Culprits Season 1 Episode 2 Recap – Higher stakes and clearer targets

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: November 8, 2023 (Last updated: November 11, 2023)
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Culprits Season 1 Episode 2 Recap
Culprits Season 1 | Image via Hulu/Disney


A less scattershot episode hones in a little more and raises the stakes, beginning to build a body count as it goes.

“Angler Fish” is about fear, in many ways, not all of them obvious. Sure, the sentiment comes through most bluntly when the title itself is being discussed, but that’s a simple, childish, naive fear of something scary-looking. The fear Joe has in Episode 2 of Culprits is different. It’s a fear of losing his family and the life he has built. Other characters fear for their lives and reputations. It’s a burgeoning theme of Season 1 thus far.

After a complex premiere that leaped back and forth in time a lot, “Angler Fish” is a slightly less complex follow-up that still leaps back and forth in time a lot. But it also feels like its stakes and dangers are more immediate, in both the past and the present day, and helps the show to pick up pace as it goes along without being too clever for its own good.

Culprits Season 1 Episode 2 Recap

The cold open, in comparison to the premiere, is much less enigmatic. Joe and Officer, dressed in a police uniform which gives a clue as to why she has that codename, find themselves in a gunfight and a chase. Officer has been shot. She’s bleeding out. Something has gone wrong. She wants to go to a real hospital, but Joe can’t risk it, so he takes her to Doctor, who works for Dianne, and leaves her fate in the hands of a medical professional who works out of a container at a scrapyard.

We can intuit several things here. We know something has gone wrong during the heist. We know Officer is so-called because she has to cosplay as a copper. We know that Dianne has more people on her team than we realized. We know Joe and Officer have some kind of relationship.

When, in the next scene, the tracksuited assassin tases and interrogates Doctor, we care a little more because we know a little more. It’s storytelling 101, especially in as jumbled a narrative as this one.

NOW — Is Joe being followed?

When “Angler Fish” picks up directly from the end of the premiere, we find Joe reading about Driver’s murder and rushing home. He pulls a hidden SIM card from a wall clock in his study and slips it into his phone, checking his encrypted messages. Nothing — yet. He’s pulled away by a call from Molly Farber asking to meet him at the store.

The store is starting to smell pretty rotten since there’s a bag full of money buried under the floor that was rolling around in a garbage truck mere hours ago. Joe gets Molly out of the way so he can vacuum seal the money, put it in a suitcase with a flask, clean the area, and replace it under the floor.

Of more immediate concern is the fact Joe is being followed. When he picks Bud and Frankie up, the former needs the bathroom, so they stop in a mall food court and have a tense few minutes trying to get a key for the disabled bathroom while a bald man watches them from nearby.

As if things couldn’t get any worse, the planning office calls. Mr Metcalf wants to talk to Joe about his application.

BEFORE — Titus Wainwright’s vault

In the past, Dianne finally explains what they’re going to be stealing — the amassed riches of various fat cats who are quietly storing their ill-gotten gains in the secret vault of a former mill owner named Titus Wainwright.

Titus was extremely wealthy about a hundred years ago. He hired a man named Ernest Morello to build him an impregnable vault where he could hide his money from the taxman. The vault was hidden in one of Titus’s mills. When he went broke after the industrial boom, it stayed there. It was emptied, abandoned, and sealed, and nobody who worked in the offices above it even knew it was there.

Since then, a new generation of rich people have found and repurposed it to hide their own money. There’s at least £30 million inside it. But to get inside, the team needs the original blueprints for the building and the vault itself, which are now the property of Titus’s great-grandson, Phillip Wainwright.

Officer, Joe, and Dianne go to retrieve the plans from Phillip’s well-appointed country home. Officer is a smooth-talker who has a good time winding Joe up. She talks him into playing a game where he looks at her and reels off ten names, one of which is his. She claims she can guess which is his name, but promises not to say. Comparatively, talking her way into Phillip’s house by feigning a breakdown is a small affair.

NOW — Who is following Joe in Culprits Episode 2?

Metcalf and the planning office claim to have received a high volume of letters from local citizens pushing back against Joe’s plans to convert the old hardware store into a bistro. He’s lying, of course, but it isn’t immediately clear why. The framing of the shot suggests simple prejudice since Joe’s head is positioned between a wall full of framed white faces — years of different planning officials who could easily pass as the same guy.

But there’s more going on than meets the eye. After he leaves the office, Joe notices he’s being followed again, by the same man from the mall. Joe ambushes him and holds him at knifepoint. He reveals that he’s a PI hired by Kyle Bedrosian, the hit-and-run driver.

BEFORE — Another test

Phillip seems quite nice, though a bit naive. Officer has no trouble drugging his scotch while Dianne and Joe break into his safe upstairs. When he passes out, they drag him to the palm reader and find the original documents inside. Dianne scans them, including the ones that have been torn out and framed on the walls (why do rich people do that?).

Things go wrong when Phillip wakes up early. Joe is forced to fight him and almost beats him over the head with an ornament, but he’s interrupted by a blonde woman holding a gun to his head. She leads them both into the garage and instructs Phillip to stand on the bonnet of his car. She slips a noose around his neck and kicks his feet away, staging his suicide. Dianne introduces this woman as Specialist, another member of the team. What she’s a specialist in seems immediately obvious.

Officer recognizes Specialist. She suggests a better codename would be “Psycho”. Her name is Inga Beatrice, and she’s supposedly famous, though Officer doesn’t reveal what for. Either way, when Joe confronts Officer about messing up with the drugs, she reveals she gave Phillip exactly as much as Dianne instructed her to. It was another test — she wanted him to wake up to see how Joe dealt with the situation. Joe confronts Dianne about this, but she doesn’t take it especially well.

NOW — Joe meets Kyle Bedrosian

In the present day, Joe goes to meet Kyle Bedrosian for a chat at his home.

Kyle is deeply unpleasant. He believes he’s a very important and powerful man. It was he who leaned on the planning office to get Joe’s application denied. Then he hired the PI. He wants Joe to retract his statement to the police.

After Joe reminds Kyle of his privilege — “The law doesn’t see you, it only protects you,” he says, and, “Trust the system, it was made for people like you.” — he also hits the nail on the head. The accident wasn’t Kyle’s fault. The stop sign was damaged. If he’s still so terrified of turning himself in under those circumstances, that means he’s hiding something else, and whatever it is will catch up with him eventually.

How does Culprits Episode 2 end?

When Joe gets home, Jules confronts him about the secrets he’s keeping, and the two have a frank conversation about their relationship. Jules is still struggling with having lost his wife, and the community’s perception of him now being in a relationship with a man. He knows Joe is keeping things from him, but has no idea how much, or how easily doing so seemingly comes to him.

The episode is titled “Angler Fish” because Frankie is terrified of them — of everything in the sea. Joe tells her that since humans are apex predators there’s nothing to be afraid of, but he doesn’t seem to believe it. This is especially true when he puts in the spare SIM card and immediately gets a call from Officer.

Officer tells Joe that Driver, Soldier, and Doctor are all dead. Someone’s killing them. “It’s happening,” she says, and Joe quickly removes the SIM card and cuts it to bits with scissors.

What did you think of Culprits Season 1 Episode 2? Let us know in the comments.

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