Joe (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) lives a quiet life in a quaint Washington suburb with his fiancé and two children. However, his criminal past comes back to haunt him when a masked gunman begins killing former crew members from a job that he did three years previously. Alternating between scenes set in the past and present, Culprits gradually fills in the blanks about what went wrong during the big score whilst Joe faces the consequences of what happened.
Beginning with a violently blunt cold open that establishes the show’s tone and overarching mystery, the pacing slows down for the first few episodes as viewers are introduced to the protagonist in addition to how he got wrapped up in the pivotal crime. Stewart-Jarret does a commendable job in the lead role, instantly winning viewers over with his endearing screen presence. When he’s not picking up the children from school or being a loving partner, he proves to be a force to be reckoned with.
By giving brief glimpses into what happened during the job in non-chronological order, there’s an element of Reservoir Dogs to this show. The allure of knowing what caused everything to fall apart is too tantalising to be ignored, and watching the beginning stages of the crime’s plan come to fruition is as smartly written and entertaining as any other high-stakes thriller. It’s these points where the show is at its finest. It’s the scenes in the present day where the script starts to come apart.
Alongside the pressing matter of a killer on his tail, the other half of the show sees Joe come head-to-head with a powerful local politician and struggle with hiding his past from his fiancé. While both plotlines are intended to raise the drama to thicken the plot, they ultimately weigh down the action by padding out the runtimes. More frustrating, though, is the script’s attempts at social commentary: while the points being made about white privilege and racial discrimination are valid, the tonal clash between these moments and the crime thriller elements are distractingly out of place.
With the plot picking up around the halfway point, Culprits is on its way to becoming a solid, if flawed, crime thriller.
Culprits is released on Disney+ on 8th November 2023.
Watch the trailer for Culprits here: