Welcome to the first of two recaps for the Scottish miniseries, Guilt. Set in Edinburgh, our story follows the misfortunes of the McCall brothers after they make the decision to avoid the consequences of a tragic accident.
It all kicks off when high-powered attorney Max (Mark Bonnar) and his younger, much less successful brother Jake (Jamie Sives) are driving home late from a wedding reception, neither really in a state to be behind the wheel. Suddenly a pedestrian appears in the middle of the street and is struck dead by Max’s car, driven by Jake.
Rattled by the accident like any decent human being, Jake wants to call the police. Max, however, insists that reporting the incident will result in jail time for his brother and a ruined career for himself. The two end up dragging their victim (Walter Wood, according to his ID) under cover of darkness, back to his home. When no one answers the bell and the door is unlocked, they take Walter inside and pose him in a living room chair, hoping he’ll be found and thought to have died naturally.
As Jake continues to stress from the guilt of what they’ve done… and failed to do, Max believes they did the guy a favor. (Turns out Walter had been diagnosed with terminal cancer). So Max moves on which means getting his car fixed and going out for boozy work lunches. When Walter’s obituary finally appears a week later, there’s no suggestion of foul play.
Jake is forced to attend the wake because he left his wallet at Walter’s house the night of the accident. At the gathering, Jake is greeted by Angie (Ruth Bradley), Walter’s niece from America and his only remaining family. Tired of waiting in the car, Max joins the wake and both brothers attach their acquaintance with Walter to music- Jake’s record store and, less likely, Max’s trumpet playing.
Max recognizes his brother’s chemistry with Angie as a way to divert her attention from the details of her uncle’s death. After everyone has left, Jake and Angie hit it off over a drink and Walter’s classic vinyl collection.
But Angie is not so easily distracted. At her meeting with the solicitor, she’s informed that Walter’s legs were a little bruised, but since he was frail and had a terminal condition, there was no autopsy performed. Angie obviously thinks these contusions are suspicious. Later at the record store, Jake can’t get her off the subject so he suggests she talk to his lawyer brother. Max steps in offering insider help with the police. At first, Angie seems satisfied when Max reports that the investigating officer found nothing out of the ordinary.
Meanwhile, Max’s wife Claire (Sian Brooke) is skeptical that he's spending so much time helping out a brother he barely sees. He must be having an affair. When she tracks him to Walter’s house, Angie suggests the foursome go out to dinner to ease the other woman’s embarrassment. As they get acquainted, Claire invalidates the brothers’ backstory - Max is tone-deaf, Jake is the musician.
The brothers' next hurdle is determining if their bad deed has been captured on film. Max notices a security camera on the eves of Walter’s neighbor’s house. When they approach the man about viewing his footage relating to a garden gnome incident, he shows them it’s a dummy camera just to scare off intruders. But of course, he actually has a whole fancy surveillance set up in his house.
Complications pile up when Angie can’t shake the feeling that something’s fishy about her uncle’s demise. So much so that she’s delayed her return to Chicago. To maintain control of the situation, Max tracks down his recently sacked private investigator, Kenny (Emun Elliott) drowning his sorrows at a local bar. The McCalls convince him Angela’s case could get him back on his feet, knowing full well that this broken man is unlikely to find anything to dispute the story that Walter passed peacefully in front of his telly. In fact, Kenny’s initial walkthrough at the house is less than thorough.
In the meantime, Angela and Jake’s relationship continues to develop. In Max’s opinion, Jake’s job is to get the niece on her way home ASAP. For his part, Jake isn’t so completely smitten that he can’t divert his new girlfriend’s questions or notice when her stories don't match up. Case in point, in a stack of old photos he discovers one of Walter’s “darling niece” as a schoolgirl – that sure doesn’t look like Angela.
The McCalls’ rotten luck continues when a sober Kenny comes back to the house with newfound clarity. This time he detects metallic fragments (possibly car paint) on Walter’s trouser legs. Max offers to take the sample in for testing, but Kenny insists on doing it all himself.
Max’s exasperation grows as his command over the situation wanes. He’s noticed a lady across the street from Walter’s who has clearly been watching them and finally confronts her. She simply responds that she saw.
Determined to focus on what he can control, Max attempts to get Kenny on the bottle again. He tells the PI he saw his estranged wife engaged in a passionate kiss with another man outside the family home. Alas the new, improved Kenny won’t be tempted. Besides, the paint sample from Walter’s trousers is already at the lab and, while they wait, he wants to look at Walter’s financial records. Angie insists she’s staying until all the evidence is in. Max is annoyed with Jake for not keeping his girlfriend in check.
Max moves on to Walter’s nosy neighbor Shelia (Ellie Haddington) He patiently (and sort of threateningly) explains what she witnessed was two Samaritans helping an old man home. Sheila reckons she says saw them kill Walter with their car, and she demands £20,000 to keep quiet. He tries to bargain her down, but she sees what he could be worth.
Max’s first idea is to take the blackmail money from the joint account he shares with Claire. His excuse is it’s for Jake – the record shop is in trouble. Claire strongly rejects this suggestion, so Max backs down saying he must be getting sentimental.
Next, we see Max waiting around outside a hospital-like building basically looking dodgy. Shortly after, he informs Shelia that she has no proof and will be getting nothing from him. Turns out he paid someone at the lab to “lose” the paint sample from Walter’s trousers. Max sacks Kenny once again citing his ineptness reflects badly on the law firm.
On the Angela front, Jake finally brings up her lack of presence on social media and the photo of Walter’s niece he found. She nonchalantly explains she had a controlling ex and she was an ugly teenager who did all she could to change her appearance. In Jake’s naive eyes, this seems plausible.
Believing this nightmare is nearing an end, Max attempts to make amends with his neglected wife. He promises to get home from work on time and they can go out for an intimate dinner for two. We know, however, that Claire is being wooed by Tina (Moyo Akande), a woman from her workout class.
Despite being fired from the Walter Wood case, Kenny hangs around the neighborhood, placing his focus on the man with the dummy camera. He’s obviously feigning a disability so Kenny pressures him to reveal the video he has from that night.
Meanwhile, Shelia has left a package at Max’s office - a DVD with camera footage of him and Jake carrying Walter to his house. (The same footage Kenny is watching at the neighbor’s house, btw.) I’m still unclear but it seems Shelia and the man with a disability know one another- possibly live in the same house?
With all these developments, Max misses his date with Claire. Instead, he goes to see some shady character named Cameron to get the money to pay off Shelia. Afterward, paperwork (apparently to do with Jake’s record shop) is delivered to Max’s office which he signs.
Kenny is onto Max and his involvement in Walter’s death. He also knows where Max has borrowed the blackmail money from.
This happens just as Angela realizes that Walter wrote a bunch of checks to Sheila Gemmell. Shelia calls her, but Angela doesn’t answer.
Flustered and disappointed, Claire goes to see Tina. Claire and Tina share a drink, a kiss, and then more.
When Max gets home, Claire is already back as well. He apologizes, but she says she doesn’t care. He tries to explain about the past week and promises to be different from now on. She says she needs to shower – they should just stay in.
Not aware of what his brother has just done, Jake calls Angela to say he wants her to stay. Afterward, he notices a matchbook from the Highlander. Jake looks up the pub online and sees a picture of Angela working at the bar -possibly with Shelia in the background.
Angela crosses the street and knocks on Shelia’s door. The older woman tells her she needs to leave. Angela says not until she finds out what Shelia did. Sheila corrects her, “What we did”.
Well, I have to admit a few things here. I didn’t have subtitles on the screeners so I may have missed a few helpful details. As events speeded up, it got challenging to recap the whirlwind at the end. I’m curious to see what you thought of Guilt, particularly what genre you think it falls into. A dark comic mystery? A crime thriller? A psychological examination of how different people process guilt? Let’s discuss your impressions in the comments, shall we?