Criminal Record – Season 1

A Dull Detective Story

 British Cop dramas are a dime a dozen, but seeing Peter Capaldi’s name as part of the marquee along with Cush Jumbo is an attractive enough display to not let the opportunity to pass. 

The old veteran vs. rookie cop drama shadowed with figments of corruption, mistrust, and ego-maniacal tyranny is a trending plot in this police procedural. Coupled with the over-pushed narrative of race and inequality, it had become just another crime show with a definite agenda. With this as its structural base for its overall narrative, it was certainly a direct way to divide its audience.

The message was clear from the very first episode. Criminal Record will be just another show focused on a woman of color climbing a white man’s ladder. That should be a good thing right? The renegade yet inclusive outlook of a young, marginalized woman of color against the established and morally bankrupt white-skinned veteran out to get her.

For Criminal Record, they had the target but completely missed it by a mile. Bringing forth social issues in crime shows has been a trademark move, it is what makes their series relevant in modern streaming media. Though both the titular character’s persona only served to move the story along and not the story focusing on the development of the character. 

Flimsy Characters for Great Actors

There are a number of reasons why Criminal Record did not work for me. From Cush’s June Lenker to even Capaldi’s Hegarty. The actors were misused and their talents could have pushed the envelope even further. Both are terrific actors and the story felt mismanaged at times. Cush Jumbo’s grace and elegance in the performing arts is swapped with a typical white-knighting attitude coupled with an immeasurable sense of narcissistic empowerment to be the heroine of the day. On the other hand, Peter Capaldi’s intensity and bravado, though it can still be recognized in his aged facial emotions, is bartered for a stoic and conniving antagonist out to get the good-doers with as much plot holed plans as he can muster. 

There is also the matter of the story pushing the narrative that moral absolutism is encouraged as long as the end justifies the means. As the series ended its first season, there were little to no repercussions for both of the characters. Yes, I said both. Not just Hegarty’s loose translation of the law but also Officer Lenker’s to abide by the rules herself, even getting her workmates into trouble just so that, in her mind, she can do the right thing. 

I’d have to admit, I didn’t know which way the writer was going for in both character’s arc. One minute we are led to believe that Hegarty is just a stickler for the rules and had to do what he did for the sake of family, and the next minute his character is focused on eradicating anyone that in his way, through death or otherwise, including family. This is not an example of a complicated character that can be both good and bad, this is just lazy writing.

June Lenker’s journey of discovery towards her personal worth is always racially motivated in every step of the way. Her character keeps on complaining about the system being unfair when she also uses the system for her own self benefit. Much like Hegarty, there is a lot of contradictions in both of them. All her mistakes and confusing miscalculations are given the deus-ex-machina treatment to shelter her from being severely punished. 

This is what I don’t understand, the show’s narrative is clearly pushing the narrative of inequality and race, but when the heroine character does things that is against her quality as a flag bearer of moral good, and mind you she is not forced into doing these illegal things, she justifies it as part of her cause. So I really don’t know what this show is trying to say. Is she aligned as chaotic-good? You can do bad things as long as your intention is justified? Was that it?

Maybe that was the writer’s intention. That there is no absolute way to say that some people are good or bad. No one is within each end of the moral spectrum. That both serves their purpose and takes advantage of the social status they are in. If this is what they were going for, then my hat’s off to you. You just made a police show boring with a few added steps.

Completely Passable

And with I mean by that is it is a series not worthy of your time unless you want rambling performances that does not bring out the best with Peter and Cush’s acting prowess. It’s really a sad thing to see these wonderful actors being given incoherent plot lines and mediocre dialogue as they progress through every scene. In my opinion, if you’re a fan of either Capaldi or Jumbo, just watch it. If not, maybe you can check out other titles for 2024’s tv slate.

About the Author – Alvin Asiaten

Alvin is a multifaceted creative who finds inspiration in binge-watching various TV series and immersing himself in the world of video games. As a skilled graphic illustrator and video editor, he brings his unique vision to perspective and is well informed in the art of captivating visuals and storytelling.

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