The Guilty (2021) summary and ending explained

The thriller drama ‘The Guilty’ starring Jake Gyllenhaal is now streaming on Netflix. This film is directed by Antoine Fuqua and is a remake of a Danish film of the same name.


In the California summer, wildfires are breaking out across the city increasing the volume of emergency calls being made tenfold. Officer Joe Baylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a 911 dispatch officer who is feeling quite nervous and twitchy which also makes him quick to anger.

He’s been fielding calls from different citizens when he is interrupted by a phone call on his personal cell. It turns out to be a reporter questioning him about his case and whether he would like to share his side of the story. He tells her off before being reprimanded by his superior for answering a personal call.

He then receives a call from a woman who seems to be in distress. She talks on the phone as if she’s communicating with her child and with further investigation, Baylor finds out that the woman has been abducted by her ex-husband. Her, name according to phone records, was stated as Emily Lighton (Riley Keough).

He tries to keep her on the line while he contacts California Highway Patrol so that they can track down the car, but he has no other information to go on except that it’s a white van. The officers on the road spot a van and pull it over but it turns out to the be the wrong one. The authorities do not have many other options due to the increasing intensity of the wildfires.

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After an anxious couple of moments, he decides to call Emily’s home phone, where a little girl answers. Th girl is Abby (Christiana Montoya) who turns out to be Emily’s young daughter. She tells him that her parents left her at home with her younger brother Oliver and left. He finds out that her father’s name is Henry Fisher (Peter Sarsgaard) and that he has prior convictions for assault. Abby also gives Baylor her father’s contact number so that he can reach out to him.

Baylor then contacts the LAPD communications where he gets in touch with his former sergeant, Bill Miller (Ethan Hawke) and asks him to send a car over to Emily’s house to check on the welfare of the children. He also insists that another car be sent to Henry’s house to investigate but he’s told that it’s not an active investigation yet and they can’t do that without a warrant.

The sergeant also reminds him that he’s on his last day on the phones and once his court appearance is done, he’ll be back out on the street as a full time cop again.

When Baylor has a moment to himself, he calls up is wife. She pleads with him to stop reaching out this way since they have separated for nearly 6 months and it wouldn’t be good for his daughter. They also discuss his case and the court appearance that he has to make the next day.

Baylor is hurt by his wife’s words, and he ends up calling Henry from his personal phone to give him a piece of his mind, but Henry is completely deflective and refuses to react. Baylor then calls up his old partner Rick (Eli Goree), who seems to be out drinking because he’s nervous about his testimony at court. Baylor assures him that everything will be fine and then asks him for a favour.

He tells him Henry Fisher’s address and asks to him to go out there and snoop around in case they find anything that might lead them to where Henry is taking Emily. Meanwhile, the police have arrived at Emily’s house while Baylor is on the phone with Abby and she hands the phone over to one of the officers.

He walks him through the situation but then notices blood on Abby and immediately begins searching for Oliver. When he does reach the baby he goes into complete distress and hangs up the phone before Baylor can get a clear idea of what is going on.

Assuming the worst, Baylor calls up Henry again and accuses him of killing his own baby and tells him to just give himself up. Henry says that isn’t the full story, and he can’t afford to get locked up for Abby’s sake and then hangs up on Baylor.

Baylor finally gets a call back from Emily, and he tries to get her to reveal more details of where they are. He devises a plan to try and get her out of the car by suddenly pulling the handbrake while Henry’s seatbelt isn’t on, but it doesn’t work and she ends up being thrown into the back of the van instead.

Will Baylor be able to rescue Emily and bring Oliver’s killer to Justice?

Here is the ending of ‘The Guilty’ explained in detail:

All is not what it seems

Baylor asks Emily to look around the back of the van for something sturdy to use as a weapon. When she finds a brick, he asks her to hold on to it tightly and then wait for them to stop again. He tells her that as soon as Henry opens the back door, she needs to hit him in the head with the brick and then find out where she is and inform Baylor.

Emily becomes extremely anxious with all this information and Baylor tries to talk her down by asking her simple questions like what her favourite food is and what she enjoyed doing with her children. She talks about the aquarium and how she enjoyed taking Abby and Oliver there often.

She finally calms down and realizes that the car is stopping. She tells Baylor that she doesn’t know why Henry is doing this since all she did was make Oliver stop crying. She says that there were snakes in his stomach which were causing him so much pain so she took them out herself. At that moment, Henry opens the door so Emily hits him on the head and runs away, losing the connection in the process.

The mystery unravels

After digging through all the things in Henry’s house, Rick finds some important information and calls Baylor to tell him about it. He found out that Emily and Henry were embroiled in a custody battle and Henry lost visitation rights due to his criminal record. Another key piece of information, however, is that Emily was a former patient at the Patton State psychiatric treatment centre

He calls up Henry who is slightly dazed and asks him why he didn’t he just come forward with the truth from the off. Henry dismisses his supportive tone and claims that no one helps people in their particular situation because the entire system is broken.

He admits that they fell behind on their medical bills and tried to manage without medication and now his son is dead because of it. He feels completely defeated and alone and just wants what’s best for Emily and Abby.

The truth will set you free

Another dispatcher approaches Baylor and tells him that he has a call from a woman who claims to know him. It turns out to be Emily, who is now at an overpass on the freeway. Baylor tries to get more information out of her but she’s distracted by the blood on her hands.

She freaks out and starts to wonder whose blood it is with Baylor trying to calm her down. She slowly begins to realize what she’s done and says that she wants to say good bye and be with her son. Baylor attempts to keep her on the line by admitting that he killed someone.

While on duty, Baylor shot and killed a 19 year old boy which is why he was demoted to dispatch until his court hearing. He says that he’s not sure why he killed the boy, probably because he wanted to punish him. He manages to stall her enough until the police arrive and finally get her off the overpass and in their custody.

Once he’s done with this ordeal, his superior walks in with a note from the officer who visited Emily’s house letting him know that Oliver survived and is in the ICU. He’s absolutely relieved to hear that and then visits the washroom and calls up Rick, He asks Rick to promise him that he’ll tell the truth on that stand at court and forget about any plan they had beforehand.

He finally decides to call up the reporter and tell them his side of the story, ready to accept the consequences for his actions.

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