BBC Four has had a bit of mixed bag of a year when it has come to foreign crime drama – Cardinal was workmanlike but watchable, and has been the channel’s only real crime drama of note in 2017. Walter Presents and Netflix have been much more prolific so far. But we’re entering what broadcasters like to call quarter three and the hope is that this is when the action starts for the channel. We may get Spiral later in the year, but in the meantime, we get this new, Spanish series. Spain is not a nation BBC4 has bought from until now and this 10-parter (although it had 16 episodes in Spain… I need to clarify this) started in intriguing fashion.
NB: Spoilers inside
In typical BBC4 style, I Know Who You Are will play out in double bills every Saturday. Which is fine, but these are long episodes – each instalment is around 70 minutes – so there will be over two hours’ worth of things to process (and in my case recap and review). With that said, let’s get to it…
We dived straight into the action when we saw a man (Francesc Garrido) – in his 50s? – stumble bloodied and disorientated down a deserted road. Hospitalised, he is visited by his wife Alicia Castro (Blanca Portillo), a prominent judge who tells him he is Juan Elías, a big-shot lawyer. Alicia, spent the whole episode wearing such an impassive, emotionless and semi-scowling face, it was difficult to warm to her. My initial thought was: how did these two end up together?
And this is when things took a flip and the main premise was revealed: news stories on the television detailed that the couple’s 22-year-old niece Ana Saura (Susana Abaitua) is missing, presumed dead, having last been seen with Elías and with her blood and mobile found in Elías’ overturned car. Suddenly he’s prime suspect for a murder he had no idea whether he committed or not.
I quite like amnesia-based thrillers, because it’s almost like pure noir – one person plunged into a disorientating mystery involving themselves, and with no idea what’s going on or who they even are. You get people getting to know their old selves, perhaps not even liking who they used to be. Amnesia is also a handy narrative device for exposition, too – we see their world through their enquiring eyes, and we get to know the key characters in their lives for the first time just like they are.
Elsewhere, David Vila (Carles Francino) informs his colleague Eva Durán (Aida Folch) that their small law firm has been chosen by Ana’s father Ramon to proceed with a private prosecution for the abduction and possible murder of Ramon’s daughter alongside the state prosecution, which is being headed up by ambitious prosecutor Marta Hess (Eva Santolaria), who we first meet coming out of Dirty David’s bedroom in her underwear. Private prosecutors and state prosecutors getting to know each other intimately, there.
Eva is the one to watch in this series, by the looks of it. She was eflin and gamine in appearance, younger than she looks, and had a breezy, bohemian way about her. She also had fire in her belly. I like her immediately. But the question remained (as it did with Eva) – why did Ramon Saura, Ana’s father and Elías’s brother-in-law, hire her and her firm to prosecute? He could have gone to a much bigger firm for a case of such high-profile nature. Juan Elías, Ramon Saura, Alicia, her sister, Juan and Alicia’s kids, Ramon’s kids… they were all featured, either shouting at each other or simmering in each other’s presence. Little nuggets of information were planted along the way, suggesting that I Know Who You Are might turn out to be about two warring families than anything else.
There was also a connection between Eva and Elías, that much was evident from his initial hearing, where she tore into him, belying her so-called small-time status. He seemed to recognise her, even though he didn’t remember anyone else around him. No one believed that he was suffering from amnesia, not hotshot, ruthless old Juan Elías. Not least his own defence team, and not least Eva, who was seemed to be looking for a reaction, an acknowledgement, from him.
And, wouldn’t you know it, in the final scene, when he paid an unexpected visit to her apartment to find out who she was, it became evident that they had had an affair some years ago when she was a student and he was a teacher at the local university. She told him to drop the amnesia bullshit and says, “I know who you are”.
We don’t just yet, but this was an intriguing start.
We got to meet Ana properly in this episode, thanks to a flashback scene. A bright, sunny, beautiful young law student, she was close to both her father and her uncle, who she informed that she was taking a place on his university course. We also got to know about the brewing family beef – she was on Elías’ team to try and oust her own father as university chancellor.
Next… There was a race to find evidence from Eva’s flat – both parties knew it was crucial to their respective cases. The prosecution realised that if they could extract CCTV footage and fingerprints they could prove Elías was at the apartment, and therefore contend that he remembered Eva and did not have complete amnesia. The defence, meanwhile, team wanted to get hold of the tapes to exonerate him. When Vila’s team didn’t find any prints at Eva’s apartment, they toyed with the idea of planting prints. Blimey.
The case turned again. There was plenty going on, and plenty of mini races against time to raise the tension. Inspector Alberto Giralt had a hunch that if Elías was going to bury a body anywhere it would be close to home… his allotment (the fact that he liked to grow things was mentioned in the first episode when he and his family dined on homegrown tomatoes during an awkward meal). And wouldn’t you know it, Elías’ right-hand man Ricardo had taken him to the allotment to re-teach him the ways of growing potatoes. They got a call from a mole, who told them the cops were on the way – cue a frantic bout of digging in the garlic patch. It was tense, it was a race against time. They did find a body, but it was a dog. (Why I have no idea.)
There was other stuff, too. Alicia and Elías’ relationship began to unravel – she revealed to him a secret son, brain-damaged since birth and perpetually in hospital, and recoiled when Eva decided to make public all the letters and photos from her and Elías’ relationship. Why had she done this? He had lied abut going to see her in the courtroom, and from that moment any doubt that he was innocent was gone. She was out to get him.
You know what this reminded me of? BBC4’s French thriller from last year, The Disappearance. Another high-concept piece, it gave equal weight to the families of a tragedy. I Know Who You Are has those same dynamics – twisty, turny and addictive. With eight episodes left, and double bills that last over two-and-a-quarter hours each, this will be a nightmare to recap and review. But not only that there will likely be so many twists and turns and goings on, it’ll be tough on the old ticker.