Line of Duty, which returned for its fifth series in March, creates realistic depictions
of police interrogations in grey and featureless rooms. Mindhunter slowly explores deep,
dark spaces as FBI agents interview infamous serial killers. Even A Confession (based on the 2011 Sian O’Callaghan case) shakes things up with lines
of questioning outside the police station, breaking official procedure.
new Netflix drama Criminal, which focuses mostly on the drama inside the
interrogation room, has plenty to compete with. But instead of pursuing the
more truthful approaches of the three shows mentioned above, this
claustrophobic, dialogue-heavy anthology thriller wants to entertain more than enlighten.
Mark Stanley (Sanditon, Game of Thrones) stars as an up-and-coming interrogator
The interrogation room doesn’t exude the usual dullness; instead, it's as if a
glamorous interior designer redecorated with neon lights and patterned wood. It’s
understandable: who wants to spend 12 episodes (averaging 40 minutes each) inside
an ugly, dreary tomb?
suspects themselves range from fraudsters to child sexual abusers to outright
psychopaths. Although there’s a different interviewee for each episode, the same detectives
and interrogators crop up. The workings behind the one-way mirror continue
across each iteration of Criminal, which changes every three episodes to
the same premise in a different country (UK, France, Spain and Germany). Naturally,
the detectives engage more than the suspects, since we spend more time with them.
– if you binge-watch 11 episodes in a weekend, as we did – the
stories on both sides of the glass become repetitive, despite the differences
in each character.
The format absorbs at first: the UK series kicking off with
a gripping performance from David Tennant, who plays a doctor accused of
murdering his stepdaughter. But that samey structure becomes predictable, only excelling when the episodes turn hard and gruelling. The second episode of Criminal:
Spain, which follows a case involving family abuse, is especially
The interrogation room looks as if decorated by an interior designer
sets and the set-ups are the same in each country, as though the interrogation room
exists in a world of its own. In the divisive time of Brexit Britain, having a
drama that joins European countries together feels (at first) inclusive and
intriguing. Many of the episodes wield political resonances involving Syrian
refugees in the UK, the 2015 Bataclan shootings in France, and the looming
shadow of the Berlin Wall in a now-united Germany.
But Netflix fractures this
idea, dividing the different Criminals into their own series (Criminal:
Spain etc). This feels like an unfortunate misstep, probably catering
toward English viewers who can’t bear dubbed voices or subtitles or the sound
of a different language.
Criminal is probably a Netflix drama best enjoyed
gradually, not indulged in in one sitting. The plots become as regular as the big,
red, digital clock behind the mirror, and there’s not much new ground being
covered here. Creators George Kay and Jim Field Smith succeed in their objective
to entertain; but it's not enough.
Criminal is now available on Netflix
|What||Criminal, Netflix review|
20 Sep 19 – 20 Sep 20, ON NETFLIX