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Criminal_Record.jpg

'Criminal Record' on Apple TV+ Is Basically an Eight-Hour Version of This Header Image

By Dustin Rowles | TV | February 27, 2024 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | February 27, 2024 |


Criminal_Record.jpg

I am such a big fan of Cush Jumbo from her work on The Good Wife and The Good Fight (and Torchwood years before), that I have followed her to every project she’s made since. The series themselves are different, but the tone in Deadwater Fell (with David Tennant), The Beast Must Die (with Jared Harris), and Stay Close (with Richard Armitage) has been remarkably consistent: Bleak, dreary, and depressing. They are very British, and I’d love to see Jumbo get an opportunity to do something besides play the most depressing character in the UK.

Jumbo recently appeared on Watch What Happens Live, where she told Andy Cohen that “there will be” a second season of her most recent series, Criminal Record, the first season of which wrapped last week. We haven’t yet written about Criminal Record, which pairs Jumbo this time with Peter Capaldi. It’s the best project she’s been involved with since The Good Fight, but it is still dreary as hell and about as thrilling as its title.

At least Cush Jumbo does not play the mother of a dead child in this one. Here, she plays Detective Sergeant June Lenker, who is investigating the case of a Black man, Errol Mathis (Tom Moutchi), falsely imprisoned for murdering his girlfriend. Peter Capaldi plays a senior detective, DCI Daniel Hegarty, who originally investigated the murder and elicited a confession from Mathis. Lenker and Hegarty are at odds, and it’s unclear what Hegarty’s motives are: Is he trying to cover up sloppy police work? Did he intentionally build a case against the wrong man for racist reasons? Or a bit of both?

It’s a fairly generic plot about systemic racism in the London police department, but it does take a turn in the final couple of episodes, elevating it slightly. Jumbo and Capaldi are as good as ever, but these are roles that each can play in their sleep: Stoic, stern, humorless. The themes are weighty and important but often feel as though they are working at cross-purposes with the plot, which is more interested in dropping (mostly predictable) twists to keep viewers engaged through an eight-episode series that is about four episodes too long.

Criminal Record is not a chore to watch, but it’s not entertaining enough to work as a thriller or substantive enough to work as an issue-based detective series. I didn’t hate it, and I will definitely watch a second season. However, it’s still too glum to properly recommend to anyone who isn’t willing to follow Capaldi and Jumbo to every bummer of a series they make in the hopes that the next will provide an opportunity to express more than one dimension to their personalities.