Netflix's Criminal Review

Forgoing the investigation and arrest, and cutting away before the trial, Netflix’s bold-yet-simple new series, Criminal, focuses solely on the interview/interrogation room and the officers observing behind the two-way mirror. With only two rooms (and an occasional hallway) to play with, each 40-minute episode acts like a taut stage play, diving deep into the combination of procedure and psychology these detectives have to use in order to get a suspect talking – and hopefully confessing.Laced with layered and superb guest performances by David Tennant and Hayley Atwell, who both play characters on the wrong side of the table, Criminal is mostly about the team trying to crack the case – played by Katherine Kelly, Lee Ingleby, Nicholas Pinnock, Mark Stanley, and Rochenda Sandall. We only spend three episodes with them, but even in that small amount of time, the series services them all well, and even manages to throw in a few engaging personal arcs. So much so that you wish there were a few more episodes.

Netflix’s Criminal Gallery (U.K.)

Police procedurals have been much-maligned in TV’s “Golden Age,” which tends to worship fully serialized narratives, but you can’t deny the power, and drama, that crime stories can create. There’s a reason cop shows have been dominant since the dawn of television. Criminal demonstrates, case-in-point, why these stories will never fall out of fashion because it breaks everything down to stunningly specific human interaction.

Tennant’s episode kicks things off, as he plays a doctor arrested for possibly murdering his step-daughter. The team is running out of time as Tennant’s character has been saying absolutely nothing (except “No comment”) for almost a full 24 hours. They have to get a conversation out of him. It’s a high-pressure situation with a ghastly crime at the heart of it. Atwell’s episode is much different, but still great, as she plays a woman suspected of poisoning her sister’s boyfriend. Both chapters hinge on our heroes using psychological “Hail Marys” of a sort, with director Jim Field Smith creating a cracking chessboard atmosphere.

Netflix Spotlight: October 2019

The third episode breaks the mold a bit, with a flash-cooker situation involving a missing shipping container that may or may not be filled with human cargo. The two episodes before it worked to slowly build up the idea of this team, these cops, growing a little more daring with their tactics. In Episode 3, it pays off as they have to quickly use everything at their disposal, as lives are on the line, and then ready themselves for the consequences that might fall on their heads afterwards.

Criminal nicely fits into Netflix’s go-for-broke slate of projects that normally might not get funded, but it’s also one of its simplest and most effective. Even at just three episodes (for the U.K. iteration), it will leave a lasting impression.

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