When it comes to television crime dramas, the UK has certainly ha its fair share, with the likes of the BBC’s Line of Duty, Killing Eve and ITV’s Broadchurch. And now Netflix is throwing its hat into the ring with its latest original, Criminal, a police series with a difference. Billed as a cat-and-mouse drama, Criminal takes place in the interview suite and focuses solely on the showdown between suspects and detectives. There are 12 episodes in total spread over four countries: Spain, France, Germany and the UK, which this review focuses on.
Set in London, a team of detectives (played by Katherine Kelly, Lee Ingleby, Nicholas Pinnock, Mark Stanley, Rochenda Sandall, Shubham Saraf) face a race against time to question three suspects and discover the truth behind a number of serious crimes. The series opens with detectives interviewing Edgar (David Tennant), a doctor accused of raping and murdering his 14-year-old step-daughter. With Edgar refusing to answer any questions with anything other than “no comment” on the advice of his solicitor, time is running out for detectives to get the confession they need. In the second episode Stacey (played by the fabulous Hayley Atwell) is suspected of poisoning her sister’s boyfriend; while in the final episode Jay (Youssef Kerkouri) is a lorry driver accused of being involved in human trafficking.
Created by George Kay and Jim Field Smith (who also directed the UK series), Criminal is an intriguing premise, a clever, psychological drama, with the focus in the interview room itself. While the idea of a 40-minute police interview may sound tedious to some, Criminal is a gripping drama sure to keep you on the edge of your seat as you watch the action unfold and discover whether detectives get their man – or woman. In fact, the audience can almost take on the role of jury as they try and work out whether each suspect is innocent or guilty based on what they’re told by the ‘experts’. With the action limited to the police station, the episodes rely on a tight script and this is where Criminal excels – it’s packed full of witty, sharp dialogue which, when combined with suspenseful music and lighting it builds the tension beautifully during each episode, and the audience are sure to be as desperate as the detectives to discover the truth. The only respite from the intensity comes when the camera switches to the observation room, where fellow detectives watch the questioning play out and figure out how to get the facts they desperately need.
The cast are all perfectly suited to their roles, with each of the main guest stars putting in strong performances. David Tennant is no stranger to the small screen, but he’s miles away from the Doctor as Edgar, and the moment his character finally begins to speak is one of the most memorable of the series. Hayley Atwell is perfect as Stacey, brash on the outside until the layers are stripped away; while it’s fascinating to watch Youssef Kerkouri performance as detectives try to force Jay to admit the truth. While Mark Stanley puts in a fine performance as Hobbs, taking centre stage in the third episode and bringing a more emotional element to the series; and Lee Ingleby spars well with David Tennant in the opening episode.
By the final episode the format does become a little predictable (either that or I’d make a good detective), but with only three episodes in each region there’s little chance to get bored and besides, by that time you’re sure to be invested in the series. With some neat twists and turns, not to mention a few jaw-dropping moments, Criminal is a gripping, intense drama, with a lot of potential. It may be the first series, but hopefully there are more to come.
Criminal is now streaming on Netflix.
Photo credit: Jose Haro