‘Rebus’ Ending Explained & Series Recap: What Happens To John And Michael?

He messes up, he patches up, he attacks, but he also protects. Richard Rankin’s scruffy cop is the kind of character that we have seen in so many things, but that doesn’t at all mean Rebus doesn’t make a good show. In fact, the latest BBC adaptation of Sir Ian Rankin’s (not at all related to the lead actor, by the way) novels is quite fantastic. It is dark, gritty, mostly grim, and extremely Scottish—exactly the kind of thing you would expect from a show like this. Rebus is solidly made, very well-acted, and offers you a lot of thrills. The series doesn’t particularly end on a cohesive note, though, and that’s where this article might come in handy. Let us jump in.


Spoilers Ahead

What’s the show about? 

It begins with the immediate aftermath of an accident. None have died, but one of the passengers, George, is severely injured. The other, Detective John Rebus, is anxiously smoking, looking all battered and bruised. Soon, John is trying to kill this man called Cafferty inside an ambulance—until a woman arrives (and possibly intervenes, which we don’t get to see). A year later, John is not doing that great with life. He’s having scuffles with his brother Michael, sleeping with his former mentor George’s (yes, the same one from the accident, who’s now paralyzed) wife, Maggie, and finding it hard to accept that his ex-wife, Rhona, has moved on—literally—with another man, Lockie, who has a sprawling mansion and a life that is way more sorted compared to John’s.


Is there a case?

There has to be one, right? And it happens to involve two men stabbing another man in broad daylight in the streets of Edinburgh. Fortunately, the victim, Jimmy McJagger, is not dead thanks to another man intervening and potentially saving his life. John gets the assignment from his boss, DI Gill (the same woman who stopped him from killing Cafferty). Gill doesn’t seem too happy with John, but she also knows he’s the best man for the job after all—especially given McJagger being an associate of Cafferty. John also gets a new partner, young Siobhan Clarke, who seems to have all the energy in the world to solve crimes. Siobhan is also in a relationship with Sergeant Malcom Fox, the no-nonsense boss of Gill and everyone else. John and Malcom have a mutual disrespect for each other’s way of life and methods of work. But Siobhan does manage to develop a rapport with her partner—as good as it can be with someone like John, obviously without him knowing about her and Malcolm.

Interviewing McJagger turns out to be futile, as he refuses to say anything—an outcome that John saw coming. But they manage to find the good samaritan who saved McJagger’s life—fresh outta jail Andy Rolland, who’s also ex-army. John seems to know Andy well, mainly because he’s ex-army himself and Andy was a part of his brother Malcolm’s (yes, him as well) platoon. Anyway, John and Siobhan find Andy in a pretty horrid state—homeless and jobless. He fails to do much to help either, other than mentioning one of the stabbers possibly having a neck tattoo.


What’s Michael up to?

Michael might seem like the mere supporting character of Rebus’ disgruntled brother, but he is obviously much more than that. In fact, it’s Michael’s action that sets up a chain of reactions, which basically moves the main plot of this story. Like his brother John, Michael’s life is also quite a mess. He has a family—his wife, Chrissie, and two teenage boys—to look after, and his job of delivering parcels is nowhere nearly enough. And when he gets fired from that job, he has no other option but to do something drastic. What might that be? Robbing a flat in his neighborhood—not any flat though, the one out of which two boys are dealing with drugs. So Michael doesn’t hesitate to take out his gun, cover his face, and march to that flat and do his thing. The boys, Jack and Kai, are not much older than Michael’s sons; naturally, he finds it rather easy to take their money and walk away. The boys warn Michael that he’s actually robbing from gangster Daryl Christie, but Michael ignores them as his brother John has told him that there’s no gangsters in the city of Edinburgh (and he’s too desperate to believe that).

Christie is obviously not happy with getting robbed, so he sends his right-hand man, Shaun Strang (this is our neck tattoo man who attacked McJagger), to teach the boys some lessons. They think it’s Cafferty who has robbed them, as Christie has a beef with him. Once upon a time, Christie’s father used to work for Cafferty, but then Cafferty killed him, and now Christie wants revenge. Needless to say, Jack and Kai are mercilessly tortured by Shaun and company. They chop off Kai’s finger, and when Jack promises to do anything for them, they make him go to the hospital and murder McJagger. Despite John and Siobhan being in the hospital, McJagger dies. But Jack, as expected, gets arrested. Upon interrogating Jack, John gets the address of the flat and rescues Kai from there. The flat just happens to be in the same neighborhood as his brother’s. Jack also mentions to John about the robber saying certain things, like Edinburgh not having any gangsters and using phrases like “stag on” (a very typical army thing, as we get to know from John). It’s not hard for John to realize it’s his brother who has done the robbery, but for the time being, he decides to keep that to himself.


Meanwhile, Michael doesn’t just stop at one wrong thing. Upon knowing what Christie has done to Jack and Kai, he decides to play the part of a social reformer and take care of Christie with the help of his associates, Neil, Cammy, and Andy (yes, the one who was in his platoon). But the plan of killing Christie goes for a toss when Christie convinces Michael and his mates to rob Cafferty’s stash from a warehouse and then sell it to him. It turns out that Cafferty is in business with UDA, an organization from Northern Ireland much bigger than the ones from Edinburgh. And while Michael and friends successfully rob the warehouse, Michael also shoots a random guy who’s unfortunate enough to be in the warehouse at that time. Well, the guy is no random after all; he’s the nephew of a UDA big shot, and they’re in no mood to forgive and forget. So UDA confronts Cafferty, who unsurprisingly puts it on Christie, following which Strang and Christie get picked up by UDA.

What Happens to John and Michael in the End?

It’s quite remarkable how Rebus manages to pull off a believable ending without much violence! Andy dies a hero’s death while trying to save Chrissie and her boys from a sudden attack at Michael’s house. Michael and his mates conclude it’s Cafferty, as they’ve robbed the warehouse—but we all know it’s UDA because Christie has now spilled the beans.


While all this is going on, we also get a glimpse of John’s personal life, which is not at all in the right place. It becomes quite evident that he’s still in love with his wife, given that their chemistry is way more believable (and adorable) than the man Rhona is currently with. But obviously, John couldn’t make his marriage work, and Rhona had to leave. While he could have slept with possibly anyone (the guy is charming, after all), he had to mess up by sleeping with Maggie. When Maggie finally confesses to her paralyzed husband, George kills himself. George was no saint, though; in fact, it is revealed that he is quite responsible for the death of Christie’s father. It was George who actually robbed Cafferty and made the accountant, aka Christie’s father, take the blame. When Cafferty gets to know about what the dirty cop did to him, how could he not make George pay the price? Hence the accident and George ending up in a wheelchair and spending his last days miserable. Cafferty also seems to have knowledge of Maggie and John’s secret affair and constantly threatens John with it, although by the end, it doesn’t seem to matter. However, I didn’t see Maggie ending up with Cafferty by the end, but it’s not hard to accept either. Cafferty might be a drug dealer, but he treats Maggie way better than John, after all.

Coming back to the main plot, upon realizing they’ve killed the wrong man (Andy) instead of the one (Michael) who actually killed one of them, The UDA put both Cafferty and Christie to work to find Michael. Christie bypasses Cafferty, contacts Siobhan, slips her the location where UDA is running their operation, and also holds Strang hostage. Thanks to Christie’s tips, Siobhan and Gil neutralize the UDA threat and also save Strang (he still has to pay for stabbing McJagger, though). Unaware of all these, Michael goes ahead with his plan of killing Cafferty and avenging Andy. John catches up with his brother and friends and joins their mission of killing Cafferty. However, while Michael is a loose cannon, John is a man who’s on a path of redemption. So he ends up deceiving Cammy and Neil into getting away with the money so that he can stop his brother from killing Cafferty. It gets really dramatic between the brothers, and John fails to stop Michael from taking a shot at Cafferty, but fortunately, it misses the gangster. Cafferty does suffer a heart attack, but John manages to save him by doing mouth-to-mouth CPR. Gill and Siobhan have reached the location by this time (all thanks to Siobhan’s hunch), and Michael is out in the wind.


Meanwhile, Christie seems to be in business with Lockie (most definitely a dirty one, and Lockie’s interest in starting a trust fund for John and Rhona’s daughter Sammy doesn’t seem that generous after all). But the two have a fallout, and someone rings the doorbell at Lockie’s and shoots him point blank, leaving a horrified (and pregnant) Rhona as the witness. John rushes to his ex-wife and daughter, and the series draws the curtain. We don’t get to know who really killed Lockie. It could either be Christie or Michael (helping his brother get back his family, although John clearly didn’t want it this way) or anyone else (if we consider Lockie to be involved in more dirty business). Michael’s fate also hangs in the balance now that the UDA is after him. It is still a fitting end, but the possibility of another season is not undeniable. Would you be game for that? I know I would.

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Rohitavra Majumdar
Rohitavra Majumdar
Rohitavra likes to talk about movies, music, photography, food, and football. He has a government job to get by, but all those other things are what keep him going.

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