Minor spoilers for Unforgotten series 4 episode 1 below.
There are cold cases and there are cold cases. In Monday night’s return of the hugely popular ITV crime drama Unforgotten, there’s a case so cold it’s literally frozen.
The Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar-starring hit show has returned for a fourth run after a three year absence from our screens. DI Sunny Khan’s back with his intuition, his dry sense of humour and – yes – his trusty backpack. DCI Cassie Stuart is around too. Not that she wants to be.
The events of series 3 have taken their toll on Cassie and her propensity to get too involved in her cases has her seriously burnt out. She’s eyeing retirement, but a new tweak to the HR rules means an early slinking off to the garden isn’t possible. 29 years and nine months is three months shy of the required 30 years of service. Cassie needs to put another 12 weeks into the force or lose her not inconsiderable pension. So she’s forced back to her devastating and traumatic old job.
To the action. Barely a minute or two in and we’re off to a scrapyard in North London to peer at a corpse that’s just been flung from an old freezer, sans head. Freezer burns on the skin date the death to having happened around 1990. An old sweet wrapper confirms it. There was uproar back when Marathon changed its name to Snickers, but it may all have been worth it if it helps break this (admittedly fictional) case. We can never forgive the Opal Fruits/Starburst thing, though.
The corpse is soon identified by a distinctive football badge tattoo on the right upper arm. The victim instantly loses a little sympathy when it’s pointed out that he was a Millwall supporter.
The team begin running around like, well, headless Millwall supporters, until a break in the case sees them identify the victim as one Matt Walsh. Further progress is made when it’s worked out who owned the freezer he was stuffed into since before Dance with Wolves was available on VHS.
Previous series of Unforgotten have seen its guest stars pick up BAFTAs for their work, so there’s no shortage of talented thesps out there willing to work on the show. This season it seems as though Sheila Hancock and Andy Nyman might be in the mix for statuettes come awards season.
As with most first episodes, this series opener is fairly heavy on exposition and character introductions. It’s almost like being a bit tipsy at a party as we’re constantly moving about meeting new people with names we instantly forget. By the end of these first 50 minutes, however, we’ve seen all the faces and know a little of their backgrounds and situations. In the very last minute, we rather smartly find out how they’re all connected…
Dean Barton (Andy Nyman, Ghost Stories), Liz Baildon (Susan Lynch, Save Me), Fiona Grayson (Liz White, Life on Mars) and Ram Sidhu (Phaldut Sharma, Hanna) all have a couple of things in common. They all passed out as new police officers in 1990 and were all in a car that got pulled over by police very close to where Matt Walsh was last seen.
Did their recently deceased former colleague Robert Fogarty drunkenly run Walsh over?
Hang on a minute. We’re talking some thirty years ago here. That’s also when a certain Cassie Stuart would have also come through the police training centre at Hendon. We’ll see if that comes into play over the course of the next five Monday nights. Might she have a history with one or two of the passengers?
It’s good to have this back on our schedules and on our hard drives. Chris Lang’s witty and clever scripts, top drawer casting and – above all – the easy warmth and chemistry of Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar were much missed. Thankfully Unforgotten wasn’t forgotten by ITV bosses. And series 4 doesn’t look like it’ll disappoint.
What did you make of the return of Cassie and Sunny in Unforgotten series 4 episode 1? Let us know in the comments below…
Minor spoilers for Unforgotten series 4 episode 2 below. Still catching up? Read Steve’s review of episode 1 here.
Series 4 of one of British television’s classiest and best-loved dramas has now served up two episodes on ITV1’s Monday night scheduling. What’s interesting is that Unforgotten comes just a day after its BBC rival showcases its latest crime thriller, Bloodlands. When that ends in mid-March, it’s to be replaced with another Jed Mercurio favourite, the always popular Line of Duty.
The patient realism and well-rounded characterisation seen in Chris Lang’s cold case offering is a nice contrast to the whizz-bang theatrics of Line of Duty and its Northern Irish cousin Bloodlands. While car chases, explosions and near-constant rug-pulling plot twists keep up the adrenaline, in terms of sheer quality Unforgotten is a cut above.
All three shows deal with ‘bent coppers’, but ITV’s effort starring Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar takes a much more pragmatic and truthful approach, giving its roles room to breathe and grow. Not just our regular leads, but the run’s guest stars too.
To the case and at the end of the first episode, we found out that back in ‘91 the team’s main suspect – the now-deceased Robert Fogarty – was pulled over with four other newly-passed out police officers in the car. A car that, perhaps, had Matt Walsh’s body in the boot. We open here with Cassie and Sunny keen to find out exactly who those other four were. Through some dogged work from their underlings, the quartet became clear:
Fiona Grayson (Liz White) – now a therapist living a seemingly idyllic life in the Peak District, Fiona seems the most innocent and morally centred of the four suspects. Though we’ve been tricked by that kind of thing before, haven’t we? So let’s keep an eye on her.
Liz Baildon (Susan Lynch) – Liz seems to have everything together. A nice house, a loving partner, an interview for the Chief Constable of East Anglia Police… She’s hiding dark secrets, though. Secrets her mother – a brilliantly twisted performance from the inimitable Sheila Hancock – loves taunting her about. ‘I could tell you a thing or two about our Elizabeth that would make your hair turn grey,’ she tells her carer at one point, with an icy grin. Could one of them concern a headless Millwall fan?
Dean Barton (Andy Nyman) – a seemingly affable chap, we learn that Dean quit the force just a few months after the ‘incident’ 30 years ago. Now a (mostly) reformed character, it seems as if this Rochester-based family man has a career smuggling contraband across borders in his rearview mirror.
Ram Sidhu (Phaldut Sharma) – here’s our main suspect, the Bad Guy. A DCI in the Vice Squad in West London, Ram is a whisky-drinking, joint-smoking bad boy with a sexual harassment case looming over him and a penchant for upsetting folk. So he’s obviously the red herring character. Or is he…?
On first (well, second) impressions, it seems as though Cassie and her crew could be dealing with something of a conspiracy of silence here. A drunk Fogarty might’ve run over Walsh and everyone did their bit to cover it up. Making them all – almost – as guilty as each other. A sort of Manslaughter on the Orient Express, if you like. The truth is, well, we don’t know the truth yet. What we do know is that it’s almost certain to be much more complicated and interesting that a simple hit and run cover-up.
Where Unforgotten really shines is in its intricately-drawn characters. In less-skilled hands this could just be yet another dreary whodunit… There’s a murder and some suspects – one of them’s the killer. But with complex people dealing with relatable issues, it’s much more than just that.
We don’t know about you, but we’re looking forward to finding out more about the case and the four would-be killers. Especially if some of that information is going to be spat out like venom from the show-stealing Sheila Hancock.
Did you catch Unforgotten series 4 episode 2? Let us know what you made of it in the comments below…
Minor spoilers for Unforgotten series 4 episode 3 below. Still catching up? Read Steve’s review of episode 2 here.
There’s a soothing familiarity to the format of most cold case crime dramas, Unforgotten in particular. More cynical viewers could call it lazy, but when you hit upon a winning formula, why change it?
This fourth series of Chris Lang’s top drawer show has now reached its midway point. After the first episode’s recognisable format of body discovery and introduction of suspects, we were then served up episode 2’s character backgrounds. This week’s 45 minutes of Unforgotten was the part of the run where Cassie and Sunny apply some heat to the line-up of would-be murderers, turn the temperature up and see who starts cooking.
This week, it was good news for murder victim Matt Walsh. He’d had a rough three decades, stuffed headless into a freezer. Here, DC Jake Collier (Lewis Reeves) tracked down his missing head. As is so often the case with things you lose, it turned up in an old storage unit. It’s always the last place you look.
Head and body now reunited and the story hitting the national news, it was squirmin’ time for the four police probationers in the frame. All of whom, we know, were in the car that was carting Walsh’s corpse about that night in 1990. What DCI Stuart and DS Khan need to work out is what happened and, crucially, who killed Walsh – and why.
Sunny quizzed therapist Fiona, who confessed to having been an alcoholic at the time of the murder, so she literally couldn’t remember a thing about the night. Whilst not particularly helpful, she was a darn sight more friendly than Vice copper Ram. He gave Sunny about 15 seconds of charm before rounding on him and showing him the door.
Cassie had infinitely more luck with Chief Constable-in-waiting Liz and sometime smuggler/caring dad Dean. The former tried to act dumb but was gamed by Cassie into admitting knowledge of the night and acknowledging her interviewer’s skills (‘you’re good…’). The latter thoroughly charmed his interrogator, but Cassie did stop to wonder whether she was merely blindsided by his recent charity bash and disabled son. As Sunny helpfully chipped in with a reminder… Jimmy Savile also did a lot of work for charity.
As he so often does in his work, Lang has sprinkled in a few interesting social issues throughout. In the mix here are thought-provoking plotlines around domineering parents, sexual harassment, financial exploitation, racism, disability, mixed-race marriages, mental health and – chiefly – attitudes towards (and of) the police.
Some threads are more subtle than others and it’s arguable that the series has taken on a little more than it can chew, but all in all it manages to dish up a head-scratching whodunit, while making us think about a range of interesting social issues.
If the formula is to be continued next week – and there’s little reason to believe it won’t be – episode 4 looks likely to see our four suspects making contact with each other to get their stories straight. They’ll need to keep their cool to outfox Cassie and Sunny, though. So, unlike the victim, the four of them are going to have to keep their heads.
Did you catch Unforgotten series 4 episode 3? Let us know what you made of it in the comments below…
Minor spoilers for Unforgotten series 4 episode 4 below. Still catching up? Read Steve’s review of episode 3 here.
The specifics of the victim’s death became clearer and clearer in Unforgotten this week, as forensic pathologist Dr Leanne Balcombe (Georgie Mackenzie) came good with her findings. With just a defrosted head and pair of hands to work with, she managed to ascertain a cause of death: a large metal object shooting directly into Matthew Walsh’s brain. Yep, that’ll do it.
Murder or accident, it’s not yet clear. Either way, Walsh was cut up and stuffed into a couple of freezers, so a fairly hefty crime went down either way. Further digging uncovered that the victim died on an allotment during a chase with, it seems, the recently-passed out coppers Rob Fogarty and Ram Sidhu. Who either killed Walsh on purpose, or saw him die from falling and landing head first on something skull piercing. At least that’s Cassie and Sunny’s current working theory.
Until now, Cassie seemed to be dealing with her unexpected un-retirement fairly well. This week, however, the cracks began to widen. Her desire to work it up her employers by running full tilt at the Hendon Four saw her and Sunny rush into grilling suspect Ram Sidhu. It was something Cassie’s partner warned against. ‘We need to slow down, boss,’ he gently said after Sidhu strode out of his interview after dismissing their evidence – quite rightly – as circumstantial.
In truth, our intrepid investigators may not need to do too much active pressing. The pressure from the past is seemingly catching up with all four, not least of all Fiona Grayson. The PC-turned-therapist is starting to crack, with the severity of her historic alcoholism being revealed. Not only was she blacked out drunk on the night in question, we learned that she later killed a child in a drink-driving incident – something her former colleague (and perhaps ex-lover?) Chief Constable Liz Baildon seems to have helped her cover up.
It’s clear that writer Chris Lang is presenting more than just a simple cold case whodunit here. The ‘who killed Matt Walsh?’ plot is central, of course. And it’s an absorbing story that presents more than enough intrigue for the casual viewer. Lightly scratch the surface though and there are plenty of wider social issues at play.
Questionable police behaviour looms large, both here and in the world away from our TV sets at the moment. It’s something of a coincidence that Unforgotten has chosen to explore police attitudes and conduct – and been aired – during the current controversy surrounding the Sarah Everard investigation and the Met’s reaction to the Reclaim the Streets vigils. The synchronicity adds power to the storyline and underlines the need for the relationship between the police and the public to be properly discussed and addressed.
Back to the main plot and, in truth, there wasn’t too much to get excited about this week. Each suspect was just nudged further and further into the frame. We saw the revelation of Fiona’s crime and her and Liz’s conspiracy, plus more – but not many more – details of Dean and Ram’s shady past too.
This fourth episode pushed the plot on a little, but with four parts out of six now in our rear view mirror, it feels as if we haven’t got that many more miles left. Yet the destination still feels quite a long way away. Expect next week to see the pedal hit the metal.
And having learned through an eyewitness that all four were present when Walsh died, we’re getting serious Murder on the Orient Express vibes here. Can Cassie forget her personal problems in the coming weeks, focus on the case and pull off a spectacular Poirot-style reveal at the end? With Sunny at her side, there are more than enough little grey cells to call upon to crack the case.
Did you catch Unforgotten series 4 episode 4? Let us know what you made of it in the comments below…
Minor plot spoilers for Unforgotten series 4 episode 5 below. Still catching up? Read Steve’s review of episode 4 here.
For those crime drama fans who prefer live broadcasts to catch-up TV, this week saw the first of two Sunday/Monday night Line of Duty/Unforgotten double bills – a rare fortnight in the televisual calendar where lovers of great British crime are treated to consecutive nights of true quality.
While the two shows encapsulate everything that’s exciting about UK crime telly at the moment, they’re very different from one another tonally. Not so much this week, however.
Ordinarily we’d expect Line of Duty to come flying out of the blocks with a first episode, all blue lights, guns, chases, explosions, deaths and twists. But its return, in truth, was somewhat muted. It was no bad thing; it showed maturity and self confidence.
Conversely, ITV’s Unforgotten is known for its well-drawn characters, smart writing and subtle performances. So few viewers saw this fifth episode’s shock cliffhanger ending coming. We were left reeling. It was a very Line of Duty move.
Without giving too much away, the jolting final scene is something of a pace change – and a drastic one, at that. How it will affect the case (and Cassie) we’ll have to wait and see in next week’s sixth and final episode of the series.
Next week’s finale has some heavy lifting to do, really. Episode 5 saw Fiona and Liz fully basted and grilled by Cas and Sunny, which still leaves Ram and Dean for dessert next week. Although quite how Cassie will manage that after what happened to her is anyone’s guess. Looks like DI Khan may well have to pull a double shift.
This Monday’s instalment taught us plenty, though. We found out that the pen really is mightier than the sword, for starters. The ‘weapon’ that killed victim Matt Walsh was a fountain pen, one – it seems likely – that was gifted to one of the five passed-out police officers back in 1990. Who the pen belonged will undoubtedly be revealed by some forensic work next week. Did it find its way into Walsh’s head accidentally as Fiona claims Ram told her? Or was her interview a well-spun web of lies? Even Cassie and Sunny couldn’t tell.
Liz Baildon’s interview featured a lot less subtlety. It was combative, to say the least. It’s clear that the senior police officer is hiding something, but what exactly? Well, it’s hard to say given Liz decided to go ‘no comment’ after one too many jabs from Cas (‘I would have expected better of you, Deputy Chief Constable Baildon.’).
It’s Liz White that steals the show here as the end-of-her-tether Fiona Grayson – no mean feat given she’s starring alongside the always top of her game Nicola Walker. The scene where she unloads her various dark secrets in a rapid fire way to her stunned husband and young kids is outstanding. Simultaneously dramatic and comedic. A perfect demonstration of what happens when you just can’t keep a secret (or five) anymore. It was sixty seconds her family are unlikely to forget any time soon.
So, then. Who’s the murderer? Ram Sidhu, Liz Baildon, Fiona Grayson or Dean Barton? Or maybe the late Rob Fogarty? Perhaps it’s all of them? Or even none of them…? We’ll find out next week. We’ll also see how DCI Stuart is after her nasty-looking ‘accident’.
If this was Line of Duty, it’d probably turn out that Sunny’s the killer. Luckily it’s not. It’s Unforgotten. Don’t forget to tune in next week for its no doubt gripping conclusion.
What did you think of the shock ending to Unforgotten series 4 episode 5? Let us know in the comments below…
The following review contains some shocking – if rather unavoidable – plot spoilers for Unforgotten series 4 episode 6. If you don’t want to find out how the fourth series of Unforgotten ends for everyone concerned, stop reading now. You have been warned!
Who saw that coming? DCI Cassie Stuart, the beating heart of ITV’s hugely popular cold case crime drama Unforgotten is dead. Like the car that hit her at the end of episode 5, the news seemingly came out of nowhere. It was certainly a shock, not just to her family and colleagues, but to every single one of us at home sat staring at the TV agog. She’ll be missed, alright.
With Cassie’s rather jarring absence and the jaw-dropping and tear-jerking events at the hospital forcing us to say goodbye to Unforgotten’s complicated but very real central figure, we almost forgot there was a murder to solve. Luckily DI Sunil Khan didn’t.
Rising to the occasion and holding himself together admirably, Sunny got on with the job in hand. The four suspects had been in the frame for some time now, his task was to Poirot his way to a killer. And he did so – in perfect TV detective style too. He stared at a large board full of photographs and names until a ‘Eureka!’ moment occurred to him. There’s clearly nothing wrong with Sunny’s little grey cells.
We learned that the killer was actually the mild-mannered Dean Barton (Andy Nyman). The fountain pen weapon was his, a gift from an older brother who was later murdered by none other than the victim, Matty Walsh. Dean managed to convince the other three new PCs that it was an accident and that they’d all be better off covering up his death, given they were all culpable to a degree.
As ever, it’s been a series of great performances. Susan Lynch, Liz White and Phaldut Sharma were all excellent. But it was Andy Nyman who really stood out. He injected a natural pathos and empathy into a murderer and cocaine smuggler that few other actors would have been able to. Nyman’s excellent performance was helped enormously by Lang’s writing, of course. Every one of the characters here had depth, every one of the plot threads felt fitting and believable.
Even Cassie’s demise, death and send-off felt realistic. Okay, so a last minute twist may not seem very organic, but there were no melodramatics here. Which is just as well. Cas would’ve hated all that business.
So, then. What now for the future of Chris Lang’s wonderfully-written police drama? We were left assuming that that was it for Unforgotten as Sunny’s funeral eulogy rang in our ears and the credits rolled. With Cassie dead, so too was the show…
Thankfully for us, though, that’s not the case. Lang teased upcoming news on the show on Twitter not long after the finale was broadcast. He then went on to announce the show will return next year with Sanjeev Bhaskar and a new ‘partner in crime’ – great news for fans of the always reliable, diligent and intuitive DI Khan who has more than enough charisma and depth as a character to keep us tuning in. So the big question is: just who will step in to replace Cas? A Sarah Lancashire, Emily Watson or Maxine Peake figure?
Failing that, Chris Lang could pick up the phone to his fellow crime writer Ann Cleeves, writer of Vera. Just imagine how many cold cases DCI Stanhope and DS Aiden Healy could clear up alongside Sunny and the team if they were seconded to London for a year.
Fantasy picks aside, Unforgotten will definitely see a fifth series. A series without the fantastic Nicola Walker and her DCI Cassie Stuart, but a series we can’t wait to watch nonetheless. However the show’s new era plays out, Cas will always be unforgotten.
What did you make of Unforgotten series 4 episode 6? Let us know if you think the show has a future in the comments below…