Dr Adam Lynes, Lecturer in Criminology at Birmingham City University

This week’s episode of One of Us continues the “whodunit” style established in the first episode, but introduces and develops interesting themes that, from the point of view of a criminologist, are very interesting.

The most fascinating theme that I found myself being drawn to was the more philosophical debate around the nature of punishment, and the self-justifying nature that is so readily apparent in the pursuit of retributive justice.

Retributive justice or “an eye for an eye”, it has been argued, has a dangerous tendency to slip from retributive justice to an emphasis on revenge – especially when carried out by individuals as opposed to the state. The characters involved in the disposal of the supposed killer’s body are all evidently emotional, and this “slippery road” from retribution to revenge can be witnessed in their actions and self-justifications.

This philosophical and cultural debate around the use and justification of punishment was further reinforced by the character of Rob (Joe Dempsie) who argued that “the system doesn’t work”. This is of course a very topical issue when we consider that the rather high recidivism rates in the UK, though the general emotional impact of the characters’ actions would suggest that taking justice into your own hands comes with significant consequences.

We see many of the characters that assisted in the hiding in the apparent killer’s body seek to rationalise their decisions in a very human and relatable way, and further builds upon, as mentioned last week, that One of Us is very much written within the “post forensics” genre (Jermyn, 2013), in which the audience wish to engage with intricate narratives and multifaceted characters that surround a homicide.

This is most readily apparent in the narrative’s strong focus on the ramifications and self-rationalisations of its characters, as opposed to the procedural investigation element that is so frequently relied upon in such dramas.

I thought it was rather interesting to see a rather conventional and “normal” family trying to hide a body and effectively get away with murder. This sort of behaviour and actions are generally limited to one individual killer whose identity is often unknown. Instead One of Us depicts a group of people, all seemingly appalled by what has transpired, trying their best to hide any evidence whilst also battling with their conscience.

Find out more about studying Criminology at Birmingham City University

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