It's the end of the road on Guilt, our twisty thriller/dramedy from BBC Scotland. We've gone from a somewhat light farcical accidentally murdery caper to something much darker. Let's find out what we've been looking at all along. Rolling the series one finale of Guilt S1:E04 after the break.
We open at Leith Beats (which looked so interesting it had to be shared)
with Angie Curtis (Ruth Bradley) looking for errant Jake McCall (Jamie Sives) who isn't there because he's been picked up by thugs coz he won't allow them to use Leith Beats for money laundering any more. To be fair, Jake didn't know he was in the money laundering business, he just wanted a look at his financial statements. Jake's brother Max McCall (the superb Mark Bonnar) was all about the money laundering and willingly sacrificed his brother so that things didn't get more uncomfortable for him, he's just that kind of guy.
To review! We met the brothers McCall when the accidentally (maybe) drove over a fella named Walter in the dark in the wilds of suburban Scotland. We've since watched Max get expertly blackmailed by (the most likely actual murderer) Walter's neighbour Sheila Gemmell (Ellie Haddington), Jake embark on a serious relationship with Walter's fake niece Angie and both get tied up in mob-related intrigue. The brothers are moral lessons writ large; Max is arrogant, craven and wily while Jake is guileless, open and loving. Later on Jake describes Max's weakness and "hubris and being a total prick" which sounds about right.
A couple of interesting side stories have been keeping up company along the way, one's Kenny Burns (Emun Elliot) as a detective down on his luck chasing redemption in the form of solving this puzzle and the other is Max's wife Claire McCall (Sian Brooke) starting an affair with Tina (Moyo Akandé) one of the women in the mob. We haven't seen any angst over an evolving sexuality, so we're assuming she's just worried about the cheating on her partner bit, not that it's with a woman. Claire is not aware that Tina has any other motive other than romantic but we know better.
Right! Ready to get back into it?
Max strides into the seedy headquarters of the criminal enterprise, a man on a mission. Tina's working behind the desk and even recognises him, does he know she's been sleeping with his wife? Anyway, Max is mad because Roy Lynch (Bill Paterson from Fleabag!) the ruthless.head.of.the.local.criminal.enterprise has done something to his brother, he was just supposed to be scared! Roy reminds Max that there are lots of dark places and that not everyone finds the light but mostly we're noticing that Max is now at risk. There's a thug named Archie (Gregor Firth) blocking his exit, only standing down at a nod from Roy, then following Max.
Max goes to work then skips out the back door to lose his tail and heads over to The Balmoral Bar and Social Club where Jake's been stashed. Jake is not happy.
I probably wouldn't be happy either, had I been hooded and forced into a van on the orders of my brother. I'd probably prefer a chat over a cup of tea, perhaps a bit of a heads up, not three days on my own in the back of an empty pool hall.
Max thinks he was being clever, NOW he explains to Jake that he's been working for Roy Lynch all along and Max having him snatched was by way of a preemptive measure. I'm curious to know if Max also stashed his wife somewhere safe in case the gangsters got restless, but I'd bet money he did not.
Kevin Burns walks in they're shouting, he was beaten up quite thoroughly by Archie and recommends that Jake listen to his brother and not go storming out on the streets alone.
Back at the Payday Loans storefront, Tina overhears Roy and henchman Cameron (Noof McEwan) discussing a path forward with Max, whom they're pretty sure is lying about the whearabouts of his brother. They need him for the money laundering, however, so they won't kill him. Will they go after Claire as I suggested? Roy directs Tina to stay close to Claire so maaayyybe.
Max, Jake and Kenny workshop a path forward; Max thinks their best chance is for him to take over Roy Lynch's massive criminal enterprise by shopping some kind of savings deal to his boss, once they figure that out.
Kenny registers his objection, but proposes they start with a weak link. Hai gambling addict police officer Stevie Malone (Henry Pettigrew)! Kenny would like to talk to you! They use his complicity in the attack on Kenny as a lever and he agrees to set Max up with an introduction with the Bigger Cheese.
Tina is having a crisis of faith, this business isn't what she thought it was!
Cameron does not believe that she didn't understand exactly what she was dealing with and yeah: stick close to Claire, fanks.
Claire is still dealing with her feelings with Tina, she stumbles through a "I don't want to define this" before Tina interrupts and asks her to run away with her. Again: Claire has no idea about gangsters or money laundering or the fact that her husband is making a run at capo dei capi, so she blushes and tries to demur.
Tina gets a little more direct; Max is in debt to bad people and if she's going to get away, it better be now.
Remember this all started with poor cancer-ridden Walter was (maybe) killed? There was all sorts of other things going on; the neighbour Sheila was doping Walter to the gills and stealing his money besides. When he popped up dead (I still think there's a chance she actually killed him), Sheila found Angie, a secretive American down on her luck, to pretend to be Walter's foreign niece come to collect his record collection so Sheila could get her hands on Walter's house. Unfortunately for Sheila, Walter's attorney has been contacted by Walter's ACTUAL niece and the jig is up.
Sheila warns Angie to hit the road, but Sheila's not exactly trustworthy and Angie's quite attached to Jake, who's disappeared. Sheila has to get rid of Angie as soon as possible, so shares the secret of the McCall brothers killing Walter (by accident).
Jake and Max wait in a fancy house to meet with the kingpin, they're properly togged up in their finest gear to meet Victor Kuqo (Sylas Szabolcs). I didn't realise he was the Bigger Cheese when we first met him, I thought he was a foreign dignitary because I am perhaps a bigoted profiler. I'm sorry.
Max's pitch is simple: instead of having everything running through one shop (Leith Beats was home to something like 47 shadow corporations), he can do it across several places with significantly less risk. Victor wants to know the vig, Max offers a fifty percent reduction to 10%.
There's no answer, but Max feels good! He feels he understands the unwritten message given by Victor.
Max asks his brother for a thank you for the potential money coming their way, all recently-kidnapped Jake can do is stare. He's pretty sure they're even.
Max only has one more loose end to tie up, that would be Kenny Burns, who was beaten up following Max right after he found out the truth about the brothers accidentally murdering poor old Walter. Kenny had been holding the upper hand, but it's swung round to would-be mob boss Max back in charge so the tension and heat is on.
Sheila approaches Walter's solicitor Henry McKinnon (Michael Nardone) with the unlikely story of Angie coming up with this deception all on her own, suggesting the police don't need to be called and even throwing in a little sugar at the end to sweeten the deal. Henry lets her know he's already shopped her 85-year-old arse to the police, or at least sent everything to them already, so they'll be calling on Angie any minute.
Angie's busy having her mind blown by Jake, who's decided to confess to killing Walter for the most ridiculous reason ever.
What hurts her the most is that Angie and Jake only met during the wake, which Jake attended to retrieve the wallet he left behind. He and Angie hit it off, so he stayed behind, at Max's direction, to keep an eye on her. Then they slept together and have been together ever since, so she's questioning all of her feelings. Was he just babysitting her?
He totally wasn't.
Claire carefully asks Max about his financial dealings and brings up Roy Lynch as instructed by Tina. Max is an awful liar, for the record. Truly terrible. She asks why she should stay and instead of answering, he takes a call on his cell from Jake, who wants to talk about his destroyed relationship with Angie. Go to bed, it'll look better in the morning.
Except in the morning, Leith Beats has been burned to the ground and Jake doesn't have any insurance. Jake wants to know why Roy Lynch would go after him and not Max?
That's a good question! Max heads to work to find Roy sitting at his desk. He tries to ease any discomfort by acknowledging Roy's anger and suggesting that perhaps he'd feel better if he recognized he was out of his depth?
But it seems Max will not be taking over this particular mob any time soon, Victor is old skool and values loyalty over a bargain from someone he doesn't know or trust. Roy correctly pegs Max as being for Max and only Max.
I've been waiting this whole time for Max to be executed, I'm going to watch through my fingers from now on.
Max declines the offer to hand over his business to Roy, so Archie has to break Max's nose which is surprisingly easy to figure out even with most of your eyes covered.
Claire is running off with Tina! Wooooo!
It's Angie's turn to explain her deception to Jake, he's much more understanding. They're even! Now get out of the house, the police are coming! She asks him to come with her and we're gonna have two couples on the run, wooooo!
Except that the police are here already, hai Inspector Nicola Bowman (Anneika Rose), we know you as Stevie Malone's partner!
No time for that, it's the last episode and we're going to be all over the place, now off with Kenny next door looking at the tapes from Walter's death again to now.
We've talked about this neighbour with video cameras before, but not in any detail. It's generally referred to that Maurice (Gordon Brown) is fraudulently accepting Disability payments and therefore susceptible to being leaned upon and can be ignored as he won't likely go to the police. Now we get his story, yay!
I'm guessing because his accent is as gloriously thick as milk foam on a soy latte, but he was a garbage man for 15 years when he was injured/possibly fell down a manhole. He spent 6 months in traction.
He's afraid of Sheila being vindictive and sending him back out there behind a lorry again, but Kenny promises that his protection will be enough.
Max meets Jake at the police station to help Angie, who's overstayed her visa but is being held for Conspiracy to Defraud. It's an extremely awkward meeting for Max and Stevie, sitting across from each other. Angie offers Sheila up immediately while Max tries to follow and most importantly: get Angie out of there. She can leave, but Walter's body will be exhumed the following day. Max asks Stevie to take over the plan, but Stevie was the one who ratted Max out to Roy so he's not helping any more.
Kenny texts Jake the video of the brothers on CCTV footage, why? Ah because he wants to play Jake against Max, good luck with that.
Tina pops into work to grab money, leaving Claire in the car park. Surely she can't see this working? Cameron walks up on her while she's cleaning out the safe. Claire gets antsy waiting in the car and makes her way inside, to find it empty save for Cameron and Roy Lynch discussing things out in the open like people. They don't know of Tina, or even of Max but when she asks too many questions it's Cameron who saves her from Roy with his urbane manner and easy answers.
Claire is left not knowing if Tina left her or was murdered horribly at her place of work. A "sorry x" text from Tina's phone pushes her towards the personal.
Max sends Jake and Angie to the airport and heads to the most important confrontation of the whole series: a showdown with real gangster Sheila Gemmell.
He's figured out that Sheila had already killed Walter by overdosing him before he and Jake had the poor misfortune to hit Walter in the street.
He masterfully leads us through what happened, holding us spellbound in his improv game of "yes, and" until he gets to the part he needs Sheila to confirm: that she only saw one person in the woods that night. Jake.
That's right, he got his brother out of the way and on the run so he could pin Walter's death on him and he's using the actual murderer as the witness to seal the deal. It's difficult to not admire how beautifully that was done.
The only mistake Max made was missing the fact that Angie and Jake are in the other room listening to everything.
I guess there are only two police people in Edinburgh, that explains why they take so long to get anywhere.
Max gets home to find Claire kicking him out.
He will not make this hard for her or about the house. She's been to the payday loans office and she can ruin what's left of his life.
Max meets Jake for the last time by Walter's house, Jake finally understands how they got where they are. They didn't call the police when they hit Walter because of Max. Everything that happened after was because of Max.
Jake brings them back to when they were kids; Max used to look after Jake and they three were tight. Well. Jake and his mom were tight, Max didn't think she liked him even if she loved him as all parents must.
Even while Max is having this tearful, heartfelt one to one with his brother, he's scheming. He's taking care of himself and only himself, stopping Jake to urge him to run, to flee. He doesn't know yet that his plan to sacrifice his little brother once again has gone awry. The police take a confused Max into custody.
Max smiles with a final nod in the back of the car and we're out for the last time with Guilt.
Have any of you seen Uncut Gems with Adam Sandler? I will say I was completely responsible for watching my first Adam Sandler movie by choice, but I loathed it. I found it almost unwatchable, full of anxiety borne of watching someone twisting in the wind trying over and over to find a way to win. He lost and lost and lost again but the stakes ramped up each and every time and that felt like what Max was trying to do here. As long as he was in the game, he had a shot. And he always had to win, holding up his little brother as his final offering to the gods so that he may walk out with something, with no marks of a legal battle. He gambled and lost it all, so tired that when he leaves, it's with relief. Putting down the mantle of impulsivity and surrendering to the situation. A nod.
Thanks to EB for recommending this show, it's not an easy watch but there's genius in the entrails. Cheers.