Criminal Justice Season 2
Russian playwright Anton Chekhov once said "If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired." In Criminal Justice the pistol is a tub of Vaseline Joe Miller QC (Matthew Macfadyen1) rubs over his nips and balls before he goes jogging. Hold that tub. Joe is a heck of a guy. He’s just secured the conviction of a racist killer; he puts bad guys away. Motherfucker, he’s running the London Marathon for charity. He looks after his exasperating depressed wife Juliet (Maxine Peake). What has she got to be depressed about? Fair enough, she lives in an oppressively sterile abode that looks like a VD clinic but she has a perfect husband, their darling daughter Ella (Alice Sykes) and money is never ever going to be a problem. Girl, you got to know when you got it good.
"At his bidding, she meekly goes downstairs to retrieve the Vaseline from his bag. There’s your loaded pistol – Joe likes to go raw dog on his missus. Up the arse if I take the inference correctly. We didn’t see that coming."
So why are there these niggling doubts about Joe Miller? Maybe it’s him checking her car mileage, monitoring her shower use and Internet activity? Perhaps him scoring drugs off a sleazy dealer2 prompted our doubts? Is Joe just concerned about his wife as any husband would be or is he the cause of her torment?
Check this. That night he asks for sex with his wife, a request punctuated with a blow just wide of her head into the mattress. Steady on, chap – good manners cost nothing. At his bidding, she meekly goes downstairs to retrieve the Vaseline from his bag. There’s your loaded pistol – Joe likes to go raw dog on his missus. Up the arse if I take the inference correctly. We didn’t see that coming.
“The pulleys, cogs and gears of the justice system are a-whirring and nobody knows how to stop them.”
Much like Joe didn’t see the kitchen knife that his wife sticks lustily between his ribs during sex. Before you know it, Joe’s fighting for his life, Juliet’s in custody and Ella’s in the care system. The pulleys, cogs and gears of the justice system are a-whirring and nobody knows how to stop them.
In prison, Juliet shacks up with psychos, self mutilators and assorted wrong ‘uns. Rookie criminal barrister Anna (Zoe Telford) and solicitor Jack (Sophie Okonedo) work like crazy to get her out of the can. Jack suspects domestic abuse – she wants to cite rape. Juliet, who you can’t get a peep out of, will go along with anything she says. But was she raped? Controlling Jekyll & Hyde he may be but we’ve never even seen Joe Blow hit her. Jack may be a little too keen to let a killer walk. Grey area is everywhere.
"Peter Moffat expertly draws you in, plays with your loyalties, challenges everything you thought you knew. Justice is rarely black and white and in a case where the only person who knows for sure isn’t talking, all you’re doing is guessing."
Working like crazy to keep her in the can, meanwhile, are the rozzers. DCI Faber (Denis Lawson) is decent and thorough; his number two DI Chris Sexton (Steve MacKintosh) just wants to imprison a scrote. His wife DS Flo Sexton (Kate Hardie) though, has doubts about both Juliet’s guilt and her husband’s methods. With the fertility problems they are having it’s a bad time to bring your work home but there’s just something about this case that gets under your skin.
That’s a sign of good writing. Once again, Peter Moffat expertly draws you in, plays with your loyalties, challenges everything you thought you knew. Justice is rarely black and white and in a case where the only person who knows for sure isn’t talking, all you’re doing is guessing. Maxine Peake is impressive as the dead eyed cipher Juliet – will she end up being the villain? Or will it be creepy dead barrister? Or pushy lefty solicitor? Or overzealous roughneck cop?
My money’s on the kid.
The best thing about it: The pacing of the exposition in the first episode – immaculate.
The worst thing about it: The Sexton vs Sexton subplot doesn’t really get out of the starting blocks.
The verdict on Criminal Justice Season 2: He never done it.
Marks out of 10: 8
1 Usually, this would be a cue to discuss Keeley Hawes’s private life but Aerial Telly has decided to drop that shit. Make like St Paul and put away childish things.
2 Thursdays episode reveals this to be balls. Homeboy was sponsoring him for the marathon. Durr.
Imagined: Friday, October 09, 2009