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Criminal Record series review: Peter Capaldi and Cush Jumbo are fantastic, but procedural drama staggers to the end

A British investigative drama around miscarriage of justice in a murder case, institutional racism and more 

Criminal Record series review: Peter Capaldi and Cush Jumbo are fantastic, but procedural drama staggers to the end
Peter Capaldi in Criminal Record

Last Updated: 12.12 PM, Feb 23, 2024


Criminal Record story: When emergency services receive an anonymous call from a domestic abuse victim, whose partner has threatened to kill her with the same knife he used on a former partner, a crime for which an innocent man is serving 24 years for, DS June Lenker (Cush Jumbo) is assigned to check its credibility. Errol Mathis (Tom Moutchi) is the man behind bars, having ‘confessed’ to killing his then girlfriend, Adelaide Burrows (Ema Cavolli).

The case had been handled by DCI Daniel Hegarty (Peter Capaldi), one of the ‘good’ ones on the force. But did Daniel and his crew really play by the book or was it just convenient to pin the blame on a black man fleeing the scene with the victim’s blood on him?


Criminal Record review: When you pit two powerhouse performances against each other in a procedural drama, there are bound to be fireworks – the absolute brilliant kind that you cannot tear your eyes away from. But when this is stretched across 8 nearly hour-long episodes with a lot of time to fritter away, no matter the artistry on display, it can get dull. And that’s the problem with Criminal Record.

After a good 2-episode start, where it was established early on that an innocent man could be languishing in jail and that the men who put him there will go all out to ensure he stays put, it meanders all over the place, including the investigation into the shooting of a kid in a gang-related incident and much of the drama surrounding Hegarty’s daughter Lisa (Maisie Ayres). There’s literally no headway made in the original matter and you are left scratching your head wondering what the point was of some of those episodes in the mid-section.

Cush Jumbo in a still from Criminal Record
Cush Jumbo in a still from Criminal Record

Also, if you’ve seen enough British shows, you’d know how much they love to bandy racism at the work place about. From mispronounced names, failure to identify a person of colour correctly, undermining professional capabilities and attaching certain racial prejudices, to those on the receiving end being extra finicky about anything that could come across as even remotely racist, and more, it’s all there in pretty much every other show.

Criminal Record also has its fair share to establish that even if you’ve never had a run-in with the law, if you are a person of colour and just so happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, chances are that you are not coming out of it with your head held high. You are also meant to believe that even when white people say things that can be construed to be racist, they are, more often than not, said with no harm intended.

Peter Capaldi in Criminal Record
Peter Capaldi in Criminal Record

Peter Capaldi as DCI Daniel Hegarty is absolutely terrific, leaving you guessing if he stitched up an innocent man deliberately or if it was an unfortunate case of human error. Cush Jumbo is just the right opponent for him and together they make the show a decent one-time watch, although you know from the start that justice will prevail in the end. It’s the journey to this outcome that Capaldi and Jumbo make worthwhile.

Criminal Record verdict: Yes, the narrative would have been a lot better if it had been allotted a more generous cut at the editing table and if some of the supporting cast had more meaty roles to chew on. But then, Criminal Record is not one of those shows that relies heavily on the story-telling – it’s a familiar plot, the stumbling blocks along the way included. It’s about sending Capaldi and Jumbo into a boxing ring and indulge in more than just a round of sparring. And this is a match you may not want to miss, even if they are just dancing around the ring for a while.

All 8 episodes of Criminal Record are now available to stream on Apple TV+


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