August 22, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Guilt”


There are none less cool than those trying desperately to be seen that way, and that was the fate of Freeform’s GUILT.  Series creators Kathryn Price and Nichole Millard, along with showrunners Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer, all frantically pushed every “scandalous” button they could think of–drugs!  prostitution!  sex clubs!  DJs!  Blackmail!  kinky royals!  amoral tycoons!  lesbians!  dumb Americans in London!–but were never able to hide their sweat.  The result wasn’t even as much fun (or as funny) as E!’s The Royals, let alone achieving any measure of Shonda Rhimes-iness.

Twisty murder melodramas are frequent enough these days that they’ve assembled their own pile of cliches, and tonight’s Guilt finale, written by Price and Millard and directed by Larry Shaw, touched on most of them.  There was the Giant Red Herring, in this case the show’s dissolute Prince Theo of Wales (Sam Cassidy), regular customer of the sex club and secret father of murder victim Molly’s secret unborn child, who was waved around so often as the most likely suspect that he had to be, and was, innocent.  There was the Double Twist, which first identified defendant Grace’s (Daisy Head) French artist boyfriend Luc (Zachary Fall) as Molly’s killer, only to be supplanted by the last-minute reveal that Luc had only committed the crime because Grace and Molly’s roommate, lesbian DJ and prostitute Roz (Simona Brown), who was also in love with Molly, had blackmailed Luc into the crime (she was jealous of Prince Theo) by threatening to reveal another unrelated murder he’d committed.  And then there was The Kicker, the even-more-last-minute OMG event meant to propel the show into next season, which had Grace, just acquitted of Molly’s murder, bashing in Roz’s skull in front of the horrified eyes of Grace’s straight-arrow prosecutor sister (and supposed audience surrogate) Natalie (Emily Tremaine).

There was also no shortage of Sheer Idiot Twists.  These started with the moment when Molly’s vengeful brother Patrick (Kevin Ryan) almost shot Prince Theo with a long range rifle in the belief that he was the killer, but relented… only to have someone else shoot the Prince at precisely the same instant.  And when Scotland Yard cop (and Natalie romantic interest) Alex (Christian Solimeno) followed Luc’s unaccountably vague final words about having fed his bloody clothes to “the dragon” by looking across a rooftop and seeing–Aha!–the sign for a Chinese restaurant.  Best of all, though, was The Easiest Jail Break In History, in which Grace convinced her own prison guard/driver to detour away from the courtroom where the verdict was to be announced strictly by sweet-talking him, topped when Grace had a change of heart, and had to grab the steering wheel and veer the prison van into a tree because her guard was so hellbent on helping her escape.

In the right hands, all of this might have been enjoyable, or at least painless.  The writing here, though, was hollow, and the performances were mostly bland at best, the exception being Billy Zane’s entertaining turn as Grace’s expatriate lawyer Stan–although even he was burdened with dumb plotting in the finale, when the enterprising reporter he’d been bantering with throughout the season was revealed to be his long-lost daughter.  No, really.

Grace’s climactic murder of Roz was presumably meant to provide a plotline for Guilt‘s Season 2, but the ratings have been lackluster, losing most of the lead-in from the tonally incompatible The Fosters, and buzz has been nonexistent.  Although one never knows these days, it seems likely that we’ll never know if Grace got away with her crime.  The rest of us, though, will have ducked a bullet.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."