Courtesy of Expectations / Happy Tramp North
Since Watergate, it’s become commonplace to say it’s not a crime but a cover-up that takes you down. While this may be true of political or financial wrongdoing, sometimes the crime is so serious that covering it up may seem like a smart move.
This is the step that is being made guilt, a Scottish mystery comedy thriller about two Edinburgh brothers who do a bad job and then compete to avoid the consequences. Latest PBS Shows MasterpieceThis four-part series has such a vitality that it made me think of a TV series FargoBy which I mean praise. This show, spurred on by a live performance by star Mark Bonar, started off breezy — and then deepens.
guilt It begins with the elegant Max McCall (played by Bonnar) and his brave younger brother, Jake, driving drunk home after a wedding. On a deserted residential street, they beat up an old man and killed him.
Guileless Jake wants to call the police, but arrogant Max is a high-ranking lawyer who insists turning themselves in will spoil them. And so they dragged the deceased home and tried to make it look like he died of natural causes.
At first, luck was on their side. It turns out that the old man was dying of pancreatic cancer and the authorities assume that this was the reason he was killed. Then the American victim’s niece, Angie – played sweetly by Ruth Bradley – shows up for the funeral and begins asking questions. Before the brothers know it, they’re dealing with a drunken detective, an old woman across the street whose rigid behavior is hiding all sorts of unseen tricks, and a gangster played by the brilliant Scottish actor Bill Patterson (who’s been in everything since Lyrical detective to me Fleabag).
As if that weren’t enough, Jake and Angie ditch each other – they’re linked in naming Bowie’s best record – while Max’s wife, Claire, feeling trapped in their shiny, soulless home, is groomed by a woman at the gym. . . Max keeps telling Jake that everything is under control, but every time they think she’s safe, a new witness or evidence appears. The show practically resonates with the fall of the other shoes – and it doesn’t help that neither brother can trust the other.
Now, you may want to put subtitles on when watching guilt Rich Scottish accents like Mars fried bar. But don’t let this bother you. This is the program that catches you. Tension never subsides, yet it possesses the core of human feeling, beginning with the distorted relationship between the two brothers.
A failed rock musician who now runs a flopped second-hand record store, Jake is a man-sympathetic jungle creature—he’s even bearded and disheveled—and feels bad about their beating and their deadly escape. Played warmly by Jimmy Sives, he is a basically fit guy and becomes less willing to give himself up when he falls in love with Angie and ultimately has something to lose.
Even as we root for Jake, Bonar’s bravery as the arrogant cold-blooded Max makes us yearn for his outcome. With his sharp eyes, sinister teeth, and arrogant smile, this pale, white-haired lawyer resembles a kind of deep-sea barracuda that has been bleached from living so long without light. Max is horrible and increasingly frantic, the kind who, when he assures you that everything is fine, you’d better start looking for the exits.
guilt It is an apt title for the show, which offers conflicting versions of what the word means. For Jake, guilt is personal – something you feel when you do something you know is wrong. For Max, it’s a legal idea that has no morals or emotion – if you get away with it, you’re not guilty. In the middle you find the other characters on the show who, to different degrees, are all doing things they feel they really shouldn’t be doing. There is a lot of guilt.
Of course, in life there is always. As the late Ohio humorist Irma Bombeck said, guilt is the gift that keeps on giving.