“Stacey” tells a sweet and sour tale of sisterly solidarity with Hayley Atwell capably shouldering the drama.
This recap of Criminal: United Kingdom Episode 2, “Stacey”, 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.
In Criminal: United Kingdom Episode 2, Queen Hayley Atwell plays against type as a Cockney lout accused of poisoning her sister’s boyfriend. Elements of class and race float in the periphery of the story, but it’s really a story of abusive men getting their just desserts and sisters doing it for themselves.
The victim’s name is Rodrick. It’s mentioned multiple times — and for various reasons — that he’s black. He also liked a drink; whiskey, specifically, which Stacey would often pick up for him and drink with him while her sister was out. She liked a drink too.
The story takes a darker turn when Stacey says that one evening she turned up to find her sister badly beaten. Shortly afterward, she confesses to the crime. She says she gave Rodrick rat poison. Atwell is excellent here, but the confession feels unearned, especially since it occurs about halfway through Criminal: United Kingdom Episode 2. There’s more to the story, and despite being seemingly content to allow her confession to stand, the detectives eventually decide to reconvene and get to the bottom of the matter.
(As a side note, there’s a bizarre new bloke floating around in this episode, but it never really amounts to much either here or in the finale.)
Here’s the real story. Stacey met Rodrick, and fancied him from the outset, but since her sister wasn’t particularly outgoing when it came to men, she introduced them to each other. Before long, they were living together. And not long after that, Stacey and Rodrick began an affair. The poisoning was both of their ideas. Stacey acquired the poison, and her sister, Mary, gave it to Rodrick. And Stacey promised herself that she would take the fall since Mary had already been through enough.
The outcome of Criminal: United Kingdom Episode 2 is less interesting than the idea of how far abused women are willing to go to protect themselves and each other. Rodrick was violent and aggressive and used to a position of power in his relationships with both women. But like all abusers, he needed them isolated. When they united, he became vulnerable. The irony is that they’ll both probably go to prison together. I wonder if it was worth it.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.