It’s often easier to suspect the worst of people, than it is to assume the best, but is it possible to be your best when you’re covering up a murder for someone you don’t know?
Knowing the person doesn’t really come into it, but it does make Marcey’s actions more inexplicable on Alibi. Crime TV has dredged through humanity’s capacity for evil, but it hasn’t yet thrown us off with generosity like it does in this three-hour miniseries. Directed by David Richards and written by Paul Abbott, Alibi isn’t the first quality miniseries either of them have worked on (Richards’ The Runaway is excellent, and for a journalism thriller, you can’t beat Abbot’s State of Play) but it is a stumper that values the cover-up over the crime that’s been committed.
When Marcey forgets her handbag, after catering Greg Brentwood’s anniversary party, she walks in to find Greg (Michael Kitchen) standing over the body of one of his guests. In the moment, Marcey (a fantastic Sophie Okonedo) behaves exactly how a person would in that situation, barring herself in the bathroom and grabbing the toilet tank lid for protection. Bathrooms become an enclosed space for drama throughout the show.
It’s when Greg and Marcey start premeditating how to get away with murder that Alibi takes a turn for the inconceivable. Greg claims the victim’s death was an accident. Marcey believes him, but more than that, she assists him in crafting a police statement that will convince them of his innocence. She offers to be a witness, and when that takes too long, she helps Greg clean up the evidence. With every decision they make, they seem to dig themselves in deeper and, if the crime’s an accident, they shouldn’t need to keep it a secret. Which character’s acting shiftier? It’s honestly a draw.
That’s the sticking point. You’re never sure which of the pair is pulling your leg, but you’re certain one of them’s not being honest. Marcey’s compassion for Greg’s plight runs too strong — she acts like helping Greg is somehow her duty — and he couldn’t have planned their meeting if he tried. At home, Marcey should be racing to distance herself from the case. Instead she goes out of her way to entangle herself.
Also starring Phyllis Logan as Greg’s unhappy wife, Alibi removes easy answers from the table (Greg doesn’t have any money) and forces viewers to get bent out of shape over unconditional help. There are twists and turns along the way, but Alibi doesn’t pull any fast ones with the ending, and the lead-up, where you’re trying to figure out what the show is about, is full of juicy details to misinterpret (why is Marcey the only staff member watching the revelers from the kitchen door?). Providing a balanced character study of two indiscernible leads, Alibi has a lot of explaining to do, and you’ll want to be there to watch.
Alibi aired on ITV in 2003 and is currently streaming on Acorn TV. A DVD release is set for January 16th.