TV conditions to believe certain things. When Unforgotten started in 2015, it appeared to be an above average crime drama. The premise felt like one we’d seen before, workers/dogs or whoever discovers a body from the past and a team of police look into the history to find out how their victim met their horrendous demise. The clever twist of having several people, who have were linked to the crime, but who have now moved on with their lives was intriguing and the first series was a really solid and memorable piece of TV drama. When the second series arrived in 2017 we stupidly thought we had Unforgotten, and writer Chris Lang worked out. It started virtually the same, this time the body was discovered in a suitcase, and we set about meeting our potential list of suspects. Unforgotten became something truly spectacular during the third episode of that second series where, spoilers, if you’ve not seen it, it was revealed that our seemingly unconnected group of suspects actually knew each other. It was a genuine shock because Chris Lang had cleverly conditioned us to believe the series worked a certain way, and this was the moment he adeptly pulled the rug from under his captivated audience.
This third series, already established that the core four suspects had known each other the majority of their lives, but this didn’t mean we knew what to expect from it and Lang should be applauded and awarded for turning his creation on its head again!
The third series came to an astounding end tonight and, my my, what an ending it was! DCI Cassie Stuart (Nicola Walker) and DI Sunil Khan (Sanjeev Bhaskar) seemingly found Hayley Reid’s killer in Tim Finch (Alex Jennings) last week, and the final instalment of Series 3 picks up from where we left off, with the two detectives interviewing their suspect.
The well-respected doctor remains calm and collected, and it’s hard to believe that he would be capable of the heinous act he’s being questioned for. When asked about the items discovered in his house, Tim doesn’t bat an eyelid, and answers the detectives with a plausible explanation: he says he’d bought the items for his daughters in Middenham. Cassie asks Haley’s mother, Suzanne (Bríd Brennan) and sister Jessica (Bronagh Waugh) to come up to London to have a look at the items, but the two women are adamant that these things do not belong to Hayley. Another dead end for our detectives, it would seem. At first, it appears that these items are nothing more than red herrings, deliberately designed to throw us — and the detectives — off the scent, but is just teasing his audience with the revelation that they, in fact, belong to another missing young girl, named Alison Baldwin.
Cassie and Sunny question Tim over this and again the doctor remains calm, putting forward the suggestion that Alison’s killer perhaps put these items up for sale after he’d killed her. Unwilling to believe him, Cassie puts her cards on the table, explaining to Tim that the CPS have enough evidence to charge him, so she urges him to tell the truth. Director Andy Wilson does a spectacular job here, employing some great techniques, moving closer and closer to Cassie as she speaks to emphasise the pressure she is under. Wilson finishes out the conversation between the two characters with a lengthy, unsettling depth of field-style shot of Tim. This shot that signifies that he’s mulling over what Cassie has said in his head. Mind you, you wouldn’t know that from the outside, as his expression remains as cocky as ever. And then he suddenly agrees, confirming he is Hayley’s killer. But that’s not all. He tells the investigators that, if they can promise that his arrest won’t become a “circus”, then he’ll also tell them where the others are buried.
I think I speak for everyone when I say I didn’t see that one coming at all. In fact, much of this third series of Unforgotten has been entirely unpredictable. Lang’s suspects are all so different, and my money would’ve been on any one of Chris (James Fleet), Pete (Neil Morrissey)and James (Kevin McNally). Lang’s characterisation of Tim worked against us, and the tribunal hearing at the beginning of the series was the perfect red herring, as it allowed us to believe that Tim wouldn’t be capable of something like this. Tim is a self-professed psychopath.
Cassie, who’s had it rough this entire series, struggles to comprehend what she’s hearing from Tim, and breaks down multiple times during the interview, showing her humanity. Furthermore, she’s incredibly delicate following Martin’s (Peter Egan) departure, and she’s still lonely – which is highlighted when she tries (and fails) to FaceTime her son Adam (Jassa Ahluwalia). The stress from this investigation — specifically her life-changing mistake last week — is clearly taking its toll on the good-hearted detective. While we feel for our protagonist, it’s great that Lang gave Cassie so much to deal with this series, as it gave Nicola Walker the opportunity to act her socks off. Tim Finch takes pleasure in Cassie’s emotional state, perhaps because he has very few emotions himself (or so he says). He’s cold and he’s so unapologetic about his crimes, which makes him all the more grotesque. Jennings is truly astounding, giving Tim an almost Hannibal Lecter-esque demeanour. But the one good thing about this demeanour is that Tim is proud of his work and, as a result, he’s willing to show it off.
The former GP takes Cassie and Sunny — and a team of police officers — to a woodland area, where he’s buried another victim. This is without a doubt the best scene in the episode, and it’s here that Tim answers Cassie’s question from their previous interview, confirming that Alison Baldwin was not his first victim. With this revelation — and the discovery of another body — Cassie runs away, much to Tim’s delight. It’s too much, and who could blame her? As Sunny so aptly put it, Tim Finch is the personification of evil.
After all of the heartache, Cassie finally finds some comfort as Martin turns up at her house to look after her. She apologises for her behaviour, as does he, and just like that, the loving father and daughter that we knew from the first two series’ of Unforgotten is back on our screens. Martin suggests Cassie take some time off from work, and she breaks down, admitting that she would very much like to do that. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Nicola Walker is absolutely magnificent. A highly underrated actress. Her nuanced performance during this series is her best work on Unforgotten yet.
Elsewhere, Jamila (Sasha Behar) does some research and discovers that Chris Lowe was telling the truth about his brush with the law. The two get back together in scenes that would warm your heart. It’s lovely to see at least someone get their happy ending. James Hollis (Kevin McNally) reconciles with Amy (Emma Fielding) and, in a flash forward, we see him attend Pete’s funeral with his son Eliot (Tom Rhys Harries) nearby.
The series finishes out as Cassie, who has taken time off, arrives at Hayley Reid’s burial site in John Bentley’s (Alastair MacKenzie) car. They’re together now, and Cassie looks much more like herself now that she’s had time to come to terms with everything. She makes a comment about how thirty years in the job is perhaps too much, insinuating that she’s leaving the police for good, but knowing Cassie, she won’t be able to hang up her fabulous red coat just yet. Especially not if there’s a fourth series on the horizon and, judging by how well-received this series has been, I think we can all agree that another season is a must. The final moments of the episode see the veteran detective and her partner, Sunny, give Jessica and Suzanne hugs, as the Reid family bid farewell to their beloved Hayley. Andy Wilson’s spectacular direction goes hand-in-hand with Michael Price’s haunting score as we bid farewell to the best crime drama on television for yet another year.
It’s hard to summon the words to describe such a stunning piece of television, but I’m going to try. This particular episode was the best that this series of Unforgotten had to offer, and once again Lang managed to raise many important issues. The celebrated writer is without a doubt one of the best around and, for yet another year, Unforgotten remains one of Britain’s best offerings. It’s very apt that Unforgotten is co-produced by Masterpiece because that’s exactly the word I would use to describe this show. The perfect ending to a great series.
Contributed by Stephen Patterson