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Series / Innocent (UK)

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Innocent is an ITV drama series, first shown in 2018. A second series was then shown in 2021. The show was written and created by Chris Lang, who also wrote Unforgotten.

Both series, while having completely different casts, and settings, have the same theme running through them: a person who has spent the last several years in prison has their conviction for murder quashed, forcing the police to then reopen the investigation, and either prove their guilt or innocence once and for all. The show has a double narrative way of telling the story, so the viewer gets to see both the police investigation, and how the person released copes with trying to rebuild their lives unfold at the same time.

The first series was about a man called David Collins (Lee Ingleby), who is found not guilty of killing his wife, Tara, despite compelling, but circumstantial evidence, after a retrial is ordered due to the crime lab in the original investigation not processing the evidence properly, and therefore comprising it. Released from prison after spending seven years behind bars, David is desperate to move on with his life, but to also get his kids back from his Sister in Law, Alice (Hermione Norris), who has been bringing them up as her own, with her husband Rob, and who are convinced he is guilty. Meanwhile, Detective Inspector Cathy Hudson (Angel Coulby) is tasked with reinvestigating the murder, a matter complicated by the fact that she is in a relationship with the original investigating officer DI William Beech. However as Cathy investigates further, she discovers that people in the first investigation may have had their own agenda's, and secrets soon start to come out, but is David actually innocent or not?

In the second series, former teacher Sally Wright (Katherine Kelly) has already spent five years in jail after being found guilty of killing one of her pupils, Matty Taylor, when new evidence is discovered placing her three miles away from the murder at the time and date in question. After a retrial finds her not guilty, she returns to her home town determined to get her old life back, only to find that her ex husband Sam (Jamie Bamber), is engaged to get married to another woman, and that most the town still think her guilty of having something to do with Matty's death, spurred on by rumours that she was having an affair with him. Realising that they now have an unsolved murder on their hands, the police, led by grieving widower DCI Michael Braithwaite (Shaun Dooley) reopen the investigation into Matty's death, but can they can tell truth from fiction, and find the real killer?

Not to be confused with the Turkish TV drama of the same name.

This show provides examples of:

  • Affably Evil: Sam seems extremely nice, supports his unstable stepdaughter Bethany, tries to keep a cordial relationship with ex wife Sally, while also reassuring new fiancé Karen that he loves her even though Sally is back, and claims to have been genuinely in love with Matty. Never mind that he was sixteen, vulnerable, and Sam killed him when he threatened to reveal the truth, and let Sally, his then wife, be wrongly convicted of the murder. When the police start to reinvestigate, and start focusing in on Karen, who had confessed to Sam that she had an altercation with Matty the day of the murder, Sam twists it so that she looks guilty of murder to the police, to throw suspicion off him, and with no care that his stepdaughter Bethany could have been essentially orphaned if her mother went to jail for life.
  • The Alibi: This is what gets Sally found not guilty at the start of the the second series. She had always insisted that she was somewhere else at the time of the murder, but couldn't prove it until someone came forward five years later with a dated and timestamped photo that showed that she couldn't have been murdering Matty Taylor, and be in a park three miles away, at the same time.
  • Baby Be Mine: Suggested, then averted. It's heavily implied that Alice is so obsessed with having kids of her own that she may have killed her sister and framed her husband to get custody of them. She didn't.
  • Be as Unhelpful as Possible: Practically every suspect that is dragged into an interview room by either DI Hudson in Series One, or DCI Braithwaite in Series Two. Apparently facing a murder charge is preferable to having to reveal your deepest darkest secrets to the police.
  • The Beard: Both Sally and Karen are unknowingly this to Sam in the second series.
  • Beneath Suspicion:
    • The murderer in Series One turns out to be Phil, David's brother, who had been helping him try and get released. Turns out he was only doing that because he felt guilty that his brother had been sent to jail instead of him for the murder.
    • The murderer in Series Two turns out to be Sally’s charming ex husband Sam, who was having an affair with Matty at the time.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Both the murderers turn out to be the most "helpful" people while everybody else lies.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: In a serious case of Idiot Ball, if David's brother had just kept his mouth shut, Cathy would of had no suspicions about him and he would have gotten away with it, however it is hinted a few scenes beforehand that David had started to suspect it was him.
  • British Brevity: Two series, both four episodes each, equals the grand sum of eight episodes over three years.
  • By-the-Book Cop:
    • DI Cathy Hudson, from the first series, who decides to reinvestigate Tara's murder from scratch, which involves retesting all the evidence, and interviewing everyone Tara knew. It was done mainly so that any charges made this time will stick, will not lead to the cock ups that saw David acquitted at his second trial, and also to make sure they get the right person. This is despite pressure from her boyfriend, who is not happy that she is going over his previous work with a fine toothed comb, and who insists he did it right the first time.
    • DCI Michael Braithwaite from the second series also goes over all the evidence thoroughly, and re-interviews suspects and witness from the first investigation to make sure the right person is convicted this time.
  • Carved Mark: The unstable Goth Anna carved Matty's name into her chest after only dating him for a few weeks and getting broken up with.
  • City with No Name: God only knows where the first series is meant to be set, as the town, where all the action takes place, is never mentioned by name, with the only hint being that the local cops are called the Exbridge police, but the only Exbridge in Britain is a tiny village on the Somerset/Devon border, not a town with a coastline, so it obviously isn't meant to be there. All viewers can deduce is that it is meant to be somewhere in southern England, and by the coast, which doesn’t really narrow it down, not helped by the fact that some of it was filmed in Ireland. Averted in the second series, where it is explicitly stated to be Keswick, in the Lake District.
  • Closet Gay: Sam Wright, Sally’s ex husband in Series Two. Not only had he been having numerous one night stands with other men, he was also having an affair with the victim Matty Taylor, and murdered him when he threatened to tell Sally about the affair. He describes it as being his worst nightmare to be outed.
  • Convenient Photograph: Series 2:
    • Literally kicks off the plot when somebody happens to find a picture that shows Sally in the background walking through a park at the same time she was supposed to be murdering Matty. Downplayed, though, in that it took a couple of years for it to be found, resulting in her being jailed for murder before being retried.
    • Sally realizes that her ex husband's new fiancé Karen is more like a Stalker with a Crush when she looks through old photographs of them on their first date in Blackpool and realizes that Karen is in the background of one.
    • Played with by Matty's photograph in the school memorial. It doesn't show anybody else in the photograph itself, but in a Contrived Coincidence, Sam happened to be leaning on it while he wrote a message to Matty about their sexual relationship.
  • Convicted by Public Opinion: Even when they are found not guilty in their second trials, the locals David and Sally meet when they return home after being released still think them guilty, and nothing, save another arrest, confession, and conviction, will convince them otherwise.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The detectives in the second series have their moments.
  • Defective Detective:
    • Averted in Series One, where Cathy Hudson is shown to have a stable home life, despite being a single parent, is in a loving relationship with fellow Detective William Beech, and has her head pretty screwed on. Her reinvestigation does cause conflict between Beech and her, as he was the original investigating officer into the murder, but it isn't shown to affect her ability to do the job in anyway.
    • Series Two plays this straighter: Michael Braithwaite is grieving the loss of his wife and daughter, who died before the series starts, but otherwise seems to be pretty well adjusted, and leads a competent reinvestigation into Matty’s murder.
  • Depraved Homosexual: Sally's husband Sam is a Closeted Gay and he had been having an "affair" with a sixteen-year-old boy, who was also his wife's pupil. And then killed him, and let her take the fall.
  • Disappeared Dad:
    • David is this to his kids when he sent to jail.
    • Bethany Moss’ real Dad is out of the picture with no mention of what happened to him in Series Two.
  • Doesn't Know Their Own Child: Unsurprisingly, after spending seven years in jail with no contact with them whatsoever, David barely knows a thing about his own kids in Series One.
  • Domestic Abuse: Part of the reason that the police suspected David in the first place was because Tara had been seen with a fat lip a couple of weeks before her death, and her explanation on how she got it made it sound like she was an abuse victim excusing his behaviour. It turns out that Tom Wilson, David's best friend, and the man who she was having an affair with, gave it to her by accident.
  • Driving Question:
    • Series One: Did David kill his wife or not?
    • Series Two: If Sally didn't kill Matty, then who did?
  • Empathic Environment: The Lake District in North West England in the second series is filmed to be as overcast and dramatic as possible.
  • Empty Cop Threat: If a suspect is being particularly unhelpful in Series Two, DCI Braithwaite tells them that he will investigate every part of their lives in forensic detail, and find what information he needs that way. They generally start talking after that.
  • Extremely Protective Child: Bethany falsely confesses to Matty's murder when her mother Karen is arrested for it.
  • False Confession: Bethany Moss confesses to the murder of Matty Taylor in Series Two. It appears she decides to do this when the police look like they will charge her mother with the murder instead. She’s very convincing, and the police aren't sure whether to believe her or not, until they find an overlooked clue that point's them to the real murderer instead.
  • Gay Cruising: In Series 2, Sally's ex-husband Sam is a Closet Gay and he says he had been having sex with men "in toilets and in lay-bys" before he met Sally's underage student Matty and started up an illicit "relationship" with him instead.
  • Goths Have It Hard: Anna is a moping, depressed Goth who harmed herself and stalked Matty.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: Matty Taylor was stabbed to death with a broken beer bottle in Series Two.
  • Hates Their Parent: Both David's kids, who believing that he killed their mother, hate him with a passion. Their Aunt Alice, who is now raising them, dripping poison into their ears about him doesn't help. They do start to soften eventually when he is released, and he tries to reach out to them. The ongoing police investigation then leaves them very confused, and they are not sure what to believe afterwards, which it causes all kind of trouble, but also gives them a chance to rebuild their relationship with each other.
  • Hollywood Law: The show has DI Cathy Hudson investigating a case that her boyfriend DI William Beech originally did. This would not be allowed, as it's an obvious conflict of interest (even though she's honest enough to conclude he messed up). It's unclear if her superior knows they're in a relationship, but if not then she should have turned this down herself because of the conflict.
  • Inspector Javert: DI William Beech in Series One was so convinced that David was guilty that he didn't bother to follow up other leads that might of proven otherwise, and made the evidence fit his theory, rather than letting it see where it was to take him instead. He gets called out on it by Cathy Hudson.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Prior to his murder in Series Two, Matty was bullying Bethany Moss. She, in turn, then becomes a bully herself at school.
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • Tom Wilson, David's best friend, in the first series. He initially lied about David being in his house at the time of Tara's murder, which would have given David an alibi, because he was having an affair with Tara, and wanted David out the way. He then told the same lie in court, which along with other evidence helped put David in jail. The affair is what caused him and his first wife to divorce, and her to take his kids away. When his second wife finds out about it, she also splits up with him because she can no longer trust him, moves out of their house, and aborts his baby. Then the private clinic where he works as a doctor sack him when they find out he’s being investigated by the police as a possible suspect in Tara's murder, after being tipped off by his first ex wife, who’s still after revenge. Then, to top it all off, the police charge him with perjury, leaving his reputation in tatters, and facing a possible jail sentence.
    • DI William Beech, the original investigating officer of Tara's death in Series One. At the start of the series, he is in a happy relationship with Cathy Hudson, that is until she reinvestigates the murder, discovers that he did a slipshod job, and sent an innocent man to jail. It's implied that they have broken up by the end, and that the rest of police station think he's an idiot.
  • Love Makes You Crazy: Karen Moss from the second series doesn't exactly comes off as mentally stable when it comes to her relationship with Sally's ex husband Sam.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: Sam and Karen in the second series have spontaneous sex on the stairs.
  • Maybe Ever After: Sally and Michael conclude Series 2 by saying they'll go on a date together when Sally moves. It seems they have a Commonality Connection due to their shared loss - his due to his wife and child being killed in a car crash just the start of the series, and hers due to a miscarriage she suffered in jail while awaiting her first trial.
  • Miscarriage of Justice:
    • Series One: a combination of lazy detective work, forensic evidence wrongly handled, and his best friend committing perjury in the witness box helps get David convicted the first time around. A second trial without the forensics means that there isn't enough evidence to find him guilty, and a new police investigation finally clears him completely.
    • Series Two: a lack of verifiable alibi, a convincing motive, injuries from being in a fight with the victim just before his death and a jealous teenager committing perjury in the witness box helps to convict Sally the first time around. New evidence in the form of a dated and timestamped photo showing her to somewhere else at the time of the murder, helps clear her at her the second trial.
  • Mistaken for Evidence: Part of what helped convict David in the first series was blood that was found on his coat matched that of his wife, who had been beaten to death. While the blood was indeed hers, it wasn't from her murder, but from another incident that happened when she was wearing his coat a few weeks beforehand.
  • Never Sent Any Letters: Sally often received letters from her mother while she was in prison for a murder she didn't commit, which was a great source of comfort to her given everyone else in her life abandoned her. When her conviction is overturned, Sally eagerly goes to visit her mother in the nursing home she lives in, only to discover her mother has had dementia for much of Sally's imprisonment and barely even recognizes her now, nor is she capable of writing. It's explained that another resident wrote Sally letters pretending to be her mother so she wouldn't give up hope. Sally handles it graciously but is clearly devastated.
  • Never the Obvious Suspect: Zigzgged in Series One, David is the obvious suspect, who got found not guilty of murder due to a cock up in the crime lab processing the evidence. He had no verifiable alibi, he was going through a rough patch in his marriage, and there was blood on his coat that matched the victim's. However, as the reinvestigation continues, it's clear that evidence that could convict him again could also prove his innocence. The viewer thus isn't sure until the very end whether he is actually guilty or innocent, though the title of the show gives it away.
  • Not Actually His Child: In Series Two it turns out that John is not the biological father of murder victim Matty. The biological father is Gary Walker, the pub landlord.
  • Not What It Looks Like:
    • In the first series David gives DI Cathy Hudson a thank you hug when she finally clears him of the murder of his wife, however someone takes a picture of it and sends it to her Superior Officer, with the implication that they have grown too close during the investigation.
    • In Series Two: stalker ex girlfriend Anna sees Matty visiting his teacher Sally's house a lot, and in her twisted mind comes to the conclusion that they are having an affair, and starts spreading rumors about it. In reality, Sally was trying to help Matty with his troubled home life, and nothing was going on between them. She was so obsessed by the thought that Sally and Matty were having an affair, she somehow missed the fact that Matty was having an affair with someone else in that household - Sally's husband Sam.
  • Off on a Technicality: How David gets his retrial, and is found not guilty at the start of the first series. The crime lab processing the evidence against him in his first trial were later found to be not following proper procedure, and therefore comprising evidence that had been used to convict him in the first place. Without the forensics, the prosecution case was circumstantial, though compelling, at best, and was not enough to get a second conviction.
  • Oop North: The second series is set in the Lake District, North West England, and most the cast have northern accents. There were a lot of northern accents in the first series too, despite the fact that it is meant to be set somewhere south of the M4 corridor. note 
  • Parental Substitute: Alice and Rob are this to David's kids in the first series. They are in fact their aunt and uncle, but raised them when Tara was killed and David was sent to jail and the kids call them Mum and Dad, much to David's disgust.
  • Propping Up Their Patsy: In both seasons, the culprit defends someone accused of their crime to further their own agenda, one more blatantly than the other:
    • In Series 1, David's brother Phil takes him in after his release from prison and defends his innocence on multiple occasions. This is because he killed David's wife, Tara, after she insulted him following him hitting on her.
    • Downplayed in Series 2. Though they do get divorced, Sally's husband Sam insists that he's always believed in her innocence, and there are several scenes that hint at his unresolved feelings towards her. He's simply lying to himself and perhaps trying to make sure she doesn't figure out the actual connection: that he murdered her pupil Matty because they were sleeping together (a crime of which Sally would be accused).
  • Psycho Ex-Girlfriend: Anna Stamp to murder victim Matty Taylor in the second series. They were briefly girlfriend and boyfriend, but he broke it off with her. She then carved his name in her chest, and started stalking him. When she saw that he was going to Sally's house a lot, she was convinced that Sally and him were having an affair (in fact, Sally was trying to help him with his messy home life), so she started a rumor about it, which then led her to commit perjury in the witness box, and that lie helped to convict Sally the first time around.
  • Revisiting the Cold Case: What the cops in both series' end up doing, when the convictions are overturned, and they have to reinvestigate murders that they thought were solved.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Crossing over with Not Quite the Right Thing and somewhat The Cuckoolander Was Right. Anna Stamp is an unstable apparently pathological liar who was obsessed with Matty, and she is proved to be lying about Matty and Sally's affair. But...she's right that Matty was having an affair with an adult - Sally's husband.
  • Saying Too Much: What gets David's brother caught at the last minute, though there are hints that David was starting to cotton on to the fact that it was him a few scene's beforehand.
  • Scenery Porn: There are plenty of shots of the beaches in Southern England in the first series, and of the Lake District in the second series.
  • Science Marches On: Invoked in-universe. Due to advances in technology in the intervening seven years, when the forensic evidence that convicted David first time around is retested by a different crime lab, and with more sophisticated machines the results start to cast doubt on his guilt.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: John Taylor, murder victim Matty's father in Series Two, was an ex veteran who came back from three tours of Kosovo with PTSD and a drinking problem.
  • Shout-Out: DCI Braithwaite's snarky comment when trying to work out Matty Taylor’s parentage about "It not exactly being Davina McCall territory", is a reference to her reality TV show Long Lost Family, where long lost families are tracked down and reunited, which is also shown on ITV.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: What Sally and Matty in the second series are rumored to have had before he was murdered.
  • Theme Naming: The name of David Collins' brother Phil in Series One could have probably been chalked up to coincidence, but when Series Two gives you another major character called John Taylor, you start to suspect that the writers are just sneaking in names of their favorite 80's popstars, and hoping that no one notices.
  • That Liar Lies: Everything that comes out of Anna Stamp's mouth in the second series seems to be fictional, and then she insists she's telling the truth when people, especially the police, start questioning her about it. It gets her slapped with a perjury charge in the end, when the police prove that she couldn't have seen Sally and Matty in a car kissing when she said she did, despite testifying to it in the witness box at Sally's first trial.
  • Would Hurt a Child: In Series Two, Matty Taylor is 16 at the time of his murder.