In a landscape overflowing with crime dramas, Apple TV+’s “Criminal Record” stands out by refusing to conform to typical genre conventions. This series, with its intricate narrative and morally ambiguous characters, explores big institutional questions of legacy and change while unraveling a cold case that may have led to the wrongful conviction of an individual. With a stellar cast, the drama subverts viewer expectations about the story, characters, and truth-telling.
The plot kicks off when a domestic violence call seems linked to a decade-old murder, prompting DS June Lenker (Cush Jumbo) to investigate the case of Errol Mathis (Tom Moutchi), the convicted suspect. Her pursuit leads her to DCI Daniel Hegarty (Peter Capaldi), the original detective on the case, who dismisses her concerns. This sparks a tense dynamic between the two as they clash over reopening an investigation considered closed.
The series weaves a tight narrative that combines elements of investigation, social commentary, and morality play. While the cold case itself is straightforward, the surrounding story is rich in unexpected twists, revealing new layers to characters and challenging assumptions. The conflict between June and Hegarty, framed as a generational divide, becomes more complex as both characters exhibit flaws and fallibility.
The show introduces subplots involving Errol’s son Patrick, Hegarty’s troubled parenting, and June’s mentally declining mother. However, these subplots pale in comparison to the gripping dynamic between June and Hegarty. The chemistry between Jumbo and Capaldi elevates the series, exploring adversarial and, at times, respectful interactions.
June’s character shines as a bold, tenacious, and occasionally paranoid investigator. Her multifaceted identity as a police officer, mother, and Black woman adds layers to the narrative. Capaldi’s portrayal of Hegarty steals the spotlight, presenting a character with gruff exterior and complex moral dilemmas. The series provocatively questions how viewers perceive him, resisting the temptation to turn him into a clear-cut villain.
While the central case doesn’t break new ground, “Criminal Record” addresses timely issues within the realm of policing and justice. It excels at raising questions, if not always providing answers. As a character-driven drama featuring powerhouse performances from Jumbo and Capaldi, the series is a worthwhile addition to the crime genre, offering a compelling exploration of legacy, change, and the complexities of truth and justice.