Minor plot spoilers for Innocent series 2 episode 1 below.
Back in May of 2018, ITV aired a four-part crime drama across a week that turned out to be really quite gripping television. Starring Lee Ingleby and Hermoine Norris, the tightly-plotted Innocent series 1 ended up being a surprise hit for the third channel.
We were on hand to review the whodunit, of course. And who ‘dun it’? Well, we won’t spoil it for anyone wanting to revisit the series on the ITV Hub. Suffice to say that we worked it out in our very first review…
Bragging aside, it was a very good miniseries. Three years on and it’s back. The initial story was fully told and tied up with a neat little bow, but with ITV keen to repeat its success, a new standalone story is here until the same title. Whether or not Innocent can be the UK’s answer to US anthology series like American Crime Story probably hinges on the success of this follow-up outing.
We kick off at something of a frantic pace. There’s no easing in here, it’s all background and it comes at us fast. A couple of minutes in and we learn that our central character, ex-teacher Sally Wright (Katherine Kelly), is being released from prison after a retrial found her innocent (geddit?) of the murder of a 16-year-old pupil – a boy she was accused of having an illicit and unethical affair with.
We’re then unequivocally shown, via some rather weighty exposition, that she definitely didn’t commit the crime. So, unlike with series 1, we know from the get-go that our protagonist is indeed innocent. Who really murdered the boy? Well, we’ll find out.
Sal may have been cleared in a court of law, but the verdict of the jury in the court of public opinion seems less certain. Her old journo pal is happy to put her up on her release, although she may well be sniffing out a story. The public in her hometown of Keswick seem less convinced of Sally’s innocence, as demonstrated in a rather jarring and unrealistic scene in a local bank. Small town cashiers aren’t always the friendliest, but you’d like to think being called ‘a filthy wh*re’ is grounds for a fairly robust complaint.
Katherine Kelly is at her best when gritting her teeth and comes to life where she’s taking it to The Man. Or, in one scene at her old school, The Woman. On seeing an old colleague is now headmistress, she demands her old job back in a way that makes you side with her in no uncertain terms. We’ll find out that her Sally Wright isn’t a woman to be trifled with.
Sally’s attempts to reintegrate with her friends and the community seem to be the focus here and it’s a fine concept, one briefly touched upon in the last series. The emotive nature of the crime she’s accused of brings out a visceral reaction in people, that’s clear. Whether it turns out she did act inappropriately with her former pupil, again, we’ll have to find out.
Looking to find the real killer – and perhaps clear Sal’s name – is DCI Braithwaite (Shaun Dooley), a man with his own demons: a dead daughter that may or may not turn out to have some sort of connection to the case.
Innocent’s second series is set in the Lake District, although it was mostly shot on the south coast of Ireland. The gorgeous scenery often punctuates the plot in that artistic way we’re now so used to seeing in Scandi-noir. Nothing underlines a character’s malaise quite like a slow panning shot of an ice-cold lake at sunset.
This comes from the keyboard of a certain Chris Lang, ITV’s King Midas. Lang’s current show may be Innocent, but he’s guilty of knocking out hit after hit for his employers – the most famous and successful of which being the jewel in ITV’s crown, Unforgotten. With Lang at the wheel, we can relax knowing we’re in good hands. Especially when it comes to believable and relatable characters. And, so far, so good.
Based on the preview of part two shown at the end of Monday’s episode, things certainly ramp up in the stakes and tension departments. We’ll be tuning in over the next three nights to see how it plays out. Head back here tomorrow to keep up with our thoughts on it all.
Did you tune in for Innocent series 2 episode 1? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Minor plot spoilers for Innocent series 2 episode 2 below. Still catching up? Read Steve’s review of episode 1 here.
With the pubs, bars, cinemas and even bingo halls shut for the best part of the last year, large swathes of us turned to takeaways as our only form of ‘activity’. A lot of us are now on first name terms with local delivery drivers; a few of us may even be godparent to the children of the couple who run our local chippie.
There’s no shame in admitting that you may have put on a few pounds over lockdown. We wonder if that’s not been the case for Chris Lang and Matthew Arlidge, the writers behind the crime drama Innocent – the second series of which is on this week on ITV – though, because the pair seem to have deliberately made sure that their latest project is as fat free as possible. This new Katherine Kelly-starring four-parter is about as lean a drama as we’ve seen in some time.
Ordinarily with these kinds of murder mystery mini-series, there’s a feeling that quite a few of the characters are unnecessary, presented merely as distracting, as deliberate red herrings. There are plot threads which run parallel to the main story that can seem crow-barred in or added just as filler. Not so here. Every scene, every minute and every word contributes to the overarching story.
There’s a genuine sense here with Innocent series 2 that if you need to nip to the loo or fancy a mittful of custard creams, you’ll have to hit the pause button or at least move pretty sharpish. Things happen thick and fast and every little development matters.
So what did happen in episode 2? Well, Sally Wright – now freed after a retrial found her innocent of killing her 16-year-old pupil Matty Taylor some 5+ years ago – has been fully pardoned. Although plenty of locals still believe she was having an inappropriate affair with him.
Now under the police spotlight is hairdresser Anna Stamp (Ellie Rawnsley), who we discovered lied about seeing Sally and Matty kissing all those years ago. Turns out she was/still is obsessed with the deceased.
Also in the frame are Matty’s parents who revealed a pretty hefty secret in this second instalment. Could Old Man Taylor’s lack of involvement in Matty’s conception link to his killing?
Then, of course, there’s Priyanga Burford’s fussy and passive-aggressive Karen, named with a wink and nudge, no doubt. The fiancée of Sally’s ex-husband Sam (Marcella’s constantly smoldering Jamie Bamber), she appears to have a reason to wanting rid of Sal. Did she frame her to bag her handsome toyboy?
Don’t worry, those are all rhetorical questions, we don’t expect you to answer any of them.
We’re at the halfway point in this follow-up run of 2018’s breakout drama and it’s keeping us gripped. Katherine Kelly is as good as you’d expect but stealing the show for us is It’s a Sin’s Shaun Dooley. As the dogged but personable DCI Mike Braithwaite, Dooley has a real presence about him. Vulnerable, yet no pushover, Dooley injects his detective with a steely gravitas that really elevates the character. We’ll no doubt see how his back story ties in very soon.
By the way, if it’s bugging you, that gravelly voice of Braithwaite’s… Recognise it? Shaun Dooley is the narrator on Channel 4’s SAS: Who Dares Wins. You’re welcome.
Even though the pubs, bars, cinemas and bingo halls are now back open, with the remaining two Innocents occupying the 9pm slot on ITV for the next couple of nights, we’ll probably stay in until the weekend.
Quite fancy a takeaway with tonight’s episode for some reason.
Did you tune in for Innocent series 2 episode 2? Let us know in the comments below…
Minor plot spoilers for Innocent series 2 episode 3 below. Still catching up? Read Steve's review of episode 2 here.
Despite the death, assaults, threats, bullying, trauma, gossip of underage affairs and names being carved into chests, there’s been a reassuring and calming feel to this second run of ITV’s crime anthology Innocent. A Chris Lang creation now penned by his writing partner Matthew Arlidge, this four-part drama’s pretty far from being a televisual trailblazer, but it confidently follows in the footsteps of those similar shows before it.
We may well have seen the set ups, the tensions, the archetypes, the themes and the twists before but, luckily for us, we’ve also seen them done with far less quality and attention to detail. What Innocent lacks in startling originality it more than makes up for in verve and that always underrated entertainment factor.
Entertaining us in Wednesday night’s third episode was, well, almost everyone except its star Katherine Kelly. Maybe the former Corrie actress fancied some time exploring the Irish town of Malahide, where a lot of the series was filmed. Only Kelly barely featured across these 50 minutes. Instead, we dug deeper into the stories of the various other characters.
The motives are stacking up now, as various figures become entangled, muddying the waters somewhat for Shaun Dooley’s DCI Braithwaite. He’ll get there, though. He’s a smart cookie. He’s also a fairly unethically intimidating presence in the interrogation room. ‘Use your words, son,’ you can imagine a certain Ted Hastings saying to him.
Firmly shoved under the suspicion bus in this quarter-sized slice of Innocent was Sally’s ex-husband’s prissy new squeeze Karen. It turns out that she was not only the victim’s social worker, she was also seen arguing with him just before he died because he’d been bullying her daughter Bethany. We’ve also seen her temper flare up before. She’s a big suspect now. So, we’re imagining, she almost certainly didn’t do it.
Flying low on the radar is Sam, Sally’s ex. He seems a decent enough chap. But he did have a motive and has mostly escaped suspicion to this point. We’re pointing our suspicious finger vaguely in his direction. Although perhaps we’re being swayed by his alibi appearing to be about to crumble.
Of course, there’s always the slippery old ‘no one killed him’ angle. Could young Matty Taylor’s death have been an accident? Or – and this is a theory which appeals to us – might he have taken his own life? And, in doing so, framed Sally in the process?
Three quarters of the way in and we’ve not cracked it, so Innocent is doing its job in keeping us guessing…
Three down, one to go and we’re still paying attention. Four consecutive nights of any drama can be a little testing, but Innocent has kept us engaged thanks in no small part to its pace and performances. It seems unlikely that Innocent’s second series will live long in the memory, but it’s been a welcome addition to the ITV schedules this week.
Did you tune in for Innocent series 2 episode 3? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Minor plot spoilers for Innocent series 2 episode 4 below. Still catching up? Read Steve’s review of episode 3 here.
Well, there we are. Sally Wright really was innocent in Innocent after all. We always assumed she would be, given there wasn’t anything in these past three episodes to suggest that a major plot twist like that was coming our way. And we’re glad – it would’ve been a serious stretch to have Sal guilty after all the evidence we saw which effectively exonerated her.
Of course, there was a curve-ball thrown our way as to who really killed young Matty Taylor. We’ll keep it quiet on that front on the off-chance you’re yet to catch up with this final part. Suffice to say, we cracked the case in a previous review. That’s both series we’ve picked out the killer in these reviews. That’s right, we’re smart but we’re not modest.
We can’t claim too much credit though – the killer was hiding in plain sight all along. As they so often do in TV crime dramas. They’re there, but never under suspicion. Usually a close family member, real ‘butter wouldn’t melt’ types.
We’d called out the killer because we knew they had a motive. And they did, only not the motive we’d assumed. This was the real twist in the tale here. And as the truth spilled everywhere and the blue lights rang out, there were real shades of Vera about the whole piece. Which is no bad thing. The Brenda Blethyn-starring series remains one of the great underappreciated British TV dramas.
There was just about enough to the story here to justify almost four hours across four consecutive nights. Much like our midriffs since we abandoned ‘Couch to 5k’, parts of this finale sagged a bit in the middle. Unlike our midriffs since we abandoned ‘Couch to 5k’, it was generally still pretty solid.
This final episode delivered a satisfactory conclusion to what was a satisfactory story. No new ground was broken at any point and everything felt very safe, with recognisable characters, plots, archetypes and tropes. The series may have veered close at times, but it never fully strayed into cliche territory and always felt believable. So we’re not complaining.
There was a sweet little ending too: a very subtle hint at a better future for both Katherine Kelly’s Sally Wright and Shaun Dooley’s DCI Mike Braithwaite. A couple of thin crusts out somewhere together, maybe a 2 for 1 voucher, a bottle of pinot grigio and some light chat about dead daughters, murdered teenagers and wrongful imprisonment. Bliss.
Clearly this second series was commissioned because of the success of its predecessor, which is more than understandable. This follow-up never quite hit the heights of the first series, but nor did it let anyone down or spoil the name. We’d be surprised if there was a clamour for a third and fourth series of the anthology, though.
That’s not a criticism. But we’ve seen and explored the concept now. Let’s free the talent up to discover and show us something a little different next time, eh?
Did you tune in for Innocent series 2 episode 4? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!