‘The Guilty’ – Episode 1 Review

Modern crime drama is so grim!


Mayday, Southcliffe, Broadchurch, Vera, Scott and Bailey… it’s no wonder Charlie Brooker took his scalpel-sense of humour to the genre with A Touch of Cloth.
Joining the melange of crime dramas is The Guilty, ITV’s new detective series featuring Tamsin Greig and focusing on her character’s investigation into the disappearance and murder of a small child… a disappearance that she was loosely involved in whilst she was pregnant.
Whilst the turmoil of the discovery of a body engulfs the Reid family, DCI Maggie Brand must negotiate the tricky world of police politics as the viewer has to navigate the tricky, yet tested, device of switching between the present investigation and the disappearance of the child, learning more about the history of the story whilst keeping up-to-date with current goings-on.
In 2008, we see a party, flirty family friends, jealousy, slimy relatives and other characters to fill out the list of possibilities suspects.  In the first episode, the characters are introduced in broad brush strokes, with few characters having any particular depth.  Hopefully, more is to come.
In 2013, the child has injuries that seem to suggest that Callum was “looked after” around the time of his death and that murder may not have been the objective.
The story doesn’t really start until the body is identified, with the emotional collapse of the Reid family, the repercussions for Brand and the subsequent investigation into the murder.
The cast, including Greig, are on form, with performances that are heavily emotional without ever being over-the-top.  It is certainly, as expected, dark, grim and laden with grief.  Plenty of time is spent with characters staring, bleary-eyed and teary-eyed, as their lives unravel.
Things are made much worse for Brand as her maternal instincts seem to be a thing of question – she was pregnant when Callum Reid went missing, she wasn’t able to investigate the case herself, Reid’s mother remembers her… it’s all a bit too much and feels unnecessary to tell this story.  Much more interesting is the investigation itself and the pulling together of the threads of a loving family and the dysfunction that was all around them on that night in 2008.
The Guilty gets off to a cracking, if somewhat underdeveloped, start.  The thing that makes it suffer is that we are so soon removed from the aforementioned serials, let alone Series 3 of Luther!  With so many crime dramas, and the quality of crime drama from overseas, it’s easy to feel fatigued and feel that The Guilty is just another drop in a big ocean.
It certainly has the credentials to be a success but will it be able to break away from the pack?  Two more episodes to go… let’s see what happens!