What? More cops and crimes? Yes. And suspects. Available on Netflix in two seasons totaling seven worthy episodes, Criminal: UK will satisfy your minimum daily requirement of suspense. And thanks to superb writing, memorable characters, potent scenery, and top-tier casting, this pared-down format scores a home run every time.
Each episode features the home team of Britain’s fine detectives investigating a new crime. But unlike other series, Criminal is about the final phase of the process: the interrogation. This nuanced procedure determines the suspect’s involvement in the crime. Everything that led to this moment—discovering the crime, interviewing witnesses and associates, gathering evidence, etc.—has, in theory, already happened before the episode begins.
Each episode takes place entirely within the interview suite. And each of these three adjoining spaces becomes as vital as a character. They include the interrogation room, the observation room, and the adjacent hallway where the vending machine nourishes the team with snacks, mediocre coffee, or a cuppa tea.
First and foremost is the interrogation room. Sparsely furnished with a table and four chairs, this room accommodates the suspect with no pretense of comfort. It also seats the optional defense lawyer and the two detectives assigned to the case. The viewers’ vantage point alternates between this room and the room adjacent to the big observation window, with its one-way mirror that obscures the suspect’s view of the observation room. This window dominates the visuals as a commanding, intimidating presence, like a window into the soul of the suspect. It allows the team to monitor the suspect’s verbal responses and body language. And to investigate any new information the suspect reveals, which the team will contest or confirm.
These investigators might seem docile. They’re a gaggle of smart, chatty folks whose private conversations stir some welcome comedy into the mix, especially when a slip of the tongue requires a coin deposit in the office swear jar. But they’re also savvy. Observant. Thorough. And they know how to get under a suspect’s skin.
Now would be a good time to name-drop some of the esteemed talent that sits in the perpetrator hot seat. David Tennant (Broadchurch, Dr. Who, and so much more) plays a convincing physician suspected of homicide, whose preferred response is “no comment.” And Game of Thrones’ Kit Harington, a.k.a. Jon Snow, plays a suspect accused of assault. He is all too eager to detail his side of the story and, if you’ll excuse the phrase, he steals the show.
The detectives are portrayed by a roster of pedigreed film and TV actors, including Lee Ingleby (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, The Five), Katherine Kelly (The Night Manager, Happy Valley), and Mark Stanley (The Little Drummer Girl and Game of Thrones [as Grenn]).
And last but certainly not least, we pay tribute to the two creative minds behind this unique series: Jim Field Smith and George Kay. If you enjoy Criminal: UK, you’ll be pleased to learn that this team created three more versions of Criminal in the same format: Criminal: Spain, Criminal: France, and Criminal: Germany. Each series is spoken in its respective language with English subtitles. And this very same interior set was used for all four versions. So assuming you’re not guilty of any major crimes, you can watch them all and feel right at home.