Criminal highlights the lasting nature of crime dramas

Jonathan Lynam

Netflix’s new police procedural anthology series, Criminal, throws out the tried and tested format for something more intense and claustrophobic.

Crime dramas are a staple of the tv guide and have been for as long as we can remember. This is most likely due to the simple fact that we cannot get enough of them. One reason crime shows are so popular is that crime stories are full of questions: Who did it? Why did they do it?  How did they do it?  And we love having these questions answered or trying to figure out the answers ourselves.

Written by George Kay and directed by Jim Field, Criminal is a show set within the confines of a police station and more precisely the interrogation room, a factor that is both a highlight and a stumbling block.

The first season of Criminal is 12 episodes long, broken up into three separate editions: UK, Spain, France and Germany. Each features three episodes in their respective languages. All four editions include their own interrogations with the German and French cases being more region-specific at times.

Episode one of the UK edition is a particularly strong episode helped by the brilliant performance of David Tennant as Dr Edgar Fallon. The episode begins with a close up of Tennant’s character as he says “no comment” which is immediately followed by the exhausted sigh of Detective Sergeant Tony Myerscough played by Lee Ingleby, who then lays out the facts of the case to us: that a 14-year-old girl was found dead in the woods with “no knickers” and “a shattered skull”.

The lack of flashbacks that are usually seen in crime dramas mean that the description of the cases in Criminal carry an extra emotional kick when they do arrive. The claustrophobic setting of Criminal also means that any action we do get whether it be a suspect picking up a pen or the movement of the water on a table is magnified and you find yourself taking in every little detail trying to guess when the suspect will finally crack.

As the interrogations go on and the time to solve the case gets shorter, the team of detectives, led by Detective Inspector Natalie Hobbs played by Katherine Kelly, are forced to change tactics, swap roles and ramp up the pressure in order to try and finally get to the truth.

However, the show’s greatest obstacle will be how long the writers will be able to keep the show interesting. The constraints of the setting may lead to this show getting repetitive quicker than most other crime shows and episode two of the UK edition starring Hayley Atwell was a bit too predictable for those who have watched crime dramas before.

The combination of time pressure, setting, and brilliant casting mean that Criminal is a good watch and feels fresh for a show from a genre which had long gone stale. However, whether it is able to remain fresh will be the real test.

Jonathon Lynam 

Image Credit: Netflix