While some shows have a lengthy buildup to the action, others begin with a bang. If you're searching for a TV series whose creators include excitement on the screen from the get-go, you're in the right place. From Fargo (2014-) to Black Mirror (2011-), these shows kick off in a flash.
1. Breaking Bad (2008)
Breaking Bad is about an underachieving middle-aged man who decides to become a drug dealer after being diagnosed with cancer. That's the center of the plot that carried the show to five critically acclaimed seasons.
2. Daredevil (2015)
Netflix's Daredevil wasted no time getting into the action, as Matt Murdock was already beginning his double life as a lawyer-crime fighter in episode 1, which is appropriately titled, “Into the Ring.”
3. Bodyguard (2018)
While on a train to London, a war veteran prevents a terrorist attack in the first scene of this political thriller. As a reward for his heroism, he gets promoted to protect a controversial political figure. But as he spends more time with his client, he disagrees with her politics. He wonders whether protecting her actually benefits the nation.
4. The Shield (2002-2008)
The Shield is a crime drama about corrupt cops who use illegal methods to hunt down and convict criminals. While the division head is suspicious, he looks the other way because the team has such high success rates. The series starts strong when some officers investigate a woman's murder and her daughter's abduction.
5. Orphan Black (2013-2017)
This fast-paced drama series follows a woman with personal and financial struggles who searches for a way out of her desperate life. She finds herself in the right place at the right time when she witnesses a woman — who looks strangely like her — take her own life. She decides to steal the dead woman's identity and begin her life anew. But it isn't as simple as she thought.
6. Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009)
Battlestar Galactica is an apocalyptic sci-fi series about the ongoing war between the humans and man-made Cylons. The first episode, which follows the miniseries that introduced the reboot of the 1970s series, shows the humans aboard the Galactica frantically trying to evade the Cylons as they travel across the galaxies at light speed.
7. Fringe (2008-2013)
This sci-fi crime drama follows the Fringe Division of the FBI as its agents investigate top-secret and unusual crimes. The mysterious first episode of the series sees the agents investigate a plane that landed at Logan Airport. While that isn't strange in itself, what is weird is that the agents can find no sign of life on the plane at all.
8. The Umbrella Academy (2019-)
After a billionaire adopts seven unique babies from across the world, he uses them to create a crime-fighting team of superheroes. Years later, the estranged siblings reunite at their father's vast estate before his funeral. At the end of the first episode, a sibling who went missing years ago returns out of thin air to announce an impending apocalypse that only he and his siblings can prevent.
9. 24 (2001-2010)
This crime drama takes a unique storytelling approach by using each season to depict 24 hours of a counterterrorism agent's daily life. Of course, his day-to-day is much more intense than most people's days. The pilot shows one hour of the agent's life as he and his team uncover a disturbing assassination plot.
10. Squid Game (2021-)
Squid Game is a Korean horror drama series about a gambling addict who enters a deadly underground competition hoping to take home a massive cash prize. In the first episode, we watch the man go about his day with his life falling apart around him. When he gets to the first twisted game, we understand that he genuinely believes he has no other option but to risk his life to get out of debt.
11. Only Murders in the Building (2021-)
This hilarious murder mystery series follows a group of unlikely friends who create a podcast together when they investigate a murder in their high-end New York City apartment building. The series pilot sets the scene for the season perfectly. The trio of pals individually conclude that the dead guy didn't take his own life as the police thought.
12. Chernobyl (2019)
Chernobyl is a harrowing historical drama series about the events that unfolded during and after the tragic nuclear accident in 1986. This miniseries quite literally starts with a bang when a massive explosion changes everything for the workers at the nuclear power plant. Firefighters and police officers rush to the scene, hoping to minimize the damage.
13. Ozark (2017-2022)
This dramatic thriller series begins when a wealthy financial advisor's partner pulls a scheme against a powerful client that backfires. The financial advisor now must move his family to the Ozarks to hide. Now in debt to a Mexican drug lord, the man attempts to get back on his feet with his begrudging family.
14. Fargo (2014-)
Fargo is a compelling Western anthology series exploring different investigators fighting crime across the Midwest. The pilot episode introduces this season's cast of characters and its tense plot. When one man shares his grudge against another with a stranger in the hospital waiting room, he never imagined that would lead him to be an accomplice in the man's murder.
15. Black Mirror (2011-)
This dark sci-fi anthology series examines humanity's relationship with technology and questions the ethics of our computerized creations. The series' first episode shows no qualms about diving right into things. It's about a prime minister who receives a threat from a princess's abductor: have adult relations with a pig on national TV, or the princess dies.
16. Yellowjackets (2021-)
Yellowjackets is a survival drama series about a girls' soccer team that makes nationals but never arrives at the competition. Instead, their plane crashes in the dense Canadian wilderness, where they must survive for over a year before rescue teams find those who remain. The pilot episode jumps back and forth from 1996, when the crash occurred, to 2021 when the survivors attempt to cope with the trauma of killing and eating one another to survive.
17. Hellbound (2021-)
This Korean fantasy thriller series begins with a man sitting at a table in a cafe, trembling as a timer on his phone gets closer and closer to zero. When the time hits, terrifying demon monsters emerge from a portal and beat the man to death. This strange phenomenon of people receiving a prophecy telling them when they will die and getting hunted down by monsters allows a new religious group to take power.
18. Severance (2022-)
This chilling workplace drama tells the story of what one corporation does to its employees to encourage better productivity over well-being. Each employee goes through a medical procedure separating their brain into work and home life. That means while a person is at work, they don't remember anything that's going on in their personal life and vice versa.
19. The Mentalist (2008-2015)
The Mentalist follows an unusual investigator who teams up with the California Bureau of Investigation to find the serial killer responsible for the murders of his wife and child. The series begins as the team attempts to track down the killer after he commits another heinous crime right under their noses.
20. The Night Of (2016)
The Night Of is a harrowing crime thriller miniseries about a college student who ends up in custody after a young woman is found murdered in New York City. During the miniseries' first episode, the student gets invited to a party he'd never typically attend but decides to go anyway. That decision alters his life forever.
21. Banshee (2013-2016)
When a criminal mastermind gets out of jail, he doesn't hesitate to falsify his identity and pose as a police chief in a town where his ex-lover and crime partner re-started her life years ago. Desperate to rekindle their lost flame, the mastermind does whatever he can to get close to her without exposing his own identity. At the same time, vengeful gangsters pursue the mastermind.
22. The White Lotus (2021-)
The White Lotus is a satirical drama series that begins as new high-brow guests descend upon the upscale White Lotus resort. The series uncovers mysteries about the guests and resort employees as their dark secrets cloud the waters. Is anyone truly who they say they are at the White Lotus?
23. Stranger Things (2016-)
This horror series starts right off the bat with a child going missing. Stranger Things takes place in the 80s and follows a group of friends and their families as they grapple with a boy's strange disappearance. His mother thinks something supernatural is happening, but the police won't listen to her. That is until they see the lights flicker, too.
24. Damages (2007-2012)
Damages is a high-stakes legal drama series about a top-notch lawyer who finds herself in a custody battle with her son over her granddaughter. The series begins as this high-powered lawyer and her crew take on a massive case against a corrupt CEO.
25. Gomorrah (2014-2021)
This Italian crime drama follows the criminal organization the Camorra from the perspective of its harsh leader's right-hand man. The pilot establishes just how far the criminal group will go to get what they want. When they burn down the house of a rival, they hope he dies with it. But instead, he emerges more vengeful than ever.
26. Gangs of London (2020-)
Gangs of London is a British action series about gang wars that threaten to upend London once and for all. In the first episode, the leader of a top gang is murdered, and his son stops everything to identify the killer. At the same time, other gangs vie for the top spot.