There’s a new female detective heading to BBC America, with Prey‘s Detective Sergeant Susan Reinhardt (Rosie Cavaliero) investigating one of her own. Detective Constable Marcus Farrow (John Simm) has been accused of murdering his wife.
We’re sure DS Reinhardt has everything under control, but it wouldn’t hurt for her to take a look at a page out of these other detectives’ notebooks.
Check out 10 of her predecessors (including partners) who led the way:
1. Jane Tennison
Before she played the Queen, Helen Mirren took on the role of Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison in the series Prime Suspect from 1991 to 2006, running for seven seasons. DCI Tennison was not welcomed by her male counterparts, with their sexist behavior at the London precinct getting in the way of solving cases. Showrunner Lynda La Plante based Tennison on an actual female DCI she interviewed at Scotland Yard in the early 1980s. Mirren’s talked about her role as a policewoman, saying, “I’d describe her as extremely directed, ambitious, talented and very uncompromising. Therefore she is deeply frustrated by her job; the way her sex is a barrier. But she knows how to work the system,” reports PBS.
2. Olivia Benson
Detective Olivia Benson works for the Manhattan Special Victims Unit, specializing in cases of sexual nature. She was partnered with Detective Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) in the first 12 seasons of Law and Order: SVU. Benson grew up with an alcoholic mother and is able to connect to the victims she’s trying to help, based on her own tortured past. Mariska Hargitay has portrayed Benson since 1999. Hargitay described Benson to NBC, saying, “She’s a lioness. She’s a mama bear. She will protect you at all costs. Don’t we all need an Olivia Benson in our lives? It’s not that she doesn’t have fear. She feels the fear but does it anyway.”
3. Chris Cagney and Mary Beth Lacey
Partners Chris Cagney and Mary Beth Lacey, better known as Cagney and Lacey, policed the streets of NYC in the 1980s. Cagney’s focus was entirely on her career, with Lacey balancing work and family life as a working mother. The partners leaned on each other for support. The show Cagney & Lacey kicked off in 1982, starring Sharon Gless as Cagney and Tyne Daly as Lacey, and ran for seven seasons. Both women were recognized for their work, winning multiple Emmy Awards for Best Actress. In the obituary for the show’s co-creator Barbara Avedon, The Independent wrote, “The feminist and peace campaigner helped to break the mold of small-screen American police series. For the first time, two women were featured in the lead roles and presented as equals.”
4. Janet Scott and Rachel Bailey
Jane Scott and Rachel Bailey do their crime fighting in the Greater Manchester area of England. Scott is married, has children, and thinks things through before acting. Bailey is single, hotheaded and argumentative. The two are extremely different but absolutely trust each other. Lesley Sharp and Suranne Jones star in the British series Scott and Bailey, which first aired in 2011, has run for four seasons, and is expected to return in 2016. Jones talks about why the characters resonate with viewers, telling the Belfast Telegraph, “They’re very three-dimensional, they have great jobs and they’re complicated. It’s set in Manchester, which is a bit grey and misty and moody at times, so it’s not Sex and the City— it’s reality and it’s Manchester. That’s the beauty of it, it’s real women.”
5. Jane Marple
Agatha Christie‘s amateur detective Miss Marple hit the pages in 1930, first appearing in the novel The Murder at the Vicarage. All 12 of Christie’s Miss Marple novels were made into TV movies, starring Joan Hickson in the title role, airing on PBS’ Masterpiece Mystery. Christie proved herself to be a feminist icon, taking female characters out of the background, and making them the lead in what were typically male-driven storylines.
6. Vera Stanhope
Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope is extremely determined and meticulous when investigating heartbreaking cases that even the most seasoned detectives would be affected by. If she doesn’t get the answer straight away, she just keeps asking until there’s a reveal. Brenda Blethyn has starred in the title role since 2011, having just completed the sixth season. Crime writer Ann Cleeves, who created Vera, talked about Blethyn bringing the character to TV, saying, “Brenda captures brilliantly the detective’s independence, malice and compassion.” Acorn TV will exclusively premiere season six on March 21.
7. Catherine Willows
Catherine Willows went from working as a stripper in Las Vegas to becoming a crime scene investigator and forensic scientist for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Marg Helgenberger portrayed Willows on the long-running TV show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, first airing in 2000. This character puts a spotlight on second chances: it’s not where you start, it’s where you end. Helgenberger made her exit in 2012, with Willows moving on to the FBI.
8. Stella Gibson
Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson is assigned to the Police Service of Northern Ireland to help in the search for a serial killer. The officers investigating the case are stumped. London police officer Gibson is called in based on her expertise and her being a woman doesn’t make anyone think twice about her abilities. The X-Files star Gillian Anderson took on the role of Gibson in 2013, starring in The Fall. The Atlantic described the crime drama as the most feminist show on TV, writing, “The series’ treatment of women defies the genre’s conventions.”
9. Veronica Mars
Kristen Bell took on the role of Veronica Mars, teen sleuth in the series Veronica Mars. Veronica’s best friend is murdered in the first episode. She can’t just let it go, and with the help of her sheriff-turned-detective father, helps figure out what happened. The series kicked off in 2004 and ran for three seasons. It may seem odd for a teenager to take on such adult topics, but Mars isn’t your typical teen. Vulture outlines 9 Reasons Veronica Mars was Feminist as Hell.
10. Jessica Jones
Jessica Jones is the female superhero we’ve been waiting for. She’s not decked out in a bustier and tights but instead opts for jeans and a black crop jacket with combat boots. That choice of outfit probably works better with her line of work as a Private Investigator. Like Spider-Man‘s Peter Parker, she understands with great power comes great responsibility. But Krysten Ritter, who portrays Jones, is no Supergirl, with the sexed-up storylines found in Marvel’s 13-part series. Here are 10 Reasons Jessica Jones is So Cool.
Watch Jessica Jones on Netflix.
Which of these female detectives would you want on your side?