The Invisibles was a crackerjack BBC comedy crime series that arrived in 2008 and is now hitting the shelves in DVD format. The whole run is only six episodes and, sadly, there won’t be a second season.
My wife and I love these kinds of shows thjat are kind of edgy with fun characters and snappy one-liners that you have to pay attention to in order to appreciate. And The Invisibles had all of that in spades.
Anthony Head (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Warren Clarke (Dalziel and Pascoe) star as Maurice Riley and Syd Woolsey respectively. They’re retired thieves that were once at the top of the game. Called The Invisibles by the media because there was never a trace of them though everyone knew they were about, Maurice and Syd were never caught and chose to retire to a seaside Devon village.
The shows center on the relationship of the two men, the respective extended families, and the fact that they don’t like growing older. Even though both of them have enough to live comfortably on, they both can’t keep their minds out of the crime arena.
I really enjoyed the comfortable byplay between Maurice and Syd, as well as Maurice’s wife Barbara (played by Jenny Agutter, Spooks). When Dean Lennox Kelly weighed in as Hedley Huthwaite, the son of the deceased third Invisible, things really started to cook. All six of the episodes turn on robberies and thefts, so there is plenty of action, but they all explore bits and pieces of the characters and their interactions as well.
The first episode really leaned into the relationship between Maurice and Syd and how they rely on each other. But Syd’s son Joe gets crossways with loansharks and the Invisibles have to get back in the game to steal Joe’s life and future back for him. Syd’s life is as chaotic and full of disaster as Maurice’s seems to be filled with smooth sailing.
The second episode delivers a twist on expectations when a retired police detective shows up with evidence he has on the Invisibles. Instead of arresting them, he blackmails them into doing a job for him. Maurice’s daughter Grace (played by Emily Head, Anthony Head’s real life daughter) puts in her first appearance in the series. She has no idea what her father did.
The third episode deals with Maurice’s relationship turning rocky for a time while Syd goes head over heels for an old flame. By this time, the writing and the characters have gotten really smooth. There are more gags, more biting sarcasm and funny repartee, as well as enough character weight to feel the risks that are going on.
In the fourth episode, Maurice has to deal with the one safe he couldn’t crack. Everyone around him assures him that the safe is cursed, but Maurice just can’t back away from the challenge. I especially liked this one because it showed how competitive Maurice is and also played him off all the other characters.
The human factor kicks in again in the fifth episode when Hedley discovers his wife is pregnant and wants out of the gang. I liked the fact that she knows what her husband is doing, though, and that touch really makes this episode spin.
And the sixth episode puts Maurice and Syd smack dab in the middle of a police siege. The dialogue and situation here is great even though we’ve seen similar plots. The cleverness is really well done too.
All in all, these six episodes are real keepers for fans of BBC crime shows. With summer reruns glutting the channels, picking up this series on DVD would be a good investment.