Woo-hoo! ‘Cassie and Sunny sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G!’ Well, not quite, but tonight’s Unforgotten did give us an almost lighthearted interlude displaying the superb comedy chops of Sanjeev Bhaskar and Nicola Walker (more of which later).It was welcome because there is an inherent sadness shot through writer Chris Lang’s creation – a psychologically astute treatise on the folly of youth, the loss of innocence and our inability to fulfil the fervent wish to escape the mistakes we made and live a better life – or as Quantum Leap earnestly intoned – ‘striving to put right what once went wrong’.
NB: Spoilers inside
Like Ruth Sheen’s racist in series one who did the full 360-degree turn to work with disaffected black youths, and Bernard Hill’s priest, the current suspects have until now been following Gandhi’s dictum, “Be the change that you want to see in the world.”
All are engaged in atonement for their sins in different ways: a lawyer who often represents the underclass (one of whom is his tormentor), a teacher who wants to turn around a failing state school, a nurse caring for terminal patients, and a long-serving police officer. But as songwriter Patti Scialfa sang, ‘You Can’t Go Back’.
The possibility that Tessa Nixon (Lorraine Ashbourne) is trying to compensate for the sin of her son Jason (Will Brown) had occurred to us. But if he had stabbed his dad, would the trajectory of the cuts on David Walker’s corpse not have been remarked on at the post mortem? And in any case, why hide it? He would have been under 10 – the age of criminal responsibility and could have had expert psychological treatment. It is conceivable that Tessa killed Walker because her husband was abusing his son – or was about to. But if so, why would she have so carefully preserved the body, leaving items that would identify him? As a cop, she understands murder investigations. If she fears that her abused child is heading towards being an abuser surely that would have been double the reason for her to confess.
Tessa is the character whose self-control (on the surface at least) is most rigid, while dignified Sara (Badria Timimi) seems to have fallen too dramatically from grace to merit further punishment. Colin (Mark Bonnar) and Marion (Rosie Cavaliero) as we have seen are the most emotionally incontinent characters – she is flaky even when not under stress and he is given to bouts of uncontrollable rage – so it is not surprising that their partners are nervously distancing themselves from this unholy mess to the point where Simon, despite Colin’s protestations that he never killed anyone, is considering dropping Flora’s adoption.
Sunny and Cassie enlist the help of local Plod in Brentford to find the house where Walker abused children in the 80s. The investigation is beginning to mushroom into a much larger case – shades of Savile, Rotherham, and the Met’s Operation Fairbank umbrella inquiry. From his expression DSI Clive Andrews (Colin R Campbell) would obviously rather have the flu than another probe into historic child abuse on his hands.
‘Notwithstanding the mistakes we’ve made in the past, there are also some very unreliable witnesses out there,’ he warns them. Which piques Sunny’s sense of fair play – his humanity is such that he resents the inference that informants may be crying wolf. “So a few unfortunate people made some stuff up and suddenly it’s all lies?” ”Yeah it’s rubbish isn’t it?” agrees Cassie. However, this does allow the pair to bond again after their spat last week and Sunny admits the case has made him jittery about his beloved daughters. “I just get very emotional about it all.”
Elegant PR woman Ellen Price (the marvellous Maggie O’Neill) has provided the police with their most credible breakthroughs in the case so far with her teenage memories of David Walker attending – if not hosting – parties at a house in Brentford in the early 80s where youths from local care homes and borstals were plied with drink and drugs and sexually assaulted. Walker, she says, was a regular there. Price – taken to the house ostensibly for ‘prayer evenings’ – had been among half a dozen kids aged between 12 and 16 and a number of adults. Cassie takes her to pick out the house – number 99, she remembers that because of the lewd joke invented about it. Her pivotal evidence also places Tessa at the house; she recalls seeing a woman she assumed to be Walker’s wife rowing with him outside. She also identifies an old picture of Sara.
In the light of this development it would seem clear that Sunny’s interrogation of Walker’s erstwhile best friend, James Gregory (Richard Hope), needs to be revived; despite his protestations of ignorance, we can’t help feeling that he has a much more interesting story to tell.
From the photographic evidence unearthed, Cassie is coming round to the idea that two or more of the suspects, particularly Marion and Colin, are known to each other from the old days and decides to get them all together at the station.
Rounded up, Colin, Sara and Marion all sit in the police station’s foyer, pointedly not looking at one another as they are called in one by one.
The bombshell dropped by Marion’s former lover Sinead, convicted IRA member, about how she had tried get her paramilitary contacts to bump off Walker, a Tory lackey, looks more unlikely as Walker was discounted as small fry by the hardline Provos. Neither can Cassie and Sunny tie her to the Brentford parties. Between 1980 and 1985 Marion says she lived with her family in Ireland and wouldn’t have been anywhere near Brentford when she was 14.
Sunny puts it to Tessa that she must have known how Walker carried on away from home and indeed had followed him to the Brentford house and taken one of the children back to the care home, as Ellen has described her VW Golf to a tee.
The Maudsley Hospital tells police it was unlikely, but not impossible that Colin had absconded from care around the time that Walker disappeared.
Temp Maria Gonzales, who had accused Colin of raping her during his time at the merchant bank (where ‘temporary dancer’ is obviously akin to the ‘fruit and flowers’ rider in the rock world), had also worked for Walker – an allegation not reported to police but dealt with internally by Colin’s bosses. She was only there three days – did Walker set up Colin?
Dogged DS Murray Boulting (Jordan Long) tackles her about the rape allegation. Under questioning, her story about why didn’t she call the police (she didn’t want to go through the trauma of a trial) crumbles. When she learns that Colin was gay and says she was paid £5k by previous employer David Walker to make the allegation – plus another £10 grand from the bank to keep shtum about it – she admits Walker told her that Colin had asked “one question too many”.
Lovely Hassan (Adeel Akthar), meanwhile, is being a total brick, digging through the couple’s memorabilia in the loft to help find evidence of Sara being out of the country at the time of Walker’s disappearance. Sara has, more so than the other suspects, been upfront with her husband and he can now understand why this educated cultured woman initially told him that sex work had been her only choice when young. She’d told him “I’d lost my way” – and proof of this turns up on his doorstep in the form of her long-lost dad, Tariq (Raad Rawl), who had recognised her from his grandson’s smartphone after her sex worker past went viral at her son’s school. But events she outlined to Hassan and the police varied markedly with Tariq’s version. The car crash, which she said had killed both her parents when she was 20, actually happened in 1980 when she was 12, claiming her mother’s life only. From there, the rot had set in as she got beyond parental control, getting in bother with the police and becoming alienated from her father, who threw her out at 13. He later tried to trace her after hearing tales about squats and prostitution.
Prompted to redouble efforts to help Sara, Hassan later presents the police with date-stamped photos and tickets to Naples to prove it – are they bogus?
Colin, labouring for years under the misapprehension that he had carried out the rape but had no recollection of it because he suffered blackouts from drinking and hadn’t acknowledged that he was gay, is dumbfounded to be told by police that he was set up. But he steadfastly denies knowing Walker, or why he would be targeted. He denies being at the Brentford parties, saying he only left Scotland for London when he went to university at 19 in 1985 – and his dad would corroborate this. When asked whether he knows Marion or Sara, he walks out.
In a scene that should have been directed wordlessly by Martin Scorsese in slo-mo against a swelling Cavalleria Rusticana Intermezzo score, raging Marion crashes into Zoe’s hospital ward, struggling violently against strong-arming by her colleagues. This looks like the final straw for her career. She later makes her peace with Zoe outside the building, telling her that she’d be “the daughter I’d have chosen”. It is interesting that this obviously disturbed and terminally ill teen has a better handle on life – doomed as she is – than Marion has ever had.
Husband Tony looks almost relieved to finally receive a ‘get-out-of-jail’ card when Marion later goes into a rant at home, accusing him of siring her sister’s children and telling him to go. She’s deluded; snotty Elise probably wouldn’t look twice at a joiner, but his departure leaves her totally isolated – is it her cue to end it all?
On the home front there has been a development with Cassie’s dad (Peter Egan), who has been found distractedly wandering by the police. Grandson Adam explains to them he’s found life hard since his grandmother died. This all sounds like the onset of dementia – as if Cassie’s life were not tough enough already.
Having watched their theories about their key suspects evaporate like snow, Cassie and Sunny, momentarily stymied, get squiffy in the pub and talk about personal stuff, like how Sunny’s date went, which sadly we aren’t privy to. Sunny, drunkenly makes a silly pass – and when gently rebuffed, realises how daft he looks. Bhaskar is the master of portraying abject embarrassment.
After Sunny’s in vino veritas declaration Cassie is hailing a taxi when she is struck by a brainwave about a way that the “pieces could fit” – and tells Sunny that if her scenario is correct, it means there are more bodies to be found.
Were this absurdist fare along the lines of, say, No Offence, by now we’d be expecting a rousing chorus of Cell Block Tango during which everyone who knew Walker would be flashing back to a Murder On The Orient Express-style ensemble killing. Walker indeed had ‘had it coming’ – but Lang has not yet done tantalising us with his modern morality tale.
The only duff note we’ve isolated in the whole series is, er, the notes. This drama just doesn’t need the incessant, overly dramatic soundtrack; its performances are quite powerful enough without doom-presaging music. In fact, take away all the music and the narrative would still skitter along effectively.
For our episode one review go here
For our episode two review go here
For our episode three review go here
For our episode four review go here