When you think about an effective crime drama, you might think of exhilarating car chases, scandalous secrets, monstrous murder scenes and tense cliff hangers. While all these attributes can nudge a dull narrative into something far more high-octane and enjoyable, some of the most fun about delving into a new series is the chance to become the slick detective you’ve always fancied yourself as. You’re guessing the murderer’s next move, piecing together every clue and passing great, all-knowing judgement; all from the comfort of your sofa.
Netflix’s new original series, Criminal, gives you all that in three neat little viewer-friendly packages. Having dropped on Netflix last month, Criminal UK is actually just one part of the series overall. The series boasts twelve different installments, taking place across four different counties; the UK, France, Germany and Spain. Each mini-series has all but three episodes each, with each new episode delving into a new crime to be investigated.
Netflix already boasts a large library of crime dramas and have churned out some brilliant original series including Mindhunter, Bloodline, Top Boy and The Alienist. Netflix are known for churning out binge-worthy series and Criminal UK is no exception, a unique feat considering that the episodes don’t necessarily need to be watched in order. Still, the unique set up is strangely addictive and it doesn’t take long for you to be hooked.
Written by George Kay and directed by Jim Field Smith, each episode is set within the confines of a police investigation room and explores one crime per episode, working towards the conclusion about the guilt or innocence of the suspect. With a stellar central cast including Katherine Kelly, Lee Ingleby, Rochenda Sandall and Nicholas Pinnock; the series puts you right in the post-arrest action and encourages you to align yourself with the detectives and to keep guessing as to what the truth is and who is truly innocent.
Covering some suitably dark criminal behavior, the first episode covers the rape and murder of a teenage girl, the second looks at death by poisoning and the third is a stark look at the transport of illegal immigrants; a troubling and disturbing subject matter in the light of recent tragedy. Each central character is a fascinating study and an opportunity for audiences to play their own game of cat-and-mouse and determine whether they really are guilty of these monstrous crimes.
With David Tennant, Hayley Atwell and Youssef Kerkour playing each suspect, the level of skill is outstanding and radiates from the screen; truly effortlessly talented. Both Tennant and Kerkour give predictably impressive performances. Tennant’s uncomfortably steely portrayal is chilling to watch and Kerkour is a captivating on screen. They settle into their characters with ease and it doesn’t take long for us to start questioning what they’re saying and coming up with our own theories on why and how they’ve found themselves in the interrogation room.
Hayley Atwell gives a standout performance and manages to make a character that should be unlikable and offensive an empathetic and somewhat charming anti-hero. She allows herself to completely embody the character and, from her attitude to body language, she creates an emotive narrative within the wider investigation.
This little series is by no means going to change the face of crime dramas as we know them but Kay and Smith have come up with a cool little formula that creates an enjoyable watch and encourages you to channel your inner detective. It’s pure water-cooler TV and will have you engage in lengthily discussions with your friends and family about exactly why you’re right and they’re wrong.