Review of Cracker (TV series)

By Christine Iannicelli

Watching TV is one of my favorite pastimes; consequently, I am always on the lookout for a new (or old) television show to watch. Going through the stacks at the Gabriele Library, I came across a 90’s British crime drama called Cracker. The show starred Robbie Coltrane as a criminal psychologist named Fitz who assists police officers in locating and interrogating murderers (essentially, he helps them “crack” the case). Robbie Coltrane is best known for his portrayal of the lovable Hagrid in the Harry Potter series and as a thief hiding out in a convent in the 1990 comedy Nuns on the Run. I am a big fan of Robbie Coltrane and detective shows so naturally, this series seemed like a good fit.

All in all, I enjoyed Cracker. It was unexpected, suspenseful, and eerie at times. The producers weren’t afraid to injure or kill off main characters and the lines between the good guys and the bad guys were often blurred. Most episodes begin illustrating a day in the life of the criminal. We learn all about them: their likes, their dislikes, their motives, and ultimately, what drives them to kill. There is an intimacy between the audience and the villains and at times, we get a little too close for comfort. Only when we’ve walked side by side with the villains do we get a break from their twisted reality and transition to the detectives trying to bring them to justice.

Robbie Coltrane is the star of the show and he does not disappoint. His character of Fitz is flawed and complex. He has a tumultuous relationship with his wife, he’s not very kind to his son, and he spends most of this time drinking, smoking, and gambling. Fitz is the classic anti-hero. But if there is one thing he’s good at, it is understanding the criminal mind. Frequently throughout the series, when Fitz is sitting across from a violent sociopath in an interrogation room, he will look them in the eye and say with all sincerity, “I understand you.” And in all honesty, he does. He knows with every fiber in his being why they do what they do, what makes them tick, and what ultimately motivated them to kill. It’s not enough for Fitz to convict someone; in fact, I’m not at all convinced putting criminals in jail is his main objective. What Fitz truly enjoys is the study of human behavior. He wants to help these damaged individuals understand exactly why they resorted to violence in the first place. Where did things go wrong? Once Fitz gets the criminals to open their eyes to the truth, only then do they often confess to their crimes.

Fitz is unapologetic about his behavior and methods. When his wife confronts him about his gambling addiction and begs him to quit for the sake of his family, he point-blank tells her no. He knows he can’t quit and he won’t lie to appease her. Fitz smokes, drinks, and gambles because he likes it. Plain and simple. Still, underneath that cynical, cold façade is a good man. We get glimpses of his compassion in rare moments throughout the series. They are short-lived, but we can tell Fitz cares deeply for his children and his “partner”, Jane Penhaligon. When it comes down to it, though, Fitz is a hard-living man who prides himself on his brutal honesty. Like its main character, Cracker doesn’t pull any punches.  Fans of Criminal Minds, Luther, or other psychological dramas will most likely enjoy this series.

Check out all three seasons at the Gabriele Library.

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