Picture shows: Alex Daniels (KIT HARINGTON) and Roberta Laing (AMANDA DREW)

Netflix Review – Criminal: UK, Season 2 (2020)

Same investigating team; new suspects. Following the success of Criminal: UK last year, Netflix have released a second season of four, forty-minute long episodes. As part of Netflix’s anthology series, Criminal takes place almost exclusively in one room, with one police team trying to needle their way into a suspects mind for answers. The neon-lit interviewing suite with its intimidating one-way mirror is the setting for all branches of the show; Germany, France and Spain each having their own version.

A dialogue-heavy narrative that places immense focus on detail – honing in hand gestures and nervous ticks – holds a big risk of disengaging, droning exposition. However, Criminal: UK narrowly avoids this, mainly due to the impeccable acting and gripping, complex crime stories. Unlike many detective shows saturating the market today, Criminal: UK swerves away from generic, serial killer stereotypes to explore the twisted inner-workings of low-profile criminals. That’s not to say these suspects are innocent – far from it. Yet, there’s an element of relatability about them that sparks our intrigue; these characters aren’t so different from those we meet in everyday life. I wonder how many of those are criminals, too?

Criminal: UK is a game of wits; a psychological match where every tear and leg-shake is monitored, analyzed, and questioned. Criminal’s – to avoid getting caught – must be smart and strategic in the way they tell their alibi. When up against a team of professionally trained minds, this allows for extremely tense, layered scenes with unpredictable ends. Considering each episode takes place around one table, with two or three characters, it’s pretty impressive how engrossing the show can be.

Each episode of Criminal: UK centers around a different interviewee, played by an established British actor. Season two stars Kit Harington, Sophie Okonedo, Sharon Horgan and Kunal Nayyar in the hot seat, alongside the continued police force cast from season one. Perhaps due to time constraints – each episode having to build up, interrogate and solve an entire case – our investigators are a little underdeveloped; their personal lives are hinted to in snatches, but never truly gain our investment. That said, viewers still come to know and support the team behind the mirror, admiring their psychological methods to obtain justice.

There’s a modern, polished feel to Criminal: UK that verges on artificiality – too sleek, too clean for a brutal murder investigation. However, precise camerawork and sparse settings arguably encourage us to focus solely on the interview. It is simply character and story, without the bells and frills. Stripped down to the very basics of on-screen storytelling, Criminal: UK is enthrallingly binge-worthy, available now on Netflix.