The second episode proved just as emotional for us all, as DCI Cassie Stuart (Nicola Walker) and DS Sunil ‘Sunny’ Khan (Sanjeev Bhaskar)formally begin to investigate the murder of the young woman. Their first move is to travel to Middenham to meet Haley’s parents and twin sister, Jessica (Bronagh Waugh). It’s a tough scene to watch, as Cassie delivers the heart-breaking news of how Hayley died to Haley’s mother, Suzanne (Bríd Brennan). Lang’s dialogue in Unforgotten has always been on the money, and the writer is once again at the top of his game here. Cassie’s words are both heartfelt and real. Moreover, Walker’s delivery is wonderful. In both her words and her actions, we can tell that Cassie cares. In her promise to the Reid family, we can feel her emotion. I mentioned last week how Lang’s characterisation of Cassie is spectacular, and it comes across again here. She’s not a superhero – she’s just a human being, doing her job the best she can.
The Middenham setting gives Unforgotten a different vibe this time around. There’s a great conversation between Cassie and Jessica, where Jessica explains to the detective that Hayley’s death severely affected the town’s tourist trade, and thus the townspeople may not be very co-operative. Middenham is a far cry from the big city backdrops from the previous two series’, so it gives the show a fresh feel. In addition to the media attention, the small town setting adds to the pressure for Cassie, as all eyes are truly on her.
Writer Chris Lang has given himself more balls to juggle than normal. Cassie’s not herself. The years in the job coupled with a loneliness in her home life are weighing heavy. As Sunny, who is already in his pyjamas prepares to turn in, his restless colleague takes a stroll through the deserted town. This tiny scene is pivotal as Cassie stares at the window of a lettings agency. It’s here that, after staring at a window advertisement, she comes to the conclusion that Hayley might’ve been killed in a holiday rental. It’s a great scene, expertly directed by Andy Wilson, which is further complemented by a beautiful composition from Michael Price. Her subsequent conversation with Sunny, where she explains her theory is another highlight. The dialogue spoken by Cassie here is an example of Lang at his best. She explains the theory cautiously — in a completely believable way — hoping not that her colleague will back her up, but that he’ll confirm if it’s in any way plausible. Walker again is magnificent here, as is Bhaskar.
Cassie issues a statement to the press, where she confirms the remains are those of Hayley Reid, and her devastating words are made more powerful by yet another haunting melody from Michael Price. The detective noticeably freezes when a provoking reporter insults the police force, and her pause is long enough for the reporter to get a picture of her. Cassie is out of her comfort zone, and the momentary pause was such a believable thing for the detective to do. It’ll be interesting to see if the media attention will make Cassie concerned about her decision to drop the investigation into the death of David Walker. The press do love a good story after all, and that would certainly be front-page worthy. Moreover, Jessica did warn Cassie that the townspeople won’t be inviting, so it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if the press ended up villainising her.
Much like the first, the second episode accomplishes a lot in such a short space of time — especially where the disparate arcs are concerned. In Manchester, Dr Tim Finch (Alex Jennings) tries to convince a panel that he did not verbally abuse a former patient of his. Elsewhere, Chris Lowe (James Fleet) discovers that he’s been robbed, which prompts him to phone Tim, giving us our first narrative connection. Lang’s connections are always seamless, and it’s great that the the disparate arcs are being connected pretty quickly this time around. In spite of the robbery, it’s not all bad news for Chris though, because Jamila (Sasha Behar) accepts his proposal. Everything is starting to fall into place for Chris, so he’s got an awful lot to lose if he gets tangled up in the Haley Reid investigation. Furthermore, Tim is rather protective of Chris, so it will be interesting to see if loyalty to his friend has anything to do with Hayley’s death. In London, James Hollis (Kevin McNally) tries to support his son Eliot (Tom Rhys Harries) who is struggling with his identity. The pressure of James’ issues materialise at work, and we see this first hand in a brilliant scene (which featured a cheeky cameo from the brilliant Chris Lang himself) where he messes up his lines. And finally, Pete Carr (Neil Morrissey) continues to face financial difficulty. A brilliant editing decision sees all four prime suspects simultaneously discover that Haley’s body has been found, and none of them look particularly innocent, suggesting they all know something.
The final part of the episode sees Cassie’s theory about the holiday rental proved correct. After discovering that James Hollis rented a holiday home on the day in question, Cassie and Sunny pay the TV presenter a visit, but he refuses to speak to them, which leaves the two detectives confused. James rings Eliot and tells the him that the police have come to talk about “her”, which implies that Eliot knew Hayley too. I certainly didn’t see that one coming.
All in all, it was another incredibly strong episode for Unforgotten, and that ending has just about killed any theory I might’ve had about who killed Hayley. But that’s what Chris Lang is so good at — keeping us on our toes. And it’s not particularly intentional on the writer’s part. At the end of the day, Unforgotten isn’t your average murder mystery. It’s a compelling story about two normal detectives trying to do their job as best they can. In terms of quality, there really isn’t anything else on television that can even remotely compete with the Unforgotten.
Contributed by Stephen Patterson
Unforgotten continues Sundays at 9pm on ITV.