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"Guilt" writer discusses the twisty finale, the importance of that enigmatic smile and Season 2

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Midway through the Season 1 finale of PBS' "Guilt," record store owner Jake McCall (Jamie Sives) refuses to let his older brother Max (Mark Bonnar) take the fall for the two of them accidentally running over and killing an elderly man.

"Of all the things Max would do, he wouldn't do that," insists Jake.

Kenny (Emun Elliott), the private investigator trying to convince Jake to turn on Max isn't so sure. After all, Kenny has worked with Max before and experienced the ambitious lawyer's cutthroat ways firsthand.

Jake, however, tries to remain loyal. The brothers' longtime estranged relationship experienced a tentative sort of reconciliation once they bonded over killing Walter Woods, the name of their hit-and-run victim.

But what began as a shared ordeal between brothers, eventually ended with them divided. Everything came to a head once Jake confessed his crime to his girlfriend Angie (Ruth Bradley), who in turn confessed to posing as Walter's niece. With their combined knowledge and a little eavesdropping, the two realize that Max does in fact plan to implicate his brother (not until he safely leaves the country, but still) when trying to blackmail Walter's neighbor Sheila (Ellie Haddington) into backing the plan.

In the end, Jake has no choice but to betray his brother first. Max had overplayed his hand, and as he's taken away by the police, he cracks a small, enigmatic smile.

The series, which originally premiered in the UK in 2019, was acclaimed as one of the best Scottish dramas in years and raked in a number of awards. It's already renewed for a second season, which will premiere this year overseas. Salon spoke with series writer Neil Forsyth about the audience's initial response.

"Honestly, it was brilliant. I've never had a reaction like that to a television show. I'm sure I never will again," he said. "I thought it would be perhaps a slightly more divisive show than it was but it seemed to just connect with people.

"I think surprise was definitely a big part of the reaction. It felt like a very different show to a lot of other BBC dramas and British drama that was perhaps on at the time. Visually, Robbie McKillop as director, and Nanu Segal the DoP and their crew did such an incredible job that it looked very different. I think, I think it felt probably much more American actually, in that kind of American dramedy tradition and in its visual presentation, the use of music, in particular, and pace."

Read the rest of the interview with Forsyth, who discusses the finale, Max's smile and what's coming for Season 2.

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© Salon

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