The German TV series Shades of Guilt is different from most streaming foreign TV shows. Rather than a season long arc, each episode is a complete story, but a thread ties them all together. The stories deal with interesting – sometimes disturbing – topics, including murder, sexual fantasies, domestic violence, rape, and more. The Shades of Guilt team resists the temptation to sensationalize and instead focuses on natural human tendencies and reactions. What would we, the viewer, do in each situation? How guilty are the victims in these crime stories?
The series starts with an episode about sex. (OK, maybe there is a bit of sensationalizing.) A particular kink or fantasy is explored. One of the participants gets hooked on the act. The other goes along, and unintended consequences result.
As lawyers get involved, we meet Friedrich Kronberg, a defense attorney. He is just another character in the series, but when he reappears in episode two, it’s apparent he’ll play a role in each story. Kronberg is not your typical TV attorney. He’s calm, quiet, and – at times – reluctant to speak out in court. We know little about him, until the final episode.
Shades of Guilt uses lots of flashbacks. As the episodes begin, we see part of the crime, then cycle forward to meet the characters. Context comes about slowly, reasons become clearer. The process keeps us partially removed. The stories are intriguing – emotional, but not powerfully so – though some may find them unsettling. The series operates on a more academic basis, asking us to consider from the perpetrator’s point of view.
The Shades of Guilt TV series is based on short stories by Ferdinand von Schirach. The German title is Schuld. The production team includes several writers and the directors Hannu Salonen and Maris Pfeiffer. The six one-hour episodes in season 1 are available on Walter Presents. Shades of Guilt season 2 is completed, but not yet available in the US. We look forward to watching it.