ITV’s The Guilty Opens with a Buried Child

ITV’s crime drama The Guilty found its way into viewers homes this week. This is a review of series 1, episode 1 of the Guilty. The drama flips back and forth between past and present, 2008 and 2013 and focusses on a single crime that tears everyone involved apart. Critics say it’s much like Broadchurch, but we will have to wait until the verdict comes in to compare the popularity between the two.

The Guilty Episode 1

SPOILERS: Do not read this if you have not seen Series 1, episode 1 of ‘The Guilty’

The similarities between last night’s The Guiltyand award winning ITV thriller Broadchurchwere glaringly obvious. Missing child? Tick. Attractive mother? Tick. Brooding father? Tick. Detective trying to juggle work and family life? Tick, tick, tick.

ITV’s new three part drama, which stars Tamsin Greig and Katherine Kelly, is set across two timelines, 2008 and the present day.

Episode one opens with a small boy riding his scooter in 2008, shrieking with laughter in the glowing May sunlight. We immediately cut to 2013 and the wettest spring on record. Ominous music and rain beating down on car windows set the scene and we catch our first glimpses of the main characters (read: suspects) through the gloom. Workmen cheerfully dig up a burst water main in a communal garden as we cut to a mother campaigning to find her child, four-year-old Callum Reid, who went missing five years ago. Can anyone guess what happens next?

Of course! Our suspicions are vindicated after the workmen (no longer cheerful) uncover the remains of a child buried in a box the garden. Cue more menacing music and moody lighting.

Pathetic fallacy plays a pivotal role in The Guilty, allowing audiences to distinguish between the two timelines: 2013 is characterised by rain, suspicious strangers and grey, sallow faced parents, while 2008 is all hazy sunlight, friendly neighbours and happy children. It’s a technique which teeters on cliché. Bright and sunny before the murder, dark and desolate after.

The Guilty explores the ways in which a single shocking incident fractures the lives of all those involved and, as with Broadchurch, the series centres on a close nit community.

Arcadian Gardens, the suburban oasis where the story takes place, is populated with comfortable detached homes overlooking a private shared garden in which children play nicely together. Neighbours feed each other’s cats, water each other’s plants, and gossip about each other’s extra marital affairs. In fact, it’s all hunky-dory until little Callum goes missing after an annual village barbecue, prompting a nationwide search.

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ITV’s the Guilty, Season 1, Episode 1 is not in the books and we’re waiting to rate audience response. Is it just another dull crime drama, or will it transcend the common and emerge as an, exciting thriller, full of intrigue and suspense,  that captivates and engages?  What did you think of the first episode of The Guilty?