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Saturday, 27 August 2016



It's no secret at this point that I really like mysteries. I like having something I can sink my teeth into, something I can theorise about, so Guilt, touted as a dark, thought-provoking story of a young woman accused of a vicious murder, automatically caught my interest, and I hurried over to watch the first episode.

Boy, was that a mistake. A brilliant, wonderful mistake at first, and then rapidly just a regular, terrible mistake.

In London, an American international student named Grace discovers her roommate, Northern Irish girl Molly, dead in their flat. As Grace becomes the prime suspect for the murder, maverick American lawyer Stan Gutterie and Grace's sister Natalie set out to prove her innocent. Standing in their way is zealous Crown prosecutor Gwendolyn Hall, who seems to have a personal grudge against Grace. Worse still, the case draws the attention of the crown prince, Theo, who had a sinister personal connection to Molly.

The blandest promotional pictures ever.

So, the first episode really set the tone for what the entire series would be, given that about a third of it was just characters launching into strange, off-kilter diatribes about how British women hate American women. Another third of the episode was committed to various rants about how the legal system works differently in America (seriously, you could take a shot each time someone righteously screams "Well, in America ...") while the British characters stared on with a mixture of disgust and admiration; while the remainder was the show throwing as many shocking plot twists at the audience as possible, regardless of if they made sense.

These plot twists seem to all be delivered with a kind of knowing drama behind them, as if the writers don't quite trust their audience to understand the significance of the story turns unless everyone delivers them while turning wide-eyed towards the camera and deeply intoning their lines. One example from the first episode is when we see the creepy brothel-visiting sadist being driven home and he's talking to his chauffeur. He says something, and I kid you not, the driver verily booms, complete with dramatic pauses "Of course ... Prince Theo," while the camera focuses on Theo slowly smiling, despite the fact that neither of them would act this way on a supposedly relaxed car journey.

I don't even remember this character's name.

The first episode draws the battle lines pretty clearly as America vs Britain, and while they do get very slightly blurred as time goes on (in the form of British police detective Alex eventually switching sides, in a subplot riddled with casual misogyny as it becomes a strange vehicle for a 'all British women are secretly jealous of American women' plotline, seriously, who wrote this show, who was it written for?), for the most part, the entire storyline is depicted as a battle between two cultures. Three, maybe, if you count the three Northern Irish characters who occasionally rant about how they're going to destroy the Crown.

That last is interesting, because despite being set and filmed in Britain, there's this baffling sense that the writers didn't really understand their own setting. Generally, terminology and language are on-point, but characters will occasionally drop in references to 'the BBC's army of paparazzi' (here's a hint, the BBC has no army of paparazzi), or slip up and say something subtly wrong ('the ITV'), or portray a complicated political situation in the broadest, most cartoonish way possible.

Because the Troubles were, actually, a fairly complicated period with its roots in historical, political, cultural, religious, and class-based strife -- but in the show it gets boiled down to a caricaturish 'arglbargl destroy the royals for what they did to us,' and used as essentially a plot device to have Theo shot.

Grace and her equally boring boyfriend.

The show really has nothing else going for it. Its directing is fine but not inspiring; its writing alternates between slow and boring and completely absurd; its acting tends to be fairly wooden, with Daisy Head as Grace being the most wooden of the bunch. I never found myself interested in the mystery, never felt invested in the characters' welfare, I just flip-flopped between boredom and irritation throughout watching. Slowly, the amusing novelty of a series so clearly written less for other people and more to satisfy the writers' bizarre, personal agenda started to fade, and at that point, the show just became a slog.

After a truly anticlimactic ending, I was glad that this show was over. I truly hope it doesn't get picked up for another series, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it might, and I'll probably make at least an attempt at watching it. I won't enjoy it, and I probably won't make it more than a few episodes through, but I'll try.

Still, this was not a good series. In fact, it was almost cartoonishly bad, so I think we have a potential candidate for 'worst television show' come the next Fission Mailure awards.

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