We had a strong feeling that TV crime dramas in 2019 were going to be pretty special. And, like the hunch of any great detective, it turned out to be true…
We’re only in February and it looks as though we’ve already been treated to at least two top drawer shows of the highest calibre. The third run of HBO and Sky Atlantic’s True Detective is near perfect television, while the BBC’s new Sunday night mystery effort Baptiste isn’t all that far behind.
Like True Detective, this is effectively the third series of Baptiste. Don’t worry, though. You haven’t missed anything. It is technically a new show; it’s also one that’s a spin-off from The Missing. While Nic Pizzolatto’s US hit is an anthology with an ever-changing line-up of investigators, this reintroduces us to a familiar face – the ghostly white visage of a certain Julien Baptiste (Tchéky Karyo).
If you thought that Karyo’s Baptiste was a calm and studied figure in The Missing, then you ain’t seen nothing yet. We catch up with him a few years here as a mostly retired man, living temporarily with a young family in Amsterdam. A meditative and relaxed older gent, he seems happy to leave the tracking down of missing people behind him. Yet when the call comes, it only takes one cup of coffee with his police commissioner ex-girlfriend to convinced to return to the fold. And guess what? When he does, he’s just as brilliant as ever… Quelle surprise.
It quickly becomes clear that Baptiste isn’t just dealing with a run-of-the-mill missing persons case here. This looks to go much, much deeper.
For those of you inclined to pick up on political allegory and nods, there’s the faintest whiff of Brexit about this debut episode of Baptiste. What with us following a frantic and desperate Brit (the ever-brilliant Tom Hollander from The Night Manager) as he runs around Europe yelling, getting himself in trouble and having panic attacks.
The distraught and crumpled suit-wearing man is Edward Stratton, the uncle of a young sex worker called Natalie Rose, who’s gone missing. He’s pinballing around the Red Light District of the Dutch capital in search of his absent niece, very keen indeed to track her down. Soon, so too is eponymous Julien Baptiste. Who, as viewers of The Missing can attest, is a handy man to have on your side in that kind of situation.
It doesn’t long before we’re all plunged headfirst into a world of sex trafficking, Romanian gangsters and friendly seashell-loving old men being cut up with chainsaws. Well, this is a Harry and Jack Williams series, after all. Those of you that remember One of Us or Rellik will know what we mean.
It quickly becomes clear that Baptiste isn’t just dealing with a run-of-the-mill missing persons case here. This looks to go much, much deeper. And while this modern-day Poirot is often one step ahead of the bad guys, this time he’d better watch those steps. Only the bad guys are a couple of strides in front of him even at this stage (they’ve already bugged his house and intimidated his wife, ferchrissakes).
We prefer to keep our reviews as spoiler-free as possible, just in case you happen upon them before watching. So we won’t go into too much detail around the rather sizeable twists toward the end of this opening hour of Baptiste. Suffice to say that one of the two big reveals is slightly more convincing than the other. You’ll know which is which if you’ve seen episode 1 in its entirety.
Speaking of being convincing, luckily Baptiste convinced here in its maiden showing. Spin-offs can be risky (for every Better Call Saul there’s a Joey). Judging from this first sixty-minute effort, though? We could well be in line for a treat every bit as good as The Missing. If not better… Très, très bon.
What did you make of Baptiste episode 1? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below…