Review: Unforgotten (S1 E2/6), Thursday 12th January, ITV

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DCI Cassie Stuart (Nicola Walker) must really have been feeling her age in this week’s episode, having to explain the workings of such antiquated technology as pagers to her squad of millennials.Toothsome techie Nathan from the phone shop has managed to salvage fragments of the texts recorded on the pager on a 26-year-old corpse of murder victim David Walker, so back at the station, Cassie and the team are all playing a macabre version of hangman, filling in the blanks to find out who might have stabbed him to death, sealed him in a suitcase, and flung him in the River Lea.

Let’s hope they are big Countdown fans because Cassie offers a bottle of champagne to whoever deciphers it, although that is swiftly downgraded to prosecco by DI Sunny Khan (Sanjeev Bhaskar) because of “budget cuts”.

Good luck to DC Fran Lingley (Caroline Main), who is given the thankless task of dragging information out of BT while Cassie and Sunny grill the dead man’s widow, DI Tessa Nixon (Lorraine Ashbourne).

This, of course, is a strange proposition for our canny detectives – they are questioning one of their own, who knows exactly what she will be asked and while earnestly answering their questions with a candid air Tessa, rather elegantly, gives little away save to explain that David’s behaviour was somewhat erratic and semi-detached because he suffered from depression – something her son Jason seems to have inherited.

Meanwhile in Salisbury, teacher Sara Mahmoud (Badria Timimi) gets some good news by registered mail – she has a second interview for the headship of the sink school she aims to transform. It’s just as well that her husband Hassan (Utopia’s Adeel Akhtar) is nice and supportive because her two teenage sons seem to be glued to that sofa. Her mission to educate seems all-encompassing because it also puts herself at loggerheads with the imam of her local mosque when she defiantly pins up a notice in a campaign demanding similar devotional space for the women.

Nurse Marion Kelsey (Rosie Cavaliero), on the other hand, is feeling fearful and somewhat betrayed, having got a rocket from her superior for crossing a professional line by allowing her teenage patient Zoe to ring her at home. It causes her to unreasonably blame her put-upon husband Tony (Nigel Lindsay) and she accuses him of being in cahoots with her sister because they think she’s “going nuts” again. Going through a tough menopause is certainly doing her sanity no favours either.

“These are meant to be the happiest weeks of our lives,” says Simon (Charlie Condou) as he tries to draw partner Colin (Mark Bonnar away from glowering out of their Brighton kitchen window, possibly with dark intent – he’s probably totting up how poor they will be if he lets little toe-rag Tyler (Joseph Altin) blackmail him. The one-off payment he offers Tyler by phone is not the end of the matter if that evil little grin on Tyler’s face is anything to go by – he’s spotted a nice little earner.

A forensic re-trawl through the dead man’s diary from the Oxford force’s previous missing person investigation throws up the name Colin Osborne – thus we are seeing the characters’ storylines being stylishly converging into a 1980s ‘Big Bang’, Wolf Of Wall Street scenario of excess that our suspects and the dead man – a club entrepreneur and Tory Party fundraiser – were all party to. Throw into the mix that the deceased seemed also to be looking for a showdown with a teacher who had abused him as a child and the volatile ground threatens to give way to an earthquake that will devastate the lives of at least four families.

And although none of the characters here seems capable of the depravity of a Patrick Bateman-type psycho, they all clearly feel they have something to make amends for in their pasts: Marion Kelsey with her extra-curricular (but unethical) phone counselling; banker-turned-barrister Colin with his laudablepro bono work; Sara, the dedicated schoolmarm; and hardworking detective Tessa Nixon.

DC Lingley gets the bottle of bubbly, deducing that the message is an address in King’s Cross that used to be rented by prostitutes – including one Sara Alaasi – so our upright educator was once a tom who obviously also crossed paths with the dead man back in that sybaritic decade. Three suspects traced by our intrepid team – one to go.

Even at home Cassie isn’t off-duty. Her dad Martin (Peter Egan), having hit a dry patch as far as the ladies are concerned, is a bit miffed to hear that his grandson Adam is having a ‘three up’ with girls at uni – “Lucky bastards.” Cassie asks her dad why he had a train ticket to Winchester in his trouser pocket – he parries the question, saying he must have picked it up in the pub. Is he saving her worries about his dicky heart? She later finds a debit to the train company in a bank statement.

The gut-wrenching emotions evoked by feelings of loss in such circumstances – not often dwelt on in most crime series – are palpable in Unforgotten. Jason’s whole life has been coloured by the disappearance of his father when he was five; it is as if he has never been able to grow up because of the guilt that his dad’s absence had something to do with him. He is now out of control and his angry tirade about being a ‘useless loser” and wanting to “punch and hurt someone” in his mother’s kitchen terrifies his teenage stepsister.

What is also great about our dynamic duo, courtesy of writer Chris Lang, is that they are happy to heap praise on their subordinates for a job well done – a refreshing change from most TV ’tecs. Again, we get a taste of the mind-numbingly tedious minutiae of a real investigation the team diligently goes through. And while trying to suppress their emotions, Cassie and Sunny can’t help but transmit the terrible toll these investigations take on their own lives. More tempered excellence from the two leads.

The title ‘Dame Nicola Walker’ has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

Deborah Shrewsbury
@shrewdkitty

For our episode one review, go here

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