The Netflix franchise series “Criminal” dropped onto the streaming service recently. It’s 12 episodes, although they’re broken into four different series: UK, Spain, Germany and France. I’ll admit I only watched the UK series, but I did almost get sucked into Spain’s set.
If it wasn’t for the fact David Tennant was at the heart of the episode, I’m not sure I would have watched it. Granted, lots of folks probably wouldn’t have seen it, but Tennant is one of those actors who is a delight to watch. He probably gained the most notoriety from his stint as the Tenth Doctor in BBC’s “Doctor Who.” If you’re not savvy to that show, it’d take longer than this column to fill you in.
Each episode is focused on one interrogation. The entire episode takes place in an interrogation room, the viewing room next to it and the hall outside. It sounds a bit narrow in its story, but something about it just works. Each episode focuses on an interrogation team as they go after a suspect, each at the center of a horrendous crime. Tennant stars in an episode called “Edgar,” named after Tennant’s character, a doctor whose 14-year-old stepdaughter has been sexually assaulted and brutally murdered.
No, it’s not an easy show to watch, but it’s quite difficult not to get sucked in all the same. The investigative team only has 24 hours to question a suspect and charge him. Edgar has lasted 23 hours not confessing or really saying anything at all aside from “no comment.” As the clock winds down, the team must change their tactics or risk letting this murdering rapist get away.
The tactics are a bit lame, to be honest, and literally just include switching out an interrogating detective for one who stares without speaking. Apparently, the stare is all Edgar needed to start talking. Again, it’s a bit lame, but Tennant is an actor that draws you in. Even as your head is screaming that he’s guilty, he’s so convincing your heart can’t help but wonder.
Other episodes include “Stacey,” which features “Agent Carter” herself, Hayley Atwell, as the sister of an abused girlfriend. When the boyfriend turns up in a coma due to rat poison, the team must figure out what happened and who did it. Atwell is also an actor who just captures the screen. No wonder Captain America would do anything to get that dance with Peggy.
The third and final episode is “Jay.” He abandoned his tractor-trailer on some dirt road somewhere, but it contains a trailer full of immigrants. If the team can’t find out where the truck is, there’s a chance they’ll all die due to conditions and the fact they’re stuck in a truck. This was actually the weakest episode of the three.
Each episode of “Criminal” is literally a game of cat and mouse or maybe chess. With each move the detectives make, the suspect makes his or her own. It’s a tale of “whodunit” when you already know who did. This isn’t an episode of “Matlock” where multiple people could be the culprit. It’s a show set in a room in a UK police station, and the person on the receiving end of the questions is involved somehow.
“Criminal” is a bit more cerebral than thrilling or emotional. Watching the war of words, especially in Tennant’s episode is fascinating. No, the show doesn’t have any great surprises, and if you’re looking for something to keep you on the edge of your seat, this likely isn’t a good fit for you. It’s not even a war of wits, outside of Tennant’s episode. And the team of detectives don’t become anyone you actually care about. The writers try to throw in random hints at romance or blatant scenes of alcoholism, but honestly, they just detract from the interesting bits of the show. After watching three episodes, I can barely tell you the detectives’ names. They’re simply a means to an end, which probably says a lot for the show’s storytelling ability.
If you don’t have cable or satellite, and you need your police procedural fix, this will do the trick. My suggestion would be to watch the first two episodes and skip the third. Tennant and Atwell do their part to elicit emotion from the audience, but ultimately, the show itself is quite forgettable.