Criminal Record on Apple TV starring Cush Jumbo as DS June Lenker and Peter Capaldi as DCI Peter Hegarty

Criminal Record, on Apple TV+, stars Peter Capaldi as the formidable DCI Dan Hegarty and Cush Jumbo as the dogged DS June Lenker, who challenges an old case of Hegarty’s after she hears a caller say the wrong man is in prison. It’s a densely plotted series, mostly well-written, but the action does get a little implausible. That being said, this battle of wits and wills is fun to watch. Capaldi in particular wears his menace well.

If you aren’t sure what a DS or DCI is, read our guide to UK Police Ranks here.

The basic premise

DS June Lenker, who is on the domestic violence team, is reviewing a tape of an anonymous call that came into the emergency line from a woman who had been stabbed by her boyfriend. In the call, she claims that her boyfriend stabbed her with the same knife he used to kill his last girlfriend in 2012, a crime for which another man is serving 24 years in prison.  The caller leaves the phone booth before the cops can get to her. June figures out which case she’s talking about, and tracks down the chief officer on the case, Dan Hegarty, who is now a DCI. Against her boss’s advice, June asks Hegarty about the possibility that even though he confessed, Errol Morris (Tom Moutchi) is the wrong man. Hegarty pleasantly straightens her out, but as she leaves, he hisses, “Next time, do as your told. Send an email.” Instead of backing off, like most subordinates would do, June digs her heels in. Why is she looking for a fight with this guy?  Meanwhile, she may be right. Hegarty checks in with the other officers on that case. “She’s coming after us, so if there’s anything off, I need to know.” They assure him that all is well.

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Interesting Sub-plots

The plot of this 8-episode series is meaty, with several sub-plots keeping it interesting. While looking into the old case, June meets with several people, including Errol’s devoted lawyer Sonya (the delightful Aysha Kala). She tells June that Hegarty was the leader of a notorious police crew called “the 62’s”. She also explains that Errol retracted his confession, but it was too late. For Hegarty’s part, he has an unexplained side hustle as a limo driver, and a painful secret at home. But he’s not all bad-we see him work his sources to solve crimes, and he takes good care of said sources, as well as an ex-partner who is in a wheelchair. At home, June lives with her partner Leo (Stephen Campbell Moore), who is a shrink, and her son from a previous marriage. Leo, who is white, is frustrated with June and thinks she’s picking a fight and being paranoid.

Our Take on Criminal Record

First, the problems. WHY would an anonymous caller who fears for her life talk about an old crime on the emergency call? Why does June believe her? Why is June allowed to ignore her work (and her family, for that matter) and pursue this case that she has been asked, many times, to drop? Why does June continue to barge headlong into dangerous situations that get the best of her more than once? Criminal Record has very polarized viewer reviews. Some call it “Woke BS” with a “white man bad/black people good” storyline, but I think it’s more complex and better written than that. It’s clear in the first episode that June, who is black, is stepping out of line, thinking she knows best, and being incredibly insubordinate based on hearsay from an anonymous woman on a call. I believe the writers are purposely putting viewers in the uncomfortable position of watching a flawed black woman challenge a powerful and dangerous white superior during this fraught era of racial tension. Even the haters agree that the performances are outstanding, and the scenes between Capaldi and Jumbo crackle. So, while I don’t love certain silly plot machinations, I am enjoying Criminal Record.

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