“Carmen” is a tragic and emotionally powerful installment, wih a powerhouse performance at its centre.
This recap of Criminal: Spain Episode 2, “Carmen”, contains spoilers. You can check out our spoiler-free season review by clicking these words, and our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these ones.
The bruised face of Carmen is telling in Criminal: Spain Episode 2. You can tell quite early where the episode is heading, and for once that isn’t a criticism. The only problem is that you don’t want it to get there. A dynamite leading performance carries this episode to its tragic and deeply emotional conclusion, which is perhaps the most hard-hitting in the entire anthology.
Carmen’s autistic sister, Aurora, drowned in the bath while under her care. Their mother has lupus; their father is violent. Their home is essentially broken. Benefits for Aurora’s care are the only thing keeping them afloat. And Carmen herself is on antipsychotic medication; her demeanor is almost that of a child’s.
Despite functioning in a medicated haze, Carmen was often left in charge of the house and her sister; essentially a live-in slave. Maria theorizes that perhaps the parents might have engineered things to take advantage of that, and use their daughter as a scapegoat. Her instability makes her the perfect patsy. But the family has no insurance policy, and thus no motive for murder. On the contrary, they needed her alive to continue receiving money.
At first, Carmen says that she heard her sister calling her, but failed to answer because she had something on the stove — dad gets angry if dinner isn’t ready, she says, her father becoming angry being a recurring theme in Criminal: Spain Episode 2. She then says that her dad told her to drown her sister and that her mum didn’t care. But the way Carmen touchingly speaks about Aurora suggests she wouldn’t harm her on simple instructions; she wouldn’t kill her sister for no reason.
And she didn’t. The break comes when Rai explains to Maria that, by suggesting Carmen blame her parents, who she hates, she has inadvertently given her a way out. When Rai participates in the interrogation, explaining that he has an autistic brother and that her parents aren’t going to be charged, we see a turning point in Carmen’s behavior. She breaks down. Her heartbreaking confession comes flooding out. Her father sexually abused her and wanted to continue doing the same to Aurora. Carmen drowned her to save her from him.
Despite this somewhat predictable outcome to Criminal: Spain Episode 2, the execution is near-perfect, brought across with convincing devastation. This won’t be the episode you remember for its twists and turns, but it might be the one you remember most, period.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.