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What I Learned Watching Criminal – Netflix

Criminal: UK

  • Protocol is everything. If you have 30 seconds until the interview is over, you have 30 seconds, and that’s it. You do not cross that line.
  • A lot depends on your solicitor. They are there to enforce protocol. Protocol is everything.
  • Romance is a shy, tender thing. Any romance that goes beyond a cautious look between two officers is a matter of Great Controversy, for it has breeched protocol.
  • Know how you’re doing well? When your interviewee shuts down into an emotional wall, encased in the sheer weight of logic and evidence from which there is no escape.
  • Everyone is guilty. Or at least did something dodge. The question is not whether this is the case, because you do not go into that room without forensics – simply whether you can prove it, and catch them out.
  • If you breach protocol, you will be fired. And maybe your entire team too. But in that moment it will be essentially the emotional denoument of the entire series. Forget the pain and suffering, the violence and the trauma. PROTOCOL MUST BE UPHELD.

Criminal: Spain

  • Sure, there’s protocol, but screw it. There’s a job to be done! Fake that search warrant, kidnap that dog, let people scream and beat their fists against the wall. It works! It works and that is all that matters.
  • Solicitors are essentially there to take notes, and every now and then point out that what your doing is technically off-book, without doing anything about it. Even the clients don’t give a monkeys about their legal advice.
  • You know how you’re doing well? When the interviewee breaks down screaming on the floor, tears and pounding of fists. Case: solved.
  • Guilt is a complicated, tangled notion. There’s a mystery to be unravelled here, but it’s one of betrayal, hurt and wounded hearts in this dark and twisted world.
  • Romantic relationship at work? FINE. A tender brush of hand to shoulder; a gentle palm resting on an insubordinate’s thigh? It’s all in the name of love, and when life is traumatizing and bleak, what else is there but love?

(Also, Criminal: Spain had one of the most powerfully affecting episodes of the whole lot. Though also seems to no longer be part of the Schengen zone, for narrative purposes. Meh, whatever!)

Criminal: France

  • All Criminal episodes have a woman either near or at the top, which is nice. In the UK, this manifests in a conversation about how hard it is being a woman in a man’s world, and the steely-eyed will you need to succeed. In France, this is a disaster. A young woman has been promoted over her older, male colleagues? UNACCEPTABLE. She must be ousted through political scheming and betrayal, until she finally is forced to ‘prove herself’ after a season of being undermined. Pouvoir des filles!
  • Of course, it’s hard being a woman in the French police. Because if you’re not being constantly undermined by your own colleagues, you’re ruining cases, destroying any hope of a successful investigation or screaming hysterically at a mirror. Oddly enough, the men are fine with this, even if her female boss is not. If only there was some sorta protocol here….?
  • Solicitors know how to play the game. Protocol – it is but a tool to be bent to the will of a master.
  • Know how you’re doing well? The head in hands. There is no screaming here, no wailing or gnashing of teeth. The suffering of your interviewees is an internalised sob of despair, pressed in behind their aching brows.
  • What is guilt anyway? Is guilt not a kind of love? Does love – or the absence of it – not fuel our greatest betrayals, our greatest acts of cowardice or despair? No one is truly guilty. We are all just looking for a connection, n’es pas?

Criminal: Germany

  • Screw protocol! I was swimming when you wanted me to arrest the suspected murderer! This wasn’t a police interview, not really – we were just chatting about corpses and betrayal, like old buddies! Kidnap that prisoner; it’s how things were done in the good old days. Protocol is for loooossseeerrsss.
  • Another threatening woman here, challenging the older, wiser men, god damn her. But at least she’s got some heart, because a) she learns to recognise that men breaking rules can be good and b) she’s pregnant, and doesn’t get upset when her subordinates make a joke about her urination habits. Yaaaayyyy.
  • Curiously, there is another woman here, who stands behind the mirror and looks as if she should totally be in charge, but says, I think, maybe two words? She is enigma.
  • Is this dude guilty? Are you? Am I? Maybe we all are! We’re solving this in real-time, peeps. There’s a mystery to be untangled, a plot to be driven forward. If there turns out to be a secret door in the interview room itself, I will not be surprised. Did you see the way that man just adjusted his cuff? I bet it means something.
  • Know how you’re doing well? Profound resignation. The die has been cast; the end cometh. We may as well face it, and ourselves, when the morning comes, for better or worse.
  • Solicitors… are utterly terrifying creatures who don’t just bend the law, they actively commit blackmail, in front of police witnesses, AND GET AWAY WITH IT, because… solicitors? Fear them. They crush protocol beneath their feet! Protocol: the crutch of inferior minds!

(Fun fact: it is illegal in Germany to refer to a police officer with the informal ‘du’. Unless you’re using the formal ‘sie’ you can be charged and fined. Not that you’d know it here.)