STORY: The Criminal series is a look at the calculated exchange happening between investigators and detained/arrested suspects, with each trying to wear the other’s patience and veneer down. While the second season of Criminal UK is no different, with the cases following the format to the T, the way the stories are designed and the manner in which the actors play their parts out, alongside the mandatory peaks and valleys to keep us hooked, is what sets this season apart.
Review: By now, the Criminal package has an established pattern- a suitably big interrogation room (with a pulsating tension packed in it) sets the stage for suspects to be brought into our focus and grilled by a team of detectives. There is a dark observation room attached on the side, separated by only a two-way mirror, that’s used by the team for monitoring purposes while the proceedings are on.
This time around, there are four episodes over last time’s three, each dedicated to a distinct crime, with several movie and television stars brought in as suspects to add the stardust; what they bring in instead is acting muscles so tight you can spot the underlying veins. You will applaud Sophie Okonedo as the wife of a suspected murderer shocked at the revelation; the gorgeous Kit Harington is up next playing a stunned estate agent who has been accused of date rape by a fellow colleague; Sharon Horgan playing a vigilante who actively hunts paedophile or so she thinks, is the one plot that sags comparatively; and the goofy Kunal Nayyar of The Big Bang Theory fame, in a stark contrast to the role that brought him accolades.
The detectives who are more or less constant from last season, seem to step back voluntarily to let the ‘stars’ shine bright, yet they are relentless in their interrogation as we would expect in real life. In certain, exceptions, and there are quite a few, they also help steer the suspects to tap their own humanity and aid the ongoing investigation. It’s interesting that some of the cases sit on the fence to underline just how difficult it’s to be in the “right” – be it by law or as a human being.
Nayyar, the pick of the lot, plays an imprisoned killer called Sandeep who has been brought back for questioning to help solve a new high-profile case. He plays to the galleries spectacularly coming up with a deep, theatrical performance totally unlike the blustering scientist he has won our hearts with. Harington’s episode is striking, which he begins with a superb monologue and ends with a plea. In two words, it is– simply captivating. Nayyar scares you better as he manages to freeze the blood in your veins with only his dead stare, a couple of times.
The series is also able to leave you with several questions to ponder on – How sure can you be that you know a person, any person? Are we, as a society, primed to look at a man accused of rape, even if he were proved to be innocent eventually, as a perpetrator always? Are online vigilantes actually cleaning the society or are they on a dangerous path? While it sticks to the trite, feel-good reasoning that ‘in the end, the good guy always wins’, the season is better than the previous in being one that makes you do some thinking on your own, instead of the audience being handed pre-packaged answers and beliefs. It questions us, challenges us and thus gets us to invest deeply in the stories. Therein lies its victory.
Name of the Series: Criminal: UK Season 2 (English)
Director: Jim Field Smith
Cast: Katherine Kelly, Lee Ingleby, Kit Harrington, Kunal Nayyar, Sharon Horgan, Sophie Okonedo
Rating: 4 Stars