Last week’s second episode of BBC One’s spin-off from The Missing, Baptiste, left its audience hanging from two cliffs. Julien’s wife Celia had fake gas man and real murderous Romanian ‘Brigada’ gangster Constantin (Alec Secăreanu) on his way into their house, while Baptiste himself had discovered the frozen head in Edward Stratton’s basement…
Celia managed to escape, but Constantin untidied the place to such an extent that Baptiste was forced to put his wife, daughter, son-in-law and grandchild into a safehouse, some half hour east of Amsterdam, in the small city of Almere.
As for the decapitated head… Well, things were all pointing to Tom Hollander’s Stratton being some sort of high-ranking criminal type. But, alas, he’s not. The head wasn’t sent to him as a tribute or as proof that an ordered hit had been carried out. It was, instead, a threat. The bodyless bonce belonged to his father.
So why is Edward having bits of family members posted to him? Well, it all goes back to the missing/now dead sex worker he loved, Natalie. We discover here in episode 3 that the love he felt for her wasn’t actually romantic. It was more of a paternal feeling brought about by Natalie’s physical resemblance to his dead (former sex worker) daughter Lucy. Edward, it seems, is a nice guy, after all. Sort of.
While he may be nice, he’s also rather easily manipulated. Natalie soon exploited his feelings for her as she convinced him to steal a million Euros from Romanian gangsters for her. This is the point where Edward should’ve taken a note from Meat Loaf’s book. “I would do anything for love,” he should’ve told her. “But I won’t steal a million Euros from Romanian gangsters. No, I won’t do that.”
Instead he does steal the money, and gives it straight to Natalie so she can buy back her trafficked younger sister. Edward changes his mind about her keeping the money after the mob find out he stole it, but Natalie won’t return it and disappears with the bag full of cash. As we know, she stashes it at Herman’s house and Edward is forced to track the girl down to try and get the money, return it to Constantin and avoid more familial bloodshed.
Herman, for his part, decided to leave Amsterdam with the dug-up bag of money and Natalie’s sick kid. The tulip farmer was clearly close to Natalie and followed her plea to take her child away from his nasty drug dealer father. But his plans to start a new life didn’t last long as he’s robbed of the money by an unseen assailant.
This week we also met Genevieve (Jessica Raine), a British liaison officer for Europol who is also hunting down Constantin and the Brigada. She gives fairly short shrift to Julien, but then receives it herself from Edward. So it looks as though she may have carry on her business without the help of the series’ two main players. Still, she appears tenacious enough to do just that.
We had to wonder who the ‘trapped in’ man was that Genevieve was speaking to pre-credits, though. Is he her husband? Boyfriend? Brother? Partner? We’re guessing whoever it is, he’s there because of the gangsters she’s tracking down and that her work has become personal.
We ended with something of a shock twist. Police chief Martha (Barbara Sarafian) had lent Julien her colleague and son Niels (Boris Van Severen) for the day to assist in the investigation and the two bonded over a shared career and cancer experiences. Julien, a former lover of Martha’s, did a little maths and a sly (impressively same day) DNA test and things have got even more personal for him… Niels is Julien’s son.
The end of this episode ushered in the halfway point of a series which has so far has shown itself to be a thoroughly classy affair. Tightly plotted, well-paced and smartly written, it has believable characters you care about, non-schlocky plot twists and some truly excellent performances.
Tchéky Karyo is a steady presence as the calm and stoic lead, but it’s Tom Hollander who is really allowed off the leash here. He pushes the boundaries of what’s believable with his Edward Stratton, but with an expert ability to balance mania and restraint.
In lesser hands, Edward could easily be an over-the-top presence that veers into hysteria and self-parody – such are the obvious emotions on show. But with Hollander at the wheel, Stratton is perfectly pitched and executed. The Night Manager and Rev actor treats us to a quite special performance here.
It may be a special performance, but it seems as though Edward might need special protection as we closed this week’s instalment with the man being politely ‘asked’ to get into Constantin’s car.
Here’s hoping he can talk his way out of it.
What did you make of Baptiste episode 3? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below…