Netflix series you absolutely can’t miss if you loved Breaking Bad

Giancarlo Esposito’s gritty new crime drama Parish, in which he plays a former wheelman who went straight and started a family, has reminded me how much I miss the world that Vince Gillian created via the Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul franchises. As the brilliant-yet-murderous cartel distributor Gustavo Fring, Esposito gave a bravura performance in those earlier shows, which saw his character’s unthreatening appearance — complete with glasses, nice shirt, and khakis — belie an evil streak of the darkest sort.

Parish, meanwhile, hasn’t exactly set the streaming universe on fire. Critics and viewers are pretty split on whether it’s any good, with the show scoring a pitiful 30% on the Rotten Tomatoes “Tomatometer,” while its audience score currently stands at a very respectable 78%. Still, seeing Esposito in a role like this again has reminded me of how great he was in his Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul heyday — and how addictive crime dramas like it can be, which is why I want to recommend four Netflix series that I think are can’t-miss titles for Breaking Bad fans.

These Netflix series include both foreign and domestic titles, with characters that range from gangsters to cartel figures and shady accountant types. And as someone who watches a ton of these kinds of crime-related series on Netflix, I can’t recommend them highly enough — so definitely check any of these out after you give Esposito’s Parish a try.

First up is the four-season Ozark, starring Jason Bateman as financial planner Marty Byrde who’s forced to relocate his family to the Ozarks after a money-laundering scheme falls apart. There’s a Breaking Bad quality to the series, in that Bateman starts off as a decent, rule-abiding financial planner who, little by little, slides over to the dark side, as it were.

The series’ beautiful setting of the Ozarks hides a dark world of cartel killers and money laundering that exists just beneath the surface, making the show (which also stars Laura Linney as Marty’s wife Wendy) a must-watch for fans of crime dramas filled with intense plot twists, morally complex characters, and an overall tense and suspenseful vibe throughout.

Laura Linney in Ozark
Laura Linney as Wendy Byrde in “Ozark.” Image source: Netflix

Here’s a Netflix series that’s sort of like a cross between Breaking Bad and The Wire, in terms of the vibe.

Snabba Cash (the title of which is Swedish for “easy money”) is set on the mean streets of Sweden — something I didn’t actually realize Sweden had, but that’s neither here nor there. At the center of the story is a wannabe entrepreneur named Leya, who has all the grit, determination, and know-how in the world — minus the privilege and good luck that makes this show’s swaggering business titan who she idolizes able to deliver cringey proclamations like “I am the system.”

Snabba Cash is one of those crime dramas that’s got plenty of villains in the classical sense, like drug dealers and violent street hoods. It’s got characters like Leya who are much greyer — the kind of character with maybe noble intentions but who’s fine with stepping over the line in an attempt to get from Point A to Point B in life. All in all, a super-addictive yet extremely violent Netflix series.

Snabba Cash on Netflix
Evin Ahmad as Leya in “Snabba Cash.” Image source: Gustav Danielsson/Netflix

This next one is for the fans of a Netflix series like Narcos.

Leaving behind the goofy persona she displays on Modern Family and to a lesser extent America’s Got Talent, Sofia Vergara transforms both her appearance and personality to become a small-screen version of something rare in the world of drug cartels: A queenpin. Portraying Griselda Blanco, Vergara dramatizes her life story — from Blanco’s relative obscurity in Colombia to her rise as a cartel leader via a deadly blend of charm and ruthlessness.

And she wasn’t just any cartel head. She built up one of the most profitable cartels in history, and became someone so feared that it led Pablo Escobar to once opine: “The only man I was ever afraid of was a woman named Griselda Blanco.”

Over the course of this Netflix series, we watch a gun-toting Vergara as Blanco blow a sicario’s brains out; savagely beat a man with a baseball bat; and, in a paranoid fit, smoke a crack pipe at a party before threatening to shoot all of her friends and loved ones with a golden machine gun.

Strap yourself in for a wild ride.

Griselda on Netflix
Sofia Vergara as Griselda Blanco in “Griselda.” Image source: Elizabeth Morris/Netflix

Last but not least, we come to one of the finest British dramas of all time, if ask me.

Starring Oppenheimer‘s Cillian Murphy as soldier-turned-gangster-turned-businessman Tommy Shelby, the show brought to life three-dimensional figures who run a criminal enterprise in Birmingham, England, with Murphy navigating the intersection of crime, business, and politics throughout the show’s five-season run.

How do you even start to sum up a Netflix series like this one? I’m hard-pressed to come up with another show on the streamer that’s made as much of a lasting impression on me as Peaky Blinders has. From Cillian Murphy’s performance-for-the-ages as the brooding gangster Tommy Shelby to his snarling yet loyal brother Arthur, the show was packed with iconic, mesmerizing characters. The same goes for the Peaky Blinders women like Polly, Ada, and Lizzie — all of them as tough as steel — and Tom Hardy’s gonzo performance as Tommy’s wild and unruly frenemy Alfie Solomons.

Peaky Blinders on Netflix
Cillian Murphy as Tommy Shelby in “Peaky Blinders.” Image source: Netflix

To this day, there are still so many moments and epic scenes that carry a powerful emotional resonance in my memory. To quote myself, from a post in honor of the show’s 10th anniversary, “Who can forget the Peaky gang’s badass slow-motion walks? Or Arthur’s faked death; Tommy’s narrowly avoided assassination; the way Grace could tell Tommy how much she loved him just with her eyes; that cover of Bob Dylan’s A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall as the Shelbys were casting their votes in the finale of Season 4; Tommy’s heartbreaking eulogy for his daughter in Season 6.

“The show was always bigger and more exciting than most of its fellow BBC dramas, more quiet and profound than typical gangster series, full of exciting twists and perfect needle-drops, and became a global phenomenon by the time it was all over.”

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