Peter Capaldi and Cush Jumbo, individually amazing, are even more captivating when paired together in Criminal Record review.
The new drama on Apple TV+ begins with a scene at night featuring Peter Capaldi working as a taxi driver, accompanied by two unpleasant passengers in the back. He exudes intense anger and disdain towards them. I must mention that I would be interested in watching a show where Capaldi navigates the rough streets of London or Glasgow similar to Taxi Driver. The idea of Capaldi being forced to interact with people every night is intriguing. Wouldn’t you be willing to see that?
Luckily, this television series presents him with a role that is just as impressive. Criminal Record serves as a platform for Capaldi to portray DCI Daniel Hegarty, a traditional investigator (with a lack of friendliness), and Cush Jumbo as DS June Lenker, who he regards as a member of the modern generation solely based on her race and gender.
The two individuals’ journeys cross when a victim of domestic abuse contacts authorities anonymously, indicating that their significant other may have previously committed the crime of killing someone named Amelia Burrows. Lenker discovers that Hegarty was the detective in charge of the Burrows case and that the victim’s boyfriend, Errol Mathis, was accused of her murder. Mathis is currently serving a 24-year jail term, potentially unjustly.
Alone, Jumbo or Capaldi can hold anyone’s attention. Together, squaring off as adversaries, they are mesmerising. If ever there is going to be an award invented for best joint performance, make it this year, for them. Capaldi is terrifying as the cold predator sniffing round his prey, searching for weakness, prepared to wait for a quick, clean kill. Jumbo is fantastic as an opponent far from unaffected by all he brings to their contest – experience, connections, an indeterminable amount of malevolence – but resolving to go ever harder at him and at the truth about Mathis’s conviction and Burrows’s killer. We see Hegarty meet up with his old crew to check that previous arrangements will withstand a new inspection.
The protagonists in Criminal Record tackle pressing issues, particularly regarding racism in both institutional and individual contexts. In the first episode, Lenker, a Black character, is uncomfortable when her co-worker Hegarty makes a casual remark comparing another Black individual, Mathis, to OJ Simpson. Lenker’s white partner, Leo, dismisses her concerns and suggests she is overreacting. This raises questions about his role in telling her what to think and if he has the privilege to do so as a white male. There are many other thought-provoking aspects to this show that delve into these relevant topics.
This does not mean that Lenker is a perfect main character. Jumbo is given multiple complex roles to portray, similar to Capaldi. We witness numerous instances of the dangerous decision to justify actions in order to reach an end. This prompts us to question whether law enforcement officials should be held to higher moral standards, both by society and themselves. This all strongly relates to the current news stories about police misconduct and lack of concern for women’s rights and safety.
The only downside to focusing so much on the main characters is that the supporting characters are not fully developed. Talented actors like Cathy Tyson as Errol’s mother, Doris, and Zoë Wanamaker as Lenker’s elderly mother, Maureen, do not have much to contribute. Wanamaker’s character appears to serve the purpose of highlighting the added responsibilities that working women face and setting the stage for Lenker’s manipulation by Hegarty through his connections at the professional standards department.
It would have been even better to have more screen time for Sonya, Mathis’s hardworking yet tireless lawyer portrayed by Aysha Kala. Kala delivers a stunning and unforgettable performance that demands attention while watching the show.
In terms of the plot, there are no groundbreaking elements present, but the way the past and present cases are intertwined and eventually resolved is quite intriguing. The cleverness and subtlety in which numerous questions are raised and issues are explored through the main characters make the cost of admission well worth it. Additionally, I also hope to see Capaldi’s Taxi Driver.