Remind yourself what happened in the last season with our Unforgotten series 4 review.
Continuing a drama series after killing off the main character is a bold move. Sometimes the gamble pays off, other times it doesn’t. What does happen 100% of the time, though, is that it puts significant pressure on whoever steps in to fill the void.
In this case, Sinéad Keenan is that void filler. The Irish actress – despite appearing in the likes of Being Human and Derry Girls – isn’t a household name, by any stretch. Then again, nor was Nicola Walker when she was cast in Unforgotten’s debut series back in 2015. Still, it’s an intimidating job for Keenan, this; the last episode of the series that saw Walker bow out drew a whopping 9.5 million viewers.
We’re not in total novel company here in this fifth series of ITV’s cold case mystery drama, however. Sanjeev Bhaskar’s DI Sunny Khan is still digging deep into old murders, just without his old boss and pal DCI Cassie Stuart. He and the rest of the team are, understandably, still somewhat grief stricken, reeling from Cassie’s sudden death at the end of the last series.
Death and its fallout is an apt theme to explore in a drama that’s consumed by the subject. Every instalment starts with the discovery of a body – or at least part of a body. In this case, it’s a leg.
The limb was found up a chimney, detached from the body of a young woman – and not, as we first suspected, Father Christmas – who is soon found slightly further up the chimney. Initial investigations indicate that the death may have occurred in the 1940s or ‘50s, which sees Sunny’s new boss (and Cassie’s replacement) DCI Jessica ‘Jessie’ James bristle, desperate as she is for the team to focus less on cold cases and more on, well, slightly warmer cases.
You might think that Jessie would quite like cold cases, given that they match her personality. Based on this episode, she comes off chillier than a mortuary fridge. Unbeknownst to her new charges, she has a fairly good reason for being out of sorts on her first day in her new job… post-Corn Flakes her slimy husband admitted to an affair. Nice timing, eh?
We’re sure she’ll thaw out soon enough.
What else is going on? Well, plenty. Although none of it is overly clear just yet. We’re presented with a series of sub-plots and figures which, in time, will no doubt present themselves as the main suspects in the young woman’s murder.
The glimpses of who’s due to be stood on the police line-up also indicated some of the themes that this fifth season will be exploring. We can expect some delving into class, addiction, domestic abuse of men, social injustice, the gig economy, illness and even more death.
As this opening episode comes to a close, with a despondent Sunny considering his resignation, there’s a breakthrough. The team learns that the case isn’t that cold after all. The victim died much more recently. So, reluctantly, the new boss reopens the case.
Killing off the main character is a bold move, as we say. Is it one which has paid off here? It’s a little too early to say. With the show’s creator Chris Lang still heading up writing duties and Sanjeev Bhaskar still in situ, there’s consistency and quality on show. Yet it was Sunny and Cassie’s relationship – as well as Bhaskar and Walker’s on-screen chemistry – that really set the drama apart from the crowd. There’s a chance that without that, Unforgotten could blend into that crowd and become forgettable. Here’s hoping not.
Did you tune in for Unforgotten series 5 episode 1? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below…
Still catching up on Unforgotten series 5 episode 2? Read Steve’s review of episode 1 here.
It can be difficult to adapt to a new job and fit in with colleagues – especially when you’re the boss and your predecessor was both excellent at their job and hugely popular. Of course, it doesn’t help when you’re hardly at work, distracted when you are there and generally vacant during team meetings. Get someone’s name wrong, make a few questionable decisions and call your number two a ‘d*ck’ and you’re really not helping yourself.
Of course, us viewers have gawped behind the curtain and seen the reason as to DCI Jessica ‘Jessie’ James’ (Sinéad Keenan) distraction. But, as the new boss, she’s decided against opening up to her team and admitting that her douchebag husband is cheating on her and generally ruining her home life.
So Sunny and Jessie’s relationship hasn’t exactly thawed out yet. In truth, it’s gone from chilly to frozen solid. Watching their interactions in the car is enough to make you shiver, as you witness the inside of a Volkswagen Golf turn into an icy tundra.
Each of the two episodes so far has featured a stand-out line delivered to Jessie by Sunny as he leaves her office in a huff. This time, after a poorly thought-out dressing down about key info from the team going to her first, he shot back, ‘when you’re actually in the office, I’ll certainly make sure they bring you stuff first.’
That’s the kind of burn that makes you hope they keep Savlon in the office first aid box.
Still, even with a largely absent figure heading things up, the rest of the intrepid team are going about their business with the usual vigour. We now know who the poor unfortunate soul was who was stuffed up that chimney seven years ago. She was Precious Falade, who was shot before being left to decay in a Hammersmith flue like a lost, clumsy pigeon. The questions now are ‘why was she murdered?’ and, of course, ‘who killed her?’
Onto our potential murderers and this second instalment shone a little more light on each and every one of them. Under the spotlight in this Monday night’s Unforgotten is Precious’ domestically violent restaurateur mother Ebele.
Sunny’s suspicious of Ebele. Her reaction to the news of her daughter’s death may have seemed genuine, but her face when he showed her the picture of the house she died in alarmed our expert detective. She knows more than she’s letting on, but then again she is in an ITV crime drama. Of course she does…
Other fringe players and their storylines developed, but we’re yet to see how the dying Lord Tony Hume, Jay the drug addict or Paris-based Karol fit into the puzzle quite yet.
What else? Well, we saw a couple of recognisable faces and big names in quite small roles. Lisa Faulkner, remember her? She was a fairly big deal back in the day, heading up the cast of weighty dramas like Spooks, before pivoting to TV chef. It’s strange seeing her as one of those unnamed doorstep witnesses there just to nudge the investigation and plot on a tiny bit. Weird, but good to see on our screens reciting lines again.
An even bigger name joined Lisa, with none other than the legendary 1960s child star Hayley Mills pitching up to offer support as Lord Hume’s wife Emma.
This fifth season started a little slowly with its opener, but things are moving apace now. The plot’s shifted into gear and the suspects are quickly coming into view. We’re still missing some of the levity and fun of Sunny and Cassie’s relationship, but no doubt once Jessie can focus she’ll impress DI Khan and they’ll melt around each other a little. Hopefully some playful banter will be under all that ice. Here’s hoping so, anyway. The series needs a little lightheartedness sprinkled over the top.
Aside from the obvious gap left by Nicole Walker’s departure – one which Sinéad Keenan is slowly starting to fill – this is business as usual for Chris Lang’s prestige crimer. There’s no drop-off in overall quality, with an intriguing mystery buffered with subtlety by pressing and engaging social commentary. It’s paced nicely, as we’ve come to expect and set up perfectly for the remaining four parts of recriminations and revelations.
Did you tune in for Unforgotten series 5 episode 2? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below…
Still catching up on Unforgotten series 5 episode 3? Read Steve’s review of episode 2 here.
The cold case team over at Unforgotten’s Bishop Street nick is one in serious transition. With DCI Cassie Stuart gone but not forgotten, it’s essentially now a rather rudderless ship – at least while new boss DCI Jessica James is struggling to fit in and DI Sunny Khan refuses to step up or subtly cajole ‘Guv’ (and definitely not ‘Ma’am…) into action.
Still, rudder or no rudder, the inquiry into the death of Precious Falade is taking shape. This third part of the fifth series of ITV’s prestige crime drama saw the victim’s mum Ebele volunteer to be questioned after coming in to see her daughter’s shockingly withered husk of a body. In doing so, she visibly put Jessie’s back up with her chequered history of less-than-ideal parenting.
Also flagged up as a potential murderer is our struggling gig economist, Polish wannabe dad and part-time watch thief Karol. It turns out that he used to be Precious’ social worker, right up until she was killed. Somewhat suspiciously.
Jessie sent Sunny over to Paris to question the man. ‘I thought you might like to see the whites of his eyes,’ she smarmed at DI Khan as she packed her sulking colleague off to the French capital. A trip to Paris is usually something to enjoy – but not when it’s a work trip and your wife calls you on the Eurostar to tell you that she’s miscarrying your child.
Then there’s Jay who is now in custody for his violent mugging back at the start of the first episode. It seems likely that he’s Precious’ son, and that he knows what happened the day his mother was killed. At least that’s what we’re led to believe after he makes a shifty call from prison that suggests that his next planned crime might well be blackmail…
Who was the call to? Well, it could have been the Tory peer Lord Anthony Hume. Tony seems desperate to atone for some historical misdemeanour and is lying about his connection to the victim. Could he have been the shooter?
It’s a nice little formula that Unforgotten has established over its five series now. Unique to itself, it works very perfectly. We’re presented with a victim and a crime. Then introduced to a disparate cast of seemingly unrelated characters. We see the investigation take shape and the new faces gradually become linked to the victim. Motives are uncovered and then we’re gifted the chance to guess at the culprit before the usually quite clever reveal.
Okay, so it’s a template that doesn’t stray too far from the tried and tested whodunit format. Still, it’s a well-crafted variation that makes for very satisfying and well-paced television, especially within the confines of six episodes.
The themes interwoven within the plot are another hallmark of the show. Some seem organic and cleverly written in, while others can feel a touch clunky at times. Repeated references to the UK government’s cuts to the public sector feel a little too pointed here and almost crowbarred in, no matter how accurate the individual statements may be. Still, what is art if not an opportunity to discuss the big topics of the time?
Did you tune in for Unforgotten series 5 episode 3? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below…
Still catching up on Unforgotten series 5 episode 4? Read Steve’s review of episode 3 here.
Okay, now we’re talking. Our line-up of suspects are all present and correct, with most of them now having been quizzed by Unforgotten’s nosey team of cold case detectives. Each possible killer, as ever, has their own reason to lie, obfuscate and generally act rather squirrelly. Only one of them pulled the trigger that sent the killer bullet into our victim’s chest, though. Who’s your money on…?
This fourth part shone the interrogator’s lamp directly into the eyes of the handsome Karol Wojski (Max Rinehart). Now scraping a living in a warehouse and Uber minivan in Paris, Precious’ ex-social worker quit his job – and the country – suspiciously soon after her death. His current sideline in stealing 80,000 Euros’ worth of luxury watches from work and rumours of ‘upskirting’ in his old job hardly doing much for his reputation as an abider of the law. He’s somewhere near the top of Most Suspicious Suspects, surely.
Back in England and a recurring theme throughout this series has been the generational impact of poverty, addiction and domestic violence. This was under the spotlight again here, as we heard how Precious’ life was made difficult by Foetal Alcohol Syndrome and how her son Joseph’s life was made all but impossible due to the grim nature of his upbringing and surroundings. We’re sure we’ll see and hear more on that in the final third of the drama.
We’ve not exactly bemoaned it as such, but so far there has been something missing. That light touch, camaraderie, banter and chemistry between our two leads hasn’t been there. On purpose – it’s not an oversight from writer Chris Lang. While we understand the reasons behind the slow start, it’s hard as a viewer not to want Jessie and Sunny teamed up and firing at the bad guys, a united front. We’re pleased to report that there’s been movement on that front.
In what was easily this fifth series’ finest scene to date, the pair sit down for crisis talks. Both keen to clear the air and find a way to work together. In order to do so, however, both needed to remove their armour and confide in each other. Show a little vulnerability. It came easier to DI Khan, who opened up about him and Sal and her recent miscarriage.
It seemed, for a moment, as if the revelations would be one way. With DCI James looking tight lipped about her personal reasons for such a slow start with the team. But then the confessions and tears flowed as she spoke about her ratbag husband’s big affair reveal 54 minutes before starting her first shift as the new boss. Oh, and her sister’s rather grubby role as the other 50% in that sordid tryst.
Air cleared and a bond formed, the two are now a team. Okay, so they’re not at Sunny ‘n’ Cassie levels of Starsky ‘n’ Hutch, but it’s something. Heads now together, whoever’s responsible for Precious Falade’s murder beware…
Surely next week’s fifth episode will finally see our newly-aligned top dogs take a trip out west to Wales and quiz cult leader David Bell, a real piece of work – so we’re led to believe, anyway.
We’re looking forward to seeing Jessie and Sunny impress each other with a takedown of that seemingly rather odious character. Although, surely he’d have already been contacted by now, given his name came up in a previous episode? There’s something fishy going on with Bell and the Family of Blessed Light. Mind you, there generally is with cults, isn’t there?
Did you tune in for Unforgotten series 5 episode 4? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below…
Some spoilers for Unforgotten series 5 episode 5 below. Still catching up? Read Steve’s review of episode 4 here.
So, then. Revelations abound here in this penultimate hour of Unforgotten’s newest series…
J, we discover, isn’t J. Or at least he is, he’s just ‘J’ for ‘Jay’ and not ‘J’ for ‘Joe’. Do you see? He isn’t Joseph Bell, he’s Jay Royce – Joe’s half-brother. It’s presented as quite the reveal here, but doesn’t actually turn the plot on its head all that much.
A laptop in Jay’s possession is then introduced as something of a Hitchcockian MacGuffin. It’s the basis for a fair bit of historic blackmail and links Karol, Precious and Jay together. Furthering motives quite significantly. Especially with the ex-social worker Karol.
We learned that Lord Hume was something of a sugar daddy to Precious, with his own nefarious reasons to eventually want to stuff her into a chimney. Whether he did or not is another matter. If he did, it’s a race against time to apprehend him, given the dying old man is now the recipient of a one-way ticket to Dignitas in Zurich.
Away from the case and neither Jessica nor Sunny’s private lives are improving. The former’s isn’t likely to while the news of her husband and sister’s affair is still fresh in the memory. As for DI Khan, his partner has now left him. Temporarily, maybe, but it spells strife that looks to be long term.
As we’ve mentioned in previous reviews, part of Unforgotten’s charm and what often elevates it over some of its rivals is its desire to thematically explore social topics and issues. This fifth season is very much preoccupied with the effects of cutting public spending. It’s something that’s been touched upon every week, often multiple times, across different plot threads.
This instalment hosted yet more digs at government cutbacks. Ebele spoke of a lack of help for her damaged daughter, while the team discovered that Lord Hume was one of the architects of austerity measures under David Cameron and George Osborne.
These are fine points to raise and explore, but the subject has been rather clumsily waved at us viewers so many times since this new series started that it’s outstayed its welcome and become repetitive. We get it, chaps – slashing public sector budgets can have a knock-on effect with society. You’ve made your point!
While Jessie and Sunny are now working together in a much more professional and productive way, with the new boss heading up the team effectively, things still feel a little Cassie-less. Perhaps it’ll take this whole run for Sinéad Keenan’s DCI James to bed in, with the next series giving her a chance to shine and strike a chord with the audience at home. Only it’s yet to really happen yet here.
In truth, Unforgotten may have slipped a little in quality. It’s still gripping primetime crime drama and one of the better from the ITV 9pm stall – it just feels a little less urgent, thought-provoking and necessary than in previous years. That said, we’re still keen to see who killed Precious Falade and how the various plot threads here will tie up.
As for whodunit, well, we’re not so sure. Normally by this point you’d have your hunch, wouldn’t you? We’re in the dark a little. That said, you get the feeling – given the overarching themes of the series – that whoever it was that killed Precious, and whatever the reason behind it, it has to have something to do with one of them. Public sector spending is difficult to link to murder, so we’re imagining it has to chime with one of the other topics covered: either addiction or privilege and entitlement…
We suspect it may be the latter, which would put Lord Hume in the frame in some respect. We’ll find out next week in the sixth and final part.
Did you tune in for Unforgotten series 5 episode 5? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below…
Still catching up on Unforgotten series 5 episode 6? Read Steve’s review of episode 5 here.
24 Hours in Police Custody has a lot to answer for. Channel 4’s popular fly-on-the-interrogation-room-wall documentary series is a truly fascinating insight into how serious crimes are really investigated and prosecuted. Real-life police series aren’t uncommon, but none have ever gone so far in showing the viewers at home how things really unfold inside the nick.
One of the biggest lessons taught by the series is just how police interviews actually tend to unfold. Let’s just say that TV crime drama writers have been taking one or two liberties down the years… What generally happens can be summed up in two words: ‘No comment’.
And yet the turning point of almost every single television crime drama is the final episode interviews. Faced with some tricky questions, sick of lying, full of guilt or anger, a killer drops their guard and spills the beans, their non-player character brief sat next to them, utterly silent and unhelpful. It’s a trope now, for sure. But one we now know to be really quite unrealistic.
Still, we won’t – and don’t – let things like that ruin our favourite series. This fifth series of Unforgotten, like so many TV crime dramas before it, has its conclusion hinge on scenes across tables in small rooms, recording devices whirring in the background.
It’s a simple format but it works. In fact, this final instalment is easily the season’s best, featuring genuine drama and Line of Duty-style tension ratcheted up from the start, with Sanjeev Bhaskar’s calm and gentle questioning teasing answers out of Ian McElhinney’s Lord Anthony Hume and Martina Laird’s Ebele Falade.
The latter is the standout performer here, the star of the show. The Trinidadian actress is primarily a stage performer and it shows here. Her monologues are delivered perfectly in this closing episode, with a full range of emotions and impressive depth brought to the role. Hers is a sympathetic character, but a very complex one too. Martina Laird nails it here and could follow previous Unforgotten actors Tom Courtenay and Mark Bonnar in picking up a BAFTA nomination and win.
We’ll leave the specific details alone here in case any readers are yet to catch this finale. Suffice to say that it’s a satisfying conclusion that draws on the series themes and makes total sense within its own context. There are one too many twists in the tale at the very end, but it doesn’t detract from what was a smart way to wrap up an okay series. Writer and creator Chris Lang is a true pro, we know that – one who knows how to end his stories.
Altogether, Sinéad Keenan’s introduction as Nicola Walker’s replacement was a slow and steady one. Not all fans of Unforgotten will be entirely convinced with her as yet, but she showed more than enough steel and flair here in this sixth part to show us that DCI Jessie James might just be an adequate substitute for the much-loved DCI Cassie Stuart.
‘I can’t be her,’ Jessie told Sunny in an earlier episode, referring to Cassie. And it’s true – for both the characters and the actresses. Given enough room to evolve and grow in the inevitable sixth series, we reckon Unforgotten has a bright future ahead.
Did you tune in for Unforgotten series 5 episode 6? What did you think of the season finale? Let us know in the comments below…