CRIMINAL: UK is a fascinating and claustrophobic must-see crime drama

One room. Two detectives. One suspect. That’s the backbone of Criminal: UK, a three-episode anthology series where each episode takes place in the confines of an interview room which sees a suspect being interrogated. The ‘UK’ episodes are part of the wider 12-episode Criminal anthology series, with other episodes taking place in other countries.

If I had to describe this series in one word… fascinating. It’s a captivating series that is creepy, engaging and suspenseful thanks to the claustrophobic nature of being trapped in one room with a suspect that may or may not be guilty. The three individual stories are all thrilling due to the ways they incorporate different twists and turns, and work to create three distinctly unique narratives. Each one possesses a slightly different tone, altered by the personality of the suspect and the crime they have been accused of. There’s a couple of moments in the third episode and briefly in the second where the pacing is a bit off, but overall, every episode is fantastic.

Being an anthology series, the story of each suspect is contained entirely within their respective episodes, but that’s not all, the detectives have their own arcs that play out over the entire three-episode run. This is the connective tissue tying the episodes together. There are three or four main character arcs that carry over between the episodes. They’re all short arcs and don’t have any major repercussions, but they bring more personality to these characters who otherwise would be detective 1, 2, 3 and so on. It makes them memorable and another layer of the story to enjoy.

When it comes to performances, there’s a lot to highlight on both sides of the law. David Tennant and Hayley Atwell play the suspects in episodes one and two respectively, and they’re incredible. David Tenant specifically is phenomenal in his role. Your eyes are locked on him for that entire episode watching for any telling signs that he’s either innocent or guilty. Hayley Atwell plays a more emphatic character with more of an expressive personality and that’s a great contrast coming off of David’s performance. Youssef Kerkour plays the third and final suspect and he’s good, but he makes less of a memorable impact than the preceding two.

On the detective side, the team is made up of Katherine Kelly, Lee Ingleby, Mark Stanley, Rochenda Sandall and Nicholas Pinnock. I’m personally not familiar with any of their bodies of work, but they make for a great ensemble performance where they convincingly feel like a real detective team with history extending beyond these episodes. The short arcs of theirs add to their characters and make them easier to connect with.

To think that a series set entirely within the confines of a single interview room could be thrilling and engaging the entire time is amazing. The way each of the stories unfold is intense and they all will keep you guessing til the end. It’s claustrophobic, creepy and filled with strong performances on both sides of the table. Criminal: UK is an easy watch due to the short-form anthology structure and should be checked out.

8.1/10

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