WARNING: This article contains MAJOR SPOILERS for all six episodes of Payback
Now we’ve streamed all of ITV’s latest crime thriller Payback on ITVX, we’re really going to miss being thoroughly confused, because its six mega-twisty episodes kept us guessing right to the end.
Writer Debbie O’Malley left no plot stone unturned in newly widowed Lexie’s (Morven Christie, The Bay) quest to find out who killed her accountant husband Jared (Thoren Fergun, The Midwich Cuckoos) and just what he’d done with £27 million of crime lord Cal Morris’ (Peter Mullan, The Rings of Power) hard-crimed cash.
In fact, the only questions we’ve got are: how did they manage to make financial crimes so exciting? How was Cal so terrifying, and yet so unfathomably likeable? And – after she spent all six episodes wearing a distinctive olive green number – does Lexie not own more than one coat?
We can’t answer these questions, but if you’re still curious about some of Payback’s more major plot points, read on:
Who Killed Jared?
We’d spent most of the six episodes wondering if Jared had been recruited by a rival crime boss to screw Cal Morris over, and perhaps they’d been behind his fatal stabbing in episode one, but it turned out Jared wasn’t killed for money at all.
Instead, it was simply a violent impulse of Cal’s thuggish nephew Aaron, who had discovered Jared had been trying to help his girlfriend Amanda escape his abusive clutches. As the police discovered in Jared’s card transactions after his death, he’d paid for Amanda to stay in a hotel, and also replaced some sapphire earrings Aaron had bought her after she lost one (the police wrongly assumed Jared had been having an affair).
To get back at Jared, Aaron had paid teenager Michael “Tab” Murray – who was known to do criminal jobs for him – to get some mates together and stab Jared in the street.
Where Did The £27 million go?
Jared’s nifty financial skulduggery really kept us on our toes, but in summary:
Jared was Cal Morris’ “money man”, using his finance firm to help him with his money laundering. He did that by setting up and managing five shell companies for Cal’s various nefarious business activities (including his attempt to buy an island).
After his death, however, Cal discovers that Jared had been providing him with fake financial statements, which Cal and his associates had been accessing via a fake computer portal. In reality, Jared had actually been covertly funnelling money from these shell companies into secret foreign bank accounts. These in turn had sent the money to another bank account in Lithuania – for a fake business called Previte Holdings – and then the money had been moved yet again – this time to a Swiss holding account owned by a company that runs auction houses.
Lexie then discovered that Jared had used an antiques dealer called Greg Beaumont to make several jewellery purchases at these auctions – nine necklaces, each worth £3 million, in fact – and eight of these had been donated to charity.
We then learned that Jared himself had set up the charitable foundation he’d donated the necklaces to, within which he created trusts for his two children, as well as a trust to pay for his mother’s care home in the USA. The final necklace had been mailed to his father’s address in Washington, presumably as some kind of security, addressed to Lexie with the note “For my beloved L, for our new life together.”
Why Did Jared Steal From Cal Morris, And What Was His Escape Plan?
Jared knew his client Cal Morris was a nasty piece of work who tended to make people who crossed him disappear or turn up dead, but as his money man he had become completely trapped in his criminal world. Morris had also paid Jared’s mortgage for him when he had money issues, so he basically owned him, and he knew his and his family’s lives were in Cal’s hands. And choosing to help Aaron’s girlfriend escape also put his life on the line.
The financial fraud was his way to escape Cal Morris’ criminal gang for good: he knew he was clever enough to make the money untraceable (as the eyewateringly complex explanation above shows), and with the fake portal he’d paid his colleague’s husband to create he knew he and his family would be long gone before Morris ever found out the money was gone.
He’d got fake passports for him, Lexie and the kids so they could escape to America – he and Lexie would go to Miami while the au pair Doris took the kids to his parents in Washington. Unfortunately, he was killed before he could tell Lexie what he’d done and put the escape plan in action.
Why Did Lexie Delay Sending the “Delivered” Text?
After she worked out that Cal’s nephew Aaron had killed Jared, Lexie told the police, but they made it clear it was unlikely they’d ever be able to get enough evidence to arrest him for the murder. So Lexie took justice for her husband’s killing into her own hands.
As part of his undercover investigation, detective Adam Guthrie (Derek Riddell, Happy Valley) made Lexie wear a wire and try to get Cal to admit that the contents of a shipping container (£6 million in money-laundered cash) belonged to him.
It had been Aaron’s responsibility to track this dodgy container and make sure it gets to its destination in China, but in a panic he’d lied to Cal, pretending it had been delivered when the shipping company had actually lost it and he was scrabbling to track it down. Unbeknownst to him, Lexie had found the container at the docks.
So she told Cal that Aaron had been hiding it from him, wrongly implying he intended to steal the £6 million, which was enough to make Cal angry enough to admit on the wire that the money was his.
After that, Guthrie had instructed Lexie to tell Aaron where to find the container, before confirming she’d done this with a text message saying “Delivered”, so he could send the police to the docks to catch Aaron with the dodgy money.
Instead, she waits to send the message, knowing that Cal will want to punish Aaron himself, which gives Cal’s hit man enough time to catch Aaron at the shipping container – seemingly red-handed – and shoot him dead. When she eventually sends the “Delivered” message, the police raid the container and find his body. Lexie’s own form of Payback, as it were.
How Did The Police Finally Get Cal?
As well as the wire recording of him admitting to money-laundering via the shipping container (see above), by the time Cal is arrested he is also the obvious prime suspect for Aaron’s murder.
Not only that, but in a desperate bid to save his daughter’s (legitimate) businesses, Cal recklessly uses some of his dirty money to bail her out. The problem is, he uses CVB Holdings, a shell company Lexie helped him create so he could sneakily invest in the community group’s bid to buy the Hebridean island he wanted. And the police had already linked CVB Holdings to Cal, thanks to their surveillance of Lexie, so they can nail Cal for that bit of money-laundering, too.
Did DCI Guthrie Really Get Lexie Into Witness Protection?
Probably not, but we don’t really know for sure. He’d been dangling the promise of witness protection over Lexie throughout to motivate her to help him get the evidence he needed to arrest Cal – and he eventually does hand her a document he suggests is a witness protection guarantee – but he’d also previously suggested he’d resort to faking the document if it made Lexie do what he asked.
When Lexie gets the wire recording, Guthrie fairly dismissively suggests that he’ll get her the protection guarantee, which suggests the one he’d given her earlier might not have exactly been legitimate.
How Did DC Khan Covertly Help Lexie?
Financial investigator Khan (Prasanna Puwanarajah, The Crown) had been overseeing secret surveillance on Lexie throughout to link her to her husband’s financial crimes, but in doing so he’d witnessed her suffering first hand, and felt bad about how blasé Guthrie was being about her safety.
So when he realises Guthrie has falsely implied Lexie’s witness protection was dependent on her providing him with evidence, Khan sends her an anonymous message telling her to get this witness protection guarantee in writing before doing anything else.
Later, when Lexie is struggling to track down the antiques dealer who had helped Jared spend the £27 million, Khan’s own intelligence unit discovers it was a man called Greg Beaumont, so he sends Lexie another anonymous message with the name.
Once they’ve finally arrested Cal, Guthrie’s noncommittal attitude to making sure Lexie gets witness protection causes Khan to take the law into his own hands one final time. Although he finds out the truth about where the necklaces ended up, including the one that was sent to Lexie via Washington, when he goes to confront her he sees she’s already received the necklace, and is about to flee to America with her kids. Instead of stopping her, he destroys the information about the necklaces’ whereabouts, and lets her escape.
Payback is available to stream on ITVX