As a fan of police procedural shows and Line of Duty, I was not surprised that this came recommended to me based on my watchlist. Story-wise, plots are not what Criminal is about. Criminal is more about how interesting the interrogation suspects are, and when you have bigwigs like David Tennant playing the possible suspects, you’re in for a treat.
There are 12 episodes, 3 episodes to each location: UK, Germany, France and Spain. The layout of the interrogation quarters is the same but the officers, team dynamics, personalities, language and therefore techniques used are different. Also in the spotlight are the motives behind each crime, rather than just the crime itself. What the episodes are here to unearth is why people do the bad things they do.
The team dynamics is strong here. They talk about structure and by-the-textbook procedures. Kinda makes them look boring but wait til you see how it’s done in Criminal: Spain.
David Tennant, always a delight to watch, plays the role of stepfather, Dr Fallon, who is accused of raping and killing his stepdaughter. Apparently in this world, you can only hold the suspect for 24 hours and Tennant’s character has stayed absolutely silent for 23 hours. In the final hour, he sings like a canary.
Hayley Atwell, Mrs Captain America, stuns as Stacey in not one, but two confessions. She is believed to be involved in her sister’s husband’s murder, which she confesses to at about the halfway mark of the show. That seemed a little too easy, don’t it? Absolutely. She’s done when she says she’s done, pink hair and acrylic blue nails and all. Wonderful episode.
Youssef Kerkour, if you haven’t seen him on Home, you should, because he is so under-utilised as Jay, a truck driver, in this episode. He’s brought in to be the gentle but not as dumb as he looks giant, who abandons a truck (possibly) full of illegal immigrants now at the risk of freezing to death overnight. Time is of the essence. Then midway through, the plot-line doesn’t twist, it entirely pivots.
In the background, Eva Meckbach plays a heavily pregnant officer joining the cases while simultaneously reviewing Sylvester Groth’s (Dark) interrogation methods. Germany’s cases are a lot more bizarre than the UK’s. Also, Groth is incredibly hostile for a police officer and seemed ready to fly off the rails at any moment. #bringthepopcorn
Peter Kurth is Jochen, a successful businessman who was the last person to see a handyman he had hired to work on one of his apartments decades ago. This episode was carried by an interesting plot, for a change. Best to go in blind on this one. If I had to complain about anything it’s that Schulz’s dubbed voice is so not suitable for him.
In the second episode, we see Deniz Arora’s Yilmaz being questioned on why he pushed his wife down the stairs, landing her in hospital. It is a case of domestic abuse. The weird thing is a lawyer has been hired to defend the suspect, by the victim’s father.
Nina Hoss, exuding the Aileen Wuornos vibe in Claudia, is a sight to behold. Her role is that of Claudia, a serial killer’s accomplice. She helped her boyfriend, now dead from slitting his wrists in prison, to abduct, rape and murder six girls before the duo were caught. She has been behind bars for some time when Groth’s character pulled her out of there to find out where she had buried the first victim. Said victim’s mother needs to bury her daughter before cancer buries her. By the end of this tense episode, you’re not really sure that Hoss is the only monster in the room. Easily the best episode for Germany.
France’s cases are more shall we say, contemporary. They are based on more recent events and social taboos. The lawyers take a back seat for all of the cases, although in one you can see the eyes in the lawyer changed the moment they realised their client is guilty.
The first episode involves the November 2015 Bataclan terrorist attack, an incident in which more than a hundred people died and hundreds more were injured. Sara Giraudeau plays a victim, Emilie, who had lost her boyfriend who was gunned down at the theatre, was compensated monetarily by the government, and had build an online following from blogging about the incident. So why is she in the interrogation room?
A high-powered female executive is being investigated over a death at the construction site. One of her workers had died from a fall. Already stressed out from running very late on a deadline, Nathalie Baye plays the capable, powerful and highly strung executive, Caroline, who is now being investigated on how involved she is with the worker’s murder.
Jeremie Renier plays a top salesman, Jerome, at the brink of being charged for a homophobia-fueled attack on a man beaten with extreme brutality. He was arrested trying to flee from the police but claims that he has nothing to do with the incident. Can the team catch him on his lie and unearth a secret that he is clearly trying desperately to hide?
Things are very different in Spain. The lawyers are treated with impunity, officers can bend the rules as they please so long as they get the results everyone wanted, and at times you can’t really be sure who is on the right side of justice. You know what is also criminal? The translation. It’s a travesty.
Carmen Machi plays a dog owner, Isabel, who has some blood in the basement of her home and a brother who is now missing. They are looking for him with connection to a missing person’s case. How the investigators finally got her to tell them what they need to know is cruel and unusual punishment.
Imma Cuesta plays Carmen, tired young woman who let her autistic little sister drown while her parents are not home. She is treated like a slave (their words) in the household and suffers abuse when the chores are not done properly. During the interrogation, she alternates between periods of lucidity and uncontrollable rage which gives us an inside look into why she did it. Sidenote: the episode could be 10 minutes shorter.
How low can you go when dealing with a weasel like Carmelo, played by Eduard Fernandez? Apparently, extremely, especially when he caused the death of a relative to one of the lead interrogators. It’s amazing how Carmelo’s lawyer just went with the flow when clearly what the interrogators are doing are just downright… criminal.
To Watch or Not To Watch?
Criminal is no Line of Duty. There isn’t enough time for us to be invested in the interrogation team despite all that drama happening on the other side of the mirror. You don’t have time to feel outraged by how the victims suffered or the crimes committed. That’s why it’s the perfect touch and go show for those who just want to burn off a few hours during the weekend.
If you have only 3 hours to burn, I recommend the following episodes: Claudia (Germany), Jochen (Germany), Jerome (France), Stacey (UK).