Written by Camilla King

Arts

Unforgotten: More of this please

A great lead performance, a great mystery and a stellar cast; ITV has struck gold with its latest cop drama, says Camilla King. CONTAINS SPOILERS.

Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar in Unforgotten. Photo: ITV.

Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar in Unforgotten. Photo: ITV.

Oooh, I do love a good crime and the telly box has certainly been spoiling me recently. There’s been a rash of brilliantly dark offerings, including River and From Darkness on BBC1, and currently drawing comparisons to Broadchurch – although in my opinion significantly more interesting – is Unforgotten, the final episode of which airs on ITV tomorrow at 9pm.

When DCI Cassie Stuart (Nicola Walker aka ‘Ruth from Spooks’ being excellent as usual) and DS Sunil Khan (Sanjeev Bhaskar) are called to examine a skeleton uncovered in the cellar of a building about to be demolished, with no idea how long the remains have been buried on the site, a single car key found near the body is their only piece of evidence.

The code on the key leads them, via meticulous forensic research and dogged police legwork, to the case of missing teenager Jimmy Sullivan, who disappeared from a homeless hostel in 1976. Four people emerge as suspects in the case, learning in the process that the sins of their pasts can indeed make a massive bloody mess of their lives in the present, no matter how well they thought them hidden.

Writer Chris Lang (Undeniable, Torn, A Mother’s Son) has created a series that draws the viewer in slowly, with characters’ secrets unwillingly revealed and a creeping sense of unease as initially small past misdemeanours are pieced together to unmask a raft of more serious crimes committed by the main suspects.

As with Broadchurch the whole cast are well-known faces, all giving compelling performances. Everyone has a motive – could the murderer be Trevor Eve’s ruthless businessman and wannabe political mover and shaker Sir Philip Cross, formerly a debt collector (and part-time torturer, much to the horror of his human rights lawyer daughter) for nasty East London firm The Fenwicks? Or perhaps Lizzie Wilton, a former violently racist skinhead now married to a black community worker and mourning the loss of her own son, played with gnawing despair by Ruth Sheen.

“Even though we’re being spoilt (if somewhat confused) by having Nicola Walker appearing as a detective in two police dramas simultaneously, I for one can’t get enough of her nuanced performances.”

Also in the frame are Father Robert Greaves (Bernard Hill) a priest whose secrets are about to destroy his family, and wheelchair-using Eric Slater (Tom Courtenay), whose barely-concealed anger puts him near the top of my list of potential killers.

There are twists and turns and plenty of subplots, including a borrowed and stolen £50, the mysterious Jo Jo, adultery, blackmail, homophobic assaults and, above all else, the increasingly desperate attempts by the suspects to keep their secrets well and truly buried.

And let’s not forget the supporting actors, all giving stonking performances. The standouts here must be Hannah Gordon as the put-upon vicar’s wife, Grace Greaves, and Gemma Jones as Claire Slater. Grace just wants a holiday somewhere warm and for her daughter’s wedding to go off without a hitch. All of which looks increasingly unlikely. While Claire Slater’s dementia is unearthing memories that Eric needs to remain unspoken, and is prepared to go to some lengths to achieve.

With one episode left, DCI Stuart’s prey are being forced into the open, with Eric Slater about to make a big reveal. Is he the murderer? I’m pretty sure that the resolution is going to be more complex than falling to just one person. Claire Slater has been looking nervous and Eric definitely has something to hide. My money is strongly on Claire being involved, but I’m also starting to think that it won’t be so simple, with potentially two or more people complicit in Jimmy’s death.

Episode five left viewers with two huge cliffhangers and, unlike many recent dramas that refuse to come to a neat finish, it does look as if Chris Lang will be tying up the ends for the finale.

With its unusual depiction of calm and consistent police procedure and characters fleshed out to be truly compelling, I hope Unforgotten returns with a new case next year. Even though we’re being spoilt (if somewhat confused) by having Nicola Walker appearing as a detective in two police dramas simultaneously (she also stars in River), I for one can’t get enough of her nuanced performances. Come back Unforgotten, and let’s put the second series-itis of Broadchurch to bed.

@millking2301

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Written by Camilla King

Freelancer in the arts. Unwilling expert on Batman, dinosaurs and poo (there are children) and running widow of @UpDownRunner. Lover of music, cake and lady stuff. @millking2301