassed by the horror of the fact that the same man is also a loving father to his baby daughter.

Detective Stella Gibson, played by Gillian Anderson (of the X-Files fame), is not just a brilliant detective but one hell of a woman as well. She calmly handles her chauvinistic bosses and colleagues, and has no problem using her sensuality to lure men into one night stands. When questioned by her boss, she brazenly points out how men treating woman like objects is macho, yet women treating men as objects is unacceptable.

Read more about The Fall

The Fall (2013) - BBC's Best Psycho Thriller

Top #3: Bates Motel (2013 - running)

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Bates Motel is a TV thriller depicting the teenage years of Norman Bates, the famous fictional psychopath from Alfred Hitchcock's super-hit Psycho and has concluded 3 seasons on A&E.

Norman's mother, Norma Bates has a troubled past of her own and is fiercely protective of her son.

To start a fresh life, the mother and son move to White Pine Bay, where she buys a motel. Seemingly quiet and peaceful, the town has its own share of dark secrets, a hub for drugs and other shady businesses that involve rich and influential people of the town.

Struggling to set up a good business, Norma Bates often lands up at the wrong place at the wrong time. The more she tries to sort her life out, the deeper the mess it becomes, starting with the Deputy Sheriff Shelby whom she has an affair with and then discovers that he deals with women trafficking.

Meanwhile, her son Norman has troubles of his own. After a few blackouts and panic attacks at school, he starts home-schooling, but soon it becomes clear to Norma that Norman's psychological trouble extends far beyond blackouts and memory losses. After the murder of school teacher Blaire Watson, Norma is convinced that Norman is responsible.

As mother and son try to cope with themselves and each other, new developments reveal that Norman is attracted to his mother and imagines himself to be her.

It is a truly gripping and dark TV show which will keep you interested from start to finish. The complicated relationship between mother and son is both fascinating and twisted. If you like a good thriller with unexpected twists, this show is a must-watch.

Read more about Bates Motel

Bates Motel (2013) - Early Years of The 'Psycho'

Top #4: Pretty Little Liars (2010 - running)

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Don't get misled by the title, Pretty Little Liars is not your regular chick-flick, it is way more dark and twisted than a teenage drama can ever get.

This super-hit TV show completed 5 seasons on ABC and revolves around 4 high school friends who are torn apart when their group leader Alison goes missing after a slumber party.

A year later, Alison's body is discovered and the 4 friends are forced to re-unite when a masked, anonymous stalker named "A" starts sending them scary text messages, stalking their every move and threatening to expose their past mischiefs.

Struggling to piece together the happenings of the dreadful night, the girls come under constant scrutiny of the police officers investigating the Alison murder case. As bodies drop one by one, courtesy to the psychotic 'A', the girls try to maintain their sanity and investigate what exactly happened to Alison.

This TV show takes stalking to a whole new level of disturbing, and keeps you guessing the identity of the psycho 'A' the whole time. The best part is that most of the characters have a potential to be 'A' until they die off or get victimized in some other way. If you can look beyond the fact that this is a teen thriller, this series is really enjoyable for thriller lovers.

Top #5: Eye Candy (2015)

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This serial killer thriller aired on MTV for only one season. Cancelled after the first season, this show had a wonderful potential and an extremely diabolic killer hiding in plain sight.

Lindy Sampson is a 21 year old hacker who is coaxed into joining an online dating site called Flirtual by her room mate. Meanwhile, a few gruesome murders take place in the city and Lindy starts seeing some disturbing connections that makes her suspect that one of her dates may be the serial killer, however she doesn't know which one.

After her ex-boyfriend and police officer Ben gets brutally murdered by the killer, she is called in by the police investigating team to use her hacking skills and help them track down the killer, much to the chagrin of Ben's ex-partner Detective Tommy Calligan who is forced to work with Lindy.

However, Lindy does not realize the true motive behind why the police chief wants her to help with the investigation. In the meantime, she becomes the killer's latest obsession, and after a few deadly encounters, the viewers are left wondering whether the killer is truly fascinated by her or simply wants to play a cat-and-mouse game before taking her down.

The theme of an online dating serial killer makes the premise very interesting. There are also a few good scary moments where we can predict the killer's next step but then love it anyway, because of the way the scenes get played out.

The one gaping deficiency I could see is in the acting of Victoria Justice who plays Lindy Sampson. A more mature and intense level of acting was needed to depict the constantly tormented state of her mind, something that didn't come out well. Probably, a more evolved actress could have saved the show from getting cancelled.

Honorary Mentions

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