TV on DVD: “The Guilty”

Written by Television, TV on DVD

Scott Malchus looks back on an excellent 90’s British thriller, “The Guilty.”

Steven Vey is a brilliant London attorney about to be appointed Britain’s youngest ever judge. On the eve of receiving this momentous occasion, Vey goes out for drinks with Nicky,  the comely new secretary at his firm. Disillusioned with his marriage and arrogant to the point that he believes he can have whatever he wants, Vey flirts with the younger woman and they get drunk together. Upon driving her home, she invites him to her apartment for coffee and he makes an advance on her. Nicky refuses and the situation quickly turns ugly. Vey forces himself on her. Her stockings and dress get ripped. Nicky faints. When she comes to, Vey has a horrified look on his face. What happened while she was unconscious? Vey claims his actions were a mere indiscretion and flees, leaving Nicky in shock and tears.

At the same time, in Birmingham, a young punk named Eddy is released from prison. His jail time has given him a new perspective on life and Eddy decides that he doesn’t want to fall back into a life of crime. With little money, he begins working low paying jobs in order to move out of the country. In order to get a passport, Eddy receives a copy of his birth certificate and makes a shocking discovery: the strict vicar who raised him from a baby is not his birth father. Angry and betrayed, Eddy forces the truth from him mother. Desperate not to lose the love of her son, Eddy’s mom gives him the name of his real father- Steven Vey.

That’s the set up of The Guilty, an outstanding British miniseries originally produced in the early 1990’s and now reaching DVD for the first time. This complex drama/thriller is highly recommended for anyone who enjoyed such labyrinth classics like Prime Suspect and Traffik. Michael Kitchen, best known as Christopher Foyle in the very popular series, Foyle’s War, stars as the duplicitous litigator, Vey.

In The Guilty, there are no signs of the respectable Foyle. Vey is a calculating, manipulative snake who will stop at nothing to ensure that he retains his power and prestige.  When Nicky returns to work after the incident, having her around becomes too uncomfortable for Vey and he has the young woman fired. When Nick threatens to expose his crime unless he resigns as a judge, Vey arranges to have her murdered. Kitchen is chilling in his portrayal. The ease in which he delivers his despicable lines is a sight to see. Still, Kitchen also infuses Vey with a hidden morality that he struggles with throughout the series. We see him nearly collapse under the burden of his guilt. You’ll be amazed by Kitchen’s range in his portrayal of the sociopath lawyer.

As Nicky, Caroline Catz gives a fierce performance. Nicky’s ordeal begins as a girl retreating to her bed, afraid to face the world. However, she realizes that if she doesn’t stand up for herself, Vey will be allowed to decide the fates of men who have committed lesser crimes than he did. She decides that he must be stopped. Catz makes Nicky’s gradual shift in character happen naturally. The scenes she shares with Kitchen crackle with energy.

Gallagher, as Eddy, has a youthful appearance and his innocent eyes make him easy to root for. The moment we learn the identity of Eddy’s father we know right away that the character is going to be put through the wringer. Gallagher carries all of Eddy’s tortured emotions in his face and gives the character depth and soul.

Written by Simon Burke and directed by Colin Gregg, The Guilty is a smart miniseries that keeps you on the edge of your seat all the way to its thrilling ending. The entire series does not feel dated in any way, despite the limited production values of the era. If you’re a fan of British drama, you’ll likely discover that The Guilty is right up there with the best.