Criminal Code Season 1 Review – Brazilian Netflix procedural gets too bogged down in the details

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: November 14, 2023 (Last updated: November 17, 2023)
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Criminal Code Season 1 Review
Criminal Code Season 1 | Image via Netflix


An overlong Brazilian procedural that gets bogged down by its fascination for forensic detail.

Law enforcement is an incredibly complex thing. It can’t be easy to take down a criminal syndicate, investigate robberies in at least two countries, and find the connections and clues in the most minuscule pieces of evidence. This is why most police procedurals leave this kind of thing out. Criminal Code, an eight-part Brazilian series streaming on Netflix, does not.

This is clearly the point of the show, which comes courtesy of Heitor Dhalia, so don’t think I’ve got the wrong idea. The series is notable for being the streamer’s entry into the sizeable Brazilian police procedural world. You could never suggest it doesn’t fully commit to that responsibility. But there’s a reason why entire seasons of, say, CSI don’t drop at once.

Criminal Code Season 1 review and plot summary

The plot is kick-started by the heist of a Paraguayan security company, and in response the Foz do Iguaçu bureau starts a fine-toothed-comb investigation. There’s a personal element and a buddy-cop dynamic. You know the drill. It’s also, rather interestingly, inspired by some real-life details and cases, which lends the dot-to-dot investigation a note of authenticity.

This isn’t a slapdash show that has been knocked together thoughtlessly to turn a quick buck from Netflix’s international acquisitions team. There’s real craft in Criminal Code, and it’s worth highlighting this even though I don’t think it totally works. Like the cutting-edge forensic techniques that connect the show’s plot from Paraguay to Brazil, the devil is in the details, and a lot of details here stand out. The show’s actual underlying mechanics are fine.

RELATED: Will there be a Criminal Code Season 2?

And the performances, while certainly more workmanlike than noteworthy, at the very least do a decent job of lending an emotional contour to what would otherwise be rather dry policework. The events don’t feel as if they’re happening in a vacuum. There are real, often human stakes, and the overall momentum of the show undeniably picks up throughout the season’s back half.

Here’s the problem – getting there is an often interminable slog through grossly overlong episodes that indulge in the minutiae of policing to a degree that becomes detrimental overall. There’s a slow burn for calculated dramatic purposes, and then there’s a slow burn because nobody had any better ideas on the script level for how to sift through reams of information and detail.

Each of the eight episodes here runs an hour, minimum, and it’s too much. The process is integral to the plot, sure, but it also quickly becomes a slog, and there’s no real justification for the inclusion of so much depth. A judicious editor could have trimmed Criminal Code to half the length and twice the quality.

Mileage may vary

But here we are. There will undoubtedly be an audience for this kind of patient, overly detailed television, but it’s probably not going to be a mainstream one, which is usually the kind that Netflix is looking for.

Still, with some compelling characters, an escalating sense of momentum that’ll do as a payoff for those who stick it out, and an admirable degree of attention to detail, even if it borders on self-defeating, Criminal Code is well-constructed and intriguing enough to be worth a cautious recommendation.

What did you think of Criminal Code Season 1? Comment below.

RELATED: Criminal Code Season 1 Ending Explained

Netflix, Streaming Service, TV, TV Reviews
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