Freeform premiered “Guilt” on June 12. Mike’s Film Talk did a preview of the pilot beforehand and overall felt faintly optimistic about the show. Sadly, re-watching the opening episode revealed a few flaws. The characters were not likable and none of them evoked feelings that urged us to care one way or another about their outcomes.
This was a show I really wanted to like. With personal favorite Anthony (Stewart) Head, his daughter Daisy, and a setting in London, this should have been a winner hand’s down. However things are not gelling at all here. (And the murdered party girl’s name being Molly did not help things either.)
Daisy Head is Grace Atwood; a self centered and not too bright student whose partying ends with her Irish roomie being murdered. When questioned by the police, the young woman admits going downstairs to pee. She walked through her roommates blood but only got upset when she thought the killer might have been there. This lack of reaction to her best mate in the world being sliced and diced to death leaves little room for sympathy.
Emily Tremaine as older sister Natalie Atwood is just annoying. Not licensed to practice law in England (and there is a world of difference between the two countries in this area) she takes it upon herself to replace Billy Zane’s charismatic counsel. Zane plays Stan Gutterie a disgraced American lawyer who can practice law in the U.K.
The allusion to the Amanda Knox murder case in Italy is all too clear. Presumably the location change to England was to prevent subtitles or because ABC/Disney (which Freeform is part of) have contacts in England in the way of studios. (See: Galavant.)
There is the requisite sexual angle, although no sex games in the London flat to throw suspicion on the participants. Instead there is a sort of rich boy’s club where BDSM is the theme and members of the royal family come to play.
Natalie fails to remove Gutterie and centers her attack on the stepdad; James (Anthony Head). In all fairness, he is an easy target. All smarmy charm and a slightly off personality makes James someone easy to dislike. The accent does not help.
(Sidenote: Head’s American accent makes him sound quite cold and calculating. The actor’s native accent is charming and conveys a wealth of emotions. It should be noted that the actor was a baddy in “Dominion” where he also sported an American accent.)
Another complaint was/is the deference to these American’s in the capital. Not once is the nickname of “Yank” used, yet in England that is a common (even congenial) term for folks this side of the pond. Professional dealings with law enforcement in the past in real life shows this is a common utterance when faced with an American, suspect or not.
Despite these problems there is the issue of the main suspects all acting like idiots. The couple doing a runner to Paris stunt, for example, and the “I’ll just go out side and be surprised when the press jump me” moment.
By then end of the first episode we do not really care all that much for Grace. She appears to have little grasp on reality or even common sense. Natalie is just noise and aggravation and James is not seen enough for us to make an assessment of his character at all.
Thus far it is Billy Zane, as the international lawyer, who comes out best. His eccentricities and fondness for martinis does not, however, make him overly likable just yet.
“Guilt” airs Mondays on Freeform. Tune in and see what you think. Is this too much of a “watered down” Amanda Knox retelling or a tepid American abroad story? Let us know if you have connected with any of the characters yet.