Netflix’s Criminal: Germany Review
This week, we head to Germany to see how the Criminal formula fits there and it leads to better storytelling, but a stale environment.
Although, we’re in a new country, the premise and setting hasn’t changed. We’re back with a new crew of investigators interviewing suspects in a race against the clock to solve horrific crimes. While the premise still isn’t old as Germany takes on some more unique cases, however, the environment hasn’t changed. The setting looks exactly the same and it’s an aspect that I found incredibly distracting at times. It’s just so hard to believe that both the headquarters in the U.K. and Germany look exactly the same. All they had to do was change the colors, layout, or really anything just to make it stand out for the new location, but they don’t so it just leaves an odd impression and a lack of uniqueness for the area.
Thankfully, though, with a new team of investigators and new crimes to solve, Criminal: Germany finds its strength to somewhat outdo the U.K.’s already excellent series. Right of the bat, this new team, consisting of team leader Karl Schulz (Sylvester Groth), investigator Antje Borchert (Florence Kasumba), investigator Martin Ludwig (Christian Kuchenbuch), and tech specialist Stefan Proska (Jonathan Berlin), faces a new challenge as they are under review from a higher up – Nadine Keller (Eva Mechbach). It’s an interesting challenge to add, considering the task of extracting information from reluctant suspects is already pretty tough, but it leads to some interesting quarrels as Schulz is seemingly hiding something throughout the series.
Groth and Mechback easily put in the strongest performances as they butt heads throughout each episode and dig into each person across the table from them. There’s a strong underlying tension between the two, with Keller investigating the team for an unknown reason and Schulz hiding an issue that doesn’t appear until the final episode, and Groth and Mechback are absolutely dominant throughout each episode. Their great performances really make each episode very engaging to watch, but it comes at the cost of the other characters being a little pointless. Unlike U.K., this series only has Schultz and Keller in the interrogation room and keeps everyone else in the other room to only say a few lines. This season is definitely more focused on Schultz and Keller’s storylines and it’s possible that future iterations could focus more on other characters, but for now, they almost feel as if they are just there to have something else to cut to from time to time.
Where Germany shines, though, is in the cases that is showcases throughout each episode as they were incredibly unique compared to the cases in U.K. In the first episode, Jochen, there’s a mystery that surrounds the titular suspect that touches on an interesting part of German history and the third episode, Claudia, pits Schultz against an inmate as he attempts to uncover new information to solve a drawn-out cold case. My favorite episode was definitely Yilmaz, though, as it better utilizes the lawyer character and presents an interesting perspective with domestic abuse. Outside of the investigators, Nina Hoss puts in a terrifying and gripping performance as Claudia in her respective episode and easily steals the show with how well she balances her character’s more hardened and personal side. Overall, what surprised me about Germany was how emotionally driven these cases and suspects became over time and it’s an aspect that made me have such a stronger connection with Germany that I didn’t think I would have.
Even with Germany being visually the same and under-using most of its investigators, it finds its own identity within its cases and ends up being just as much of an engaging watch as U.K. This series shows that, while France and Spain will likely be visual carbon copies of one another, that they can still find their own identity through strong performances and unique cases to solve.