Sharon Horgan plays vigilante in “Danielle”, but at what cost?
This recap of Criminal: United Kingdom season 2, episode 3, “Danielle”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
The topic of self-styled vigilantes is of particular concern in this episode, as Sharon Horgan, best-known for her comedic roles, plays the titular Danielle, the founder of a website called Pesticide that entraps and exposes suspected pedophiles. This is a prominent trend allowed for by social media, and thus a pretty hot topic, especially since those who engage in it see themselves as doing important work that the police are either unable or unwilling to do themselves. Horgan’s Danielle is the epitome of this; she’s absurdly self-righteous and smug about her presumed effectiveness, with no concern whatsoever for the knock-on effect her personal crusade might have on actual police work and those affected by the people she exposes.
Her crusade began with Crispin Lewis, a P.E. teacher at her daughter’s school fired for having rather unsavory videos of children on his computer. When she saw him out shopping in John Lewis, she was compelled to look into him and discovered he’d got another job at a private school. Incensed by this, she sent the press clippings of the first case to his new employer and he was fired again, which she’s very happy about. “And to think I nearly went to House of Fraser!”
Danielle is under arrest for making an improper communication online, which it becomes obvious she doesn’t properly understand. She isn’t worried since she’s perfectly confident she has done nothing wrong, and she claims not to need a lawyer. She’s familiar with the term vigilante — she sees it in the typical way people tend to, civilian heroes doing the hard work that the police won’t — and indeed with the name Andrew Simmons, her latest project, whom she exposed as a pedophile after posing as a 14-year-old girl and getting to know him on a chat room.
This is Danielle’s method. She creates a catfish account, waits for contact, lures her interlocuter into exposing themselves, figuratively and literally, and then sends packages of evidence to the police, to their employer, and in this case to his wife’s parents. The fact that Danielle believed a brown envelope with “Pesticide” written on it in felt-tip pen was opened immediately by Scotland Yard is hilarious but also telling of how little she recognizes the potential harm of what she’s doing — in reality, her package was taken to security for three days before it was eventually opened.
Natalie tries to explain to Danielle that she’s obviously leading this man on, but she doesn’t see it that way. She fancies herself as a proper detective, eager to delight in how Pesticide “builds the case”. But it’s obviously entrapment. And in this case, it has badly backfired in more ways that one. At first, she’s indignant when Natalie tells her she has ruined this man’s life. Danielle thinks he did that on his own.
But what really happened is that Andrew was fired on the spot, his wife had a panic attack, and his daughter was savagely assaulted by a gang of girls when word got out their her father was a pedophile. Only, he isn’t a pedophile. His colleague who works out of their shared office is who Danielle was talking to, and when her “building the case” became incredibly obvious, he fingered Andrew for the crime. Danielle, perenially pleased with herself, took the bait and delighted in ruining the life of an innocent man. Looks like she needs a lawyer after all.
It’s that lawyer, Henry Regis, who explains to her what an improper communication charge actually means. It’s like slander. If you say something untrue and the person you’re talking about suffers for it, that’s a criminal offense. Danielle is obviously guilty. But she won’t give up the name of anyone else who works for Pesticide.
Natalie wants to turn the entrapment back on Danielle by convincing her that Simmons has committed suicide, a plan that Kyle is in favor of but that Vanessa thinks would make them as bad as her. It’s enough for Natalie to reveal that she knows what really triggered all this — that Danielle’s two children were taken away by social services. Finally defeated, Danielle writes down the names of everyone involved in Pesticide — Danielle Dunne, and her alone. She’s going to be charged. Before that, though, she’d just like to discuss her upstairs neighbor. He’s a complicated individual, not to be trusted around children…
Thanks for reading our recap of Criminal: United Kingdom season 2, episode 3, “Danielle”. For more recaps, reviews, and original features covering the world of entertainment, why not follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page?
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.