With my old stomping ground Green Man Review now dead and gone, I’m posting stuff I wrote there back in the day. Because I hate to see it vanish.
[First published at Green Man Review July, 2009. I’d link to the original, but as that site has ceased to be, here ’tis all alone. I received a free copy of the DVD set, but that didn’t influence my review in the slightest. If they’d sent me Anthony Head, on the other hand…]
The Invisibles (Acorn Media, 2008)
Every working stiff longs to retire. But what happens when the money runs out; you suck it up and head back out to work don’t you? And when you’re back in the thick of the day-to-day you realize that you may not have what it takes anymore, or maybe you’ve got it but you can’t exactly hit the ground running. Maurice “Mo” Riley and Syd Woolsey are two such retirees who find themselves back at work after fifteen years, but they’re not office types, they’re bank robbers. Their stumbles and successes with getting back into their old profession is the basis of The Invisibles, a series that that shows you can go home again, it just might take a bit of work first.
Maurice and Syd are The Invisibles, a pair of thieves that were infamous for their ability to break in to any place, any time. The pair were so successful that they retired years ago to the coast of Spain so they could live the good — and quiet — life. But as time passes they yearn for Old Blighty and move back to a small fishing village in Devon. Circumstances (typically Syd’s goof-ups or familial obligations) soon find them back to work, but they learn that thieving just ain’t what it used to be.
The leads of the cast are well-known seasoned actors; Anthony Head (most well known for Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Merlin) as Maurice, Warren Clarke (Bleak House, A Clockwork Orange) as Syd, and Jenny Agutter (Logans Run, An American Werewolf In London) as the lucky gal who gets to cozy up to Tony Head as Maurice’s wife Barbara. Dean Lennox Kelly (The Worst Week Of My Life) and Mina Anwar (The Sarah Jane Chronicles) play pub owners Hedley and Helen Huthwaite, who often aid and abet the former top-notch burglars. Hedley is the son of The Invisible’s friend and former partner in crime, and by the end of the first episode he’s an official unofficial Insider.
The cast works well together, playing off each other like a well seasoned theater troupe. This gives the episodes a sense of warmth and camraderie that raises the show above the usual churn-’em-out TV series shown on network television nowdays. There’s also a clear familiar bond between Mo, Barbara and their 20-something daughter Grace, made all the more stronger because the actress playing Grace is Anthony Head’s daughter Emily. Lest you think that nepotism reared its ugly head here, word is that the producers didn’t know that Emily was Anthony’s daughter when she went in to audition (much like Tori Spelling’s “secret” audition for Beverly Hills 90210).
Each episode in this series deals with a break-in the boys need to pull off, the reason for each robbery attempt is what drives each particular plotline. Episode 1 finds Syd’s son in debt up to his eyeballs, and so Maurice & Syd help him out the best way they know how. Mo’s longtime nemesis, detective “Knacker” Locke (an excellent job from Harry Potter‘s David Bradley), finds them in Episode 2, but Knacker’s reason for tracking them down has nothing to do with bringing them into custody. Barbara befriends a widower in Episode 3, and Mo isn’t too happy about it; when her bracelet goes missing the team gears up to find it. In Episode 4, Syd is the strong one when Mo meets the one safe he couldn’t crack. . .and just about cracks himself. Helen finds out she’s pregnant in Episode 5, which has Hedley wondering if he should end his career with The Invisibles. And Episode 6, the final episode of this all too short series, Mo and Syd start feeling their age, but is it going to ruin the re-start of their career?
Though all of these episodes are well done, Episodes 2, 3 and 6 are the most engaging of the bunch. The re-appearance of Mo’s arch enemy in Episode 2 not only brings back thoughts of their past, it also gives viewers a look at how the older generation often gets a raw deal. Episode 3 lets Jenny Agutter’s Barbara shine as both Mo’s wife and an interesting woman on her own. And though in Episode 6 the boys may have gotten themselves in over their heads, but help comes from a rather unusual source, and their discussions about aging and the lasting power of friendship sinks in even with the slapstick all around them. As for wrapping up that episode, let’s just say it ends with a bang, and a quite satisfying one at that.
What makes The Invisibles linger in the minds of their audience is the writers ability to put weighty topics into each episode, like the condescension of younger members of society toward their elders and how senior citizens are often just as much “invisible” as the thieves in this show. These topics are worked in seamlessly with the lighthearted comedic elements, and the cast’s ability to perform these scenes drive these ideas home without beating you over the head with platitudes.
As of this moment the BBC has said they don’t plan on renewing The Invisibles for a second season. Though it’s a shame to let these characters fade out, the final episode is a fine ending to a fun and engaging series. Even with only six episodes, this series manages to create interesting, well-rounded characters that grow and develop during the short period they have with their audience. Some series can’t manage to do that over 10 seasons, and for that reason I’ll be hoping BBC reconsiders and allows Mo, Syd and Hedley to don their black masks for more episodes.