Martin Carr reviews season 2 of Netflix’s Criminal…
Criminal changed the format for police procedurals by challenging our preconceptions. Extended monologues, voyeuristic interrogations and audience complicity drew people in without scenery chewing. For the guest star suspects including David Tennant and Hayley Atwell in season one, it provided opportunities for a measured masterclass in acting subtlety.
Supported by an array of season regulars including Katherine Kelly and Lee Ingleby, this set up demanded people pay attention. Feeling more like a two act play Criminal challenged prejudice, questioned the definition of guilt and sometimes left a sour taste. Season two written by Jim Field Smith and George Kay does more of the same casting doubt, promoting debate and allowing solid guest stars an opportunity to shine.
Combining its stripped down format, single location and inherent sense of claustrophobia, season two allows two left field choices time outside their comfort zone. Kit Harington is the first playing a narcissistic London company man in deep water. Gone is the sensitive, insular Jon Snow for which he is well known. In his place we get Alex a bluff, overtly masculine career type who is slick and loud. This really gives Harington something brash, brave and nuanced to tackle in a role which keeps him centre stage throughout.
His segment is not only layered with subtlety, external inter-relationships and flashes of emotion which shift the dynamic in different directions, but remains intentional contentious. There is an ambiguity which permeates the final exchanges between Alex and his accusers, that leaves no winners on this playing field. Police procedure, criminal definitions and personal ethics are called into question keeping the fires of debate burning throughout.
Possibly the most intriguing actor under interrogation this season is Kunal Nayyar, known globally for playing Raj Koothrappali. Walking in under the guise of a convicted felon offering information Nayyar is riveting in this role. By turns measured, calculating and emotionally barren it allows the actor to bury Raj permanently. Gone is the naïve, sensitive super nerd perpetually lovelorn and captured within a sitcom bubble. In his place we have Sandeep Singh who has delusions of grandeur, an elitist attitude and a talent for telling tales.
Handed some cold blooded dialogue and a character study most actors would kill for Kunal takes advantage. Substantial drama, sinister reveals and a denouncement that is guaranteed to stay with you, make him the reason to watch season two. Rarely do actors with such global recognition manage to cast off the role which defines them. Daniel Radcliffe never has, Christopher Reeve never did and Jim Parsons may struggle despite his best efforts. Something which is worth remembering because sometimes there are exceptions.