The Guilty: Ending Explained (All Questions Answered)

The Guilty is a 2021 remake of the Danish crime thriller Den Skyldigeprimarily shot in a single location. The plot follows a demoted officer awaiting a court verdict working late shifts at the 911 call centre. He gets a call from a woman who says she’s being abducted, and the officer makes every effort to save her. Jake Gyllenhaal delivers masterfully and does most of the heavy lifting as he has more than 95% screen time. There are a whole bunch of fantastic actors who have provided their voice to the other characters in the film, Ethan Hawke being my favourite. Here’s the plot and ending of the movie The Guilty explained.

While the film is pretty straightforward, I surprisingly received many requests to do an explainer article. The story is delivered only through dialogues, and perhaps that leads to some confusion. In this article, I’ve gathered all the pressing questions people are asking about the movie, and I’ve answered them in an FAQ style.

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Oh, and if this article doesn’t answer all of your questions, drop me a comment or an FB chat message, and I’ll get you the answerYou can find other film explanations using the search option on top of the site.

The Guilty: Frequently Asked Questions Answered 

Questions about Joe in The Guilty

Why did Joe kill the kid? Why was Joe guilty? What did Joe do? 

Joe is a cop with anger issues, and he is quick to jump to conclusions about a person’s character. It’s made clear in the film that Joe misuses his position of power, leading to police brutality. Eight months ago, Joe happened to kill a 19-year-old kid because Joe plays the judge, jury and executioner. Joe used his own judgment to decide to end that kid’s life because he could and wanted to punish him because he assumed that the boy hurt someone. Joe is not even sure if the boy was really guilty of a crime.

Why was Joe demoted? Why is Joe going to court? Why is Joe in trouble?

Because Joe killed the boy, he has been going through a series of trials, and his final court hearing is set on the following day. As a result, Joe’s working as a 911 late-shift operator. Joe’s partner, Rick, who was a witness to the crime, has falsely testified. We don’t know what Rick’s statement is, but if I were to guess, Rick and Joe have stated that Joe shot at the boy in self-defence. With Rick’s help, Joe plans to lie his way out of jail time.

Why is Joe sick? What is wrong with Joe?

It appears that Joe is suffering from asthma, which is getting flared up because of stress and his anger management issues. This explains the inhaler and the throwing up at the end.

Questions about Henry in The Guilty

Who is Henry? What happened to Henry? Did Henry die? Did Emily kill Henry?

Henry is Emily’s ex-husband. It appears that Emily’s daughter, Abby, called Henry when she saw Emily cutting Oliver with the knife. Henry assumes Oliver is dead and forcibly drags Emily out of the house and into his van and begins driving to Patton State Hospital. Emily calls 911 from the truck, and based on Henry’s previous incarceration, Joe jumps to the conclusion that Henry has killed Oliver, kidnapped Emily, and will kill her too. Knowing nothing, Joe even tells Emily, “Henry deserves it“, and encourages her to hit him on the head with a brick. Emily does so before running away, and though Henry is badly wounded, he is not dead. All Henry was trying to do was to get Emily medical help. 

joe the guilty

Questions about Emily and Oliver in The Guilty

Who is Emily? What did Emily do to Oliver? Why did Emily kill Oliver? What does snakes mean?

Emily is a patient suffering from mental issues, and she was on medication and eventually got off it because she couldn’t afford them. As a result, her condition worsened over time. On that night, Oliver happened to be crying as usual, and Emily’s mind makes her believe that Oliver has snakes inside his stomach, and that is why he’s crying. So she takes a knife and cuts the baby’s stomach. This causes the baby to lose consciousness, and Emily thinks she’s fixed him. I believe she’s referring to the intestines as snakes… brrr.

What happened to Oliver? Did Oliver die (Did the baby die)? 

Yes and No. Oliver doesn’t die in the Hollywood version of the film. The two officers who reach Emily’s home find Oliver unconscious. Based on what Joe hears, he assumes that Oliver is dead. At the end of The Guilty, a fellow officer informs Joe that Oliver is alive in the ICU. However, in the Danish original, Oliver dies when Emily cuts him and the officers find a deceased baby.

Did Emily die? Did Emily kill herself?

No, Emily doesn’t die. Emily realizes what she has done and that the blood on her shirt is Oliver’s. She heads out to commit suicide but decides to call Joe first. Joe is able to talk her out of jumping off the overpass. Joe confesses his own crime of murder and reminds Emily that there are people who love her – Henry and Abby. The officers confirm to Joe that Emily got off the overpass, and they have her in custody.

The Guilty Ending Explained: Who is Katherine Harbor?

Katherine Harbor is a journalist looking to hear Joe’s side of the case for her story. She’s used her connections to somehow get Joe’s personal number. The day’s events make Joe realize that his anger issues and his jumping to conclusions are putting people in harm’s way. While he considers himself to be a protector, he’s been recklessly using his authority – Joe took it on himself to kill a 19-year-old without finding out the whole truth or abiding by the law. 

Assumptions and misplaced anger almost cause Emily’s death. Therefore, Joe’s conscience can no longer carry his guilt along, and he decides to come clean and confess the truth. He asks his partner Rick to tell the events as they happened in the final court hearing. Joe then calls Katherine and tells her about the murder he committed. The ending of The Guilty tells us that Joe has been arrested for his crime. The Danish original simply ends with a shocked bunch of colleagues who overhear the lead confessing his crime to the lady on the bridge.

What were your thoughts on the plot and ending of The Guilty? Did you like the Hollywood version or the Danish original better? Drop your thoughts in the comments below.