IN France it was renamed Petit Muerte entre Freres (Little Murder between Brothers), in Sweden they went for Var Lilla Hemlighet (Be Little Secret).
In Scotland it is simply Guilt. A solid, fist in the face kind of title for the most wickedly entertaining caper to come out of Scotland since the Stone of Destiny was nicked.
According to entertainment lore, the second series of Neil Forsyth’s comedy drama, which started last night, was always going to be tricky. Second album, second marriage, second run for award-winning show that was such a hit for BBC Scotland it soon found a home on BBC2 and was screened UK-wide to huge acclaim.
Never fear, though. On the strength of the opening episode, the second series is going to be pure pleasure, no guilt about it. Like the car that starts first time every time, like the perfectly mixed martini, Guilt just works.
It has been two years since Max (Mark Bonnar) was driven away in the back of a police car, on his way to take the rap for a hit and run. The hint of a smile made for much debate: was Max the sinner made saint?
Series two opens at an Edinburgh dinner party where pals are celebrating a year since the man of the house left rehab. Sober now, Adrian (Robin Laing) is still a waster and a chancer, but he is middle class, lives in a big house and has friends in the professions, so there is no shame in it, really. A toast is made. “Here’s to boring,” says the hostess. They might as well have smashed every mirror in the house, for as sure as relapse follows rehab, the viewer senses bad luck coming down the line.
“I don’t know what to do next,” says a panicking Adrian after it does. “That’s how it starts,” he is told. With that we’re off to the races.
One of the pleasures of the first series was watching one wrong decision spin out into a web of deception. Forsyth makes an even better job of that task here. He is supremely confident in his ability to take the audience with him. There will be no exposition, no flashbacks, no explaining of gags, just jump in, the water is lovely.
Back on the dreich streets of Edinburgh again, Max calls on old acquaintances, chief among them Roy Lynch, self-dubbed “jumped up gangster” of the parish now respectable (sort of).
Stuart Bowman has helluva big shoes to fill after Bill Paterson, but he slips into them like Cinderella (if Cinderella was the heir to Charlie Endell Esq).
Max’s old gofer Kenny (Emun Elliott) is just as underwhelmed to see him again. Now with HND in legal services, Kenny has moved on. Everybody has, except Max, who reckons he deserves a hand up. “I just need a piece of what I had, of who I was,” he pleads.
Guilt is set in the borderland between right and wrong, respectability and disrepute. It is a place that is hardly unique to Scotland, but it is very Scottish. If you are well to do, or well connected, both of which Max used to be, you can come back from almost anything. Nothing need be the end of the world.
But now Max, having fallen from grace, is back among the nobodies, an outsider, a disgraced lawyer for heaven’s sake. How low can one man go? What a blast it is going to be finding out.
Directed by Patrick Harkins and made by a crew that is huge by BBC Scotland standards, you can see and smell the money that has been spent on production.
It is not just money, though. There is nothing “that’ll do” or “that’s good enough” about the making of Guilt. Everything looks just so, from the perfect bench to look out over the glittering city to Roy’s bachelor lair. Ditto a soundtrack that has room enough for both Leonard Cohen and The Skids.
A uniformly superb cast do the rest. Besides Bonnar, his urban silvery foxiness working overtime, say hello to Phyllis Logan, snug and menacing in a care home, a Scottish Livia Soprano if ever there was one. Actually, scratch that – Phyllis’s Maggie is scarier.
Come the end of the hour we are left, once more, trying to read Max’s face for clues. “Stick around,” his expression seems to say. “This is going to be good.” In Max we trust.
Repeated BBC2, Thursday, 9pm. All four episodes of series two, and series one, now on iPlayer