In a world with a million different generic crime series, why must one of the few that tries something new suffer? Disney+ added a brand new series this week that has hooked its claws into me and isn't letting go. I've been loving Culprits so far (I'm three episodes deep) but It seems like that's not the common consensus, and I can't understand why.
The show currently has a measly 57% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes and I'm starting to worry that we're not watching the same thing. I'm seeing a super smooth heist thriller across three different timelines (before, during and after the central heist) laced with black humour and more tension than a tightly strung tennis racket. What's not to love? Critics at least are closer to agreeing with me, but the 83% Rotten Tomatoes rating is still on the low side.
As mentioned, this is a heist show with a difference. The central premise is that after going their separate ways, our anti-heroes are starting to be hunted down and murdered one by one. But when they never learnt each other's names (only codenames) and then quickly assumed new identities across the globe, how can anyone be onto them, and how can they find each other to survive?
Our protagonist is Joe (codenamed 'Muscle') who lives with his partner (and his kids) in America, he has what looks like a pretty cosy life, but it's clear that it's all built on a lie. In the first episode, almost solely about Joe's attempts to retrieve his ill-gotten gain, there's a beautiful example of the old storytelling maxim 'show don't tell' that reveals his character wholly.
While he has his share of the cash in the passenger seat, Joe is witness to a dangerous hit and run, rendering a driver unconscious, and there's no one else around. Knowing that getting involved will have police swarming, he pauses and weighs up the options. Instead of leaving scott free, Joe hides the bag of money and calls 911. Of course, he then has to give a statement (and risk being caught), go to the station and so on. Even though we know he is a dangerous criminal, this shows us that Joe's conscience gets him into trouble.
This is just one example of the master craft on show, and with a brilliant cast too, I implore you to give Culprits a chance. It's streaming now on Disney+ in the UK and is coming to Hulu in the US in December.