AppleTV+’s new crime drama compellingly juggles issues of race, internal politics, and family dynamics.
Criminal Record drips with a sinister sense of foreboding in the first episode’s cold opening. Daniel Hegarty (Peter Capaldi), a high-ranking cop moonlighting as a car service driver, guides an age-mismatched couple to their destination, trying to play nice with them. The man of the lovers obnoxiously probes Hegarty for gruesome tales. In reply, the detective briefly indulges them before trailing off. To bring things to a close, he declares he’s seen far worse than what he’s described, and more often besides.
Nothing more happens. We never see the couple again. Presumably, Hegarty got them where they were going without anything further of interest occurring. Still, the scene bristles and pulses with danger. One can easily imagine Hegarty arresting them both. Or, worse, revealing his corruption and killing them both. Criminal Record isn’t that kind of show, as it turns out. However, the series smartly sets its tone in those early moments. No matter what it shows the audience after that, it’s impossible to shake the sense that this aging cop, played by Capaldi as somehow both spry and fragile, could be a ticking time bomb. Continue Reading →
A Murder at the End of the World
Hulu’s crime thriller/environmentalist warning is less than the sum of its references, but star Emma Corrin earns viewers’ attention.
The plot for A Murder at the End of the World goes a little something like this. A wealthy tech genius invites a group of similarly impressive individuals—including a detective who seems not to belong—to an isolated location for not entirely clear reasons. A murder sets everyone on edge as competing interests suggest several suspects and impede a proper investigation. Things only get worse as more die, and a storm ensures the group has no means of immediate escape.
If you find yourself thinking back to Glass Onion, rest assured you can’t be the only one. Functionally, the series plays as a kind of Anti-Glass Onion, the film’s cracked mirror image. While it is still plenty critical of the rich, it treats them with significantly more credulity. Their reputations earned, they’re genuinely talents apart from the rabble. The big issue isn’t that they're idiots and buffoons but that they’re squirreling away their gifts from the masses. Continue Reading →
Lessons in Chemistry
Despite the lead character’s penchant for brutal honesty and empirical truths, Lessons in Chemistry is not a series viewers should turn to for a gritty look at early 60s gender relations, race relations, or workers’ rights. That’s not to say the word of the Lee Eisenberg-created series—adapted from a Bonnie Garmus novel of the same name—exists in a conflict-free world. It’s there’s a bittersweet gentleness that underpins and surrounds the proceedings, conflicts and all. Continue Reading →
The Morning Show
Aaron Sorkin learned the hard way that no one takes TV as seriously as TV people. When he followed up his critically acclaimed The West Wing, a show about the inner workings of the White House, with Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip he discovered that you can’t treat everything with the gravity of a cabinet meeting and the wit of a theater major who gets straight Bs. His backstage drama about a fake sketch show pleased no one. When he tried to course correct with The Newsroom he tried to portray the American news media out to be brave warriors for the cause of truth. Both shows have lived rich second lives as meme generators about what Andrew Sarris would call "strained seriousness." Continue Reading →
Haunted house stories have always been my favorite. There's something so thrilling and unsettling about a place that feels and reacts to the people that occupy it. As I got older, I learned that haunting could mean many things. It could mean memory. It could mean joy, despair, humor, or fear soaking into the brick and mortar or reflecting our experiences back at us. If you look at it that way, isn't every house haunted? Continue Reading →
One of the hardest things in television is creating the impression of change without breaking the show or making it feel like half-assed window dressing. That’s the problem facing Mythic Quest at the start of Season 3. Continue Reading →