Last week’s delicious little cliffhanger – the tense phone call between TV quiz host James Hollis (Kevin McNally) and his estranged son Elliot (Tom Rhys Harris) – has probably quelled the left-field gut theory that we had about who murdered Hayley Reid.
The Hollises, père et fils, may be complicit in some guilty secret concerning Hayley, but as this emerges so early in the narrative, it seems unlikely that James or Elliot actually murdered her. It could also knock on the head the possibility that Elliot, then a child of about 10 or 11, killed the free-spirited Hayley by accident. (Incidentally, does anyone else think Eliot in his make-up looks unnervingly like a young Maxine Peake?)
This, anyway is in keeping with the theme of ‘everyman’ perpetrators in previous Unforgottens – none of them are malign or criminal characters, just ordinary people who have made a fatal mistake.
In his police interview, Hollis Senior ties the four main suspects together for us for the first time – they were school friends, although his recollection that on Millennium Eve they all went happily to bed after the bongs of Big Ben doesn’t ring true – and he seems very keen that the other amigos share his recollections.
Cassie (Nicola Walker) tries Columbo’s “one more thing” trademark move outside the interview room, and manages to tie the friends to Finchley – they all grew up a stone’s throw from Hayley’s makeshift grave on the M1.
In Bristol, troubled artist Chris Lowe (James Fleet) is no longer left to his own devices; he and girlfriend Jamilla (Sasha Behar) have found a house to rent, which strikes us as putting the cart before the horse – she is clearly still in the dark about his past and the extent of his bipolar disorder. We know love comes quickly but, after all, it was only yesterday when he was mad. (That’s this week’s quota of Pet Shop Boys allusions). He explains to Jamilla the sad circumstances of his declining mental health and the failure of his marriage, but was any of it related to the events in Middenham?
Hunky ex-detective John Bentley (Alistair MacKenzie) is staying in London to help Cassie’s crew with points in the case that he had wanted to follow up. He wants to probe whether Hayley’s death had any connection with a church break-in that night. Is Cassie developing a crush on him? We wouldn’t blame her. But we do wonder why he isn’t still on his local force.
Sunny (Sanjeev Bhaskar), basking in his fledgling love affair with Sal (Michelle Bonnard) notices the spark and plays cupid – inviting Bentley to team-bonding sessions at the pub. “You’re welcome,” he tells Cassie, his face suffused with a soppy grin.
Dr Tim Finch (Alex Jennings) might now be off the hook with the General Medical Council, but complainant Alison Pinion (Gabrielle Glaister) berates the tribunal, showing no signs of being fobbed off easily. “He’s got another side to him,” she rails.
Peter Carr (Neil Morrissey) looks ready to top himself in his car in the middle of a field over the three-grand ISA he stole. Salvation beckons with Hollis’s call to alert him to the police investigation and the need to get the quartet’s accounts to tally. Carr must have leverage over the others to secure the cash, because a bank transfer is swiftly made in time to bail him out with his snide boss Mark Harper (Finlay Robertson), who is close to giving him the boot.
At least we clear up references to Carr’s misspent youth in Hong Kong pre-1997, when the territory reverted to Chinese rule. ‘Filth’ – ‘Failed In London, Try Hong Kong’ – was the acronym applied to a lot of British bankers, businessmen and media types who, unable to hack it here, went to the Asian ‘wild west’.
Meanwhile, DC Jake Collier (Lewis Reeves) closes in on the initial suspect, Hayley’s boyfriend Adrian Mullery (Gerald Kyd), now a teacher in London. He is totally uncooperative, having been suspended by his head teacher, and furiously accuses the officers in charge of the original case of misconduct.
The comfortable collusion between the four friends starts to break down when Hollis’s ex-wife Mel (Sara Stewart) describes Chris Lowe’s emotional meltdown, and subsequent booze and coke-fuelled ructions between the men, saying they left the holiday cottage separately but returned before midnight.
Just when the case against the key suspects looks like being derailed by the timelines, DC Fran Langley (Caroline Main) realises that Hayley’s boss at the pub has misremembered her as the barmaid in Madonna fancy dress – and that Hayley had left work at just after 10pm. Just when our suspects are skulking drunkenly around the village.
As Hayley’s twin sister Jessica (Bronagh Waugh) predicted, an online tumult of hostility against the family has been sparked off by the reopened investigation. From her tower-block eyrie, blogger Sandra Rayworth (Tori Allen-Martin) is the stirrer-in-chief, surveying her malevolent website with inexplicable glee. What axe is she grinding?
Sunny and Cassie have pinpointed the suspects’ life crises of divorce, estrangement from children and emotional unravelling to a period within 18 months of Hayley’s death. Lowe’s fall was particularly swift – from CEO of a top advertising agency, a ritzy Notting Hill house and a Maserati to a failed marriage, a nervous breakdown and homelessness.
But Carr looks the most likely to break ranks – why does he admit to meeting Hayley in the house, while claiming he saw nothing of the murder case in the papers? What? Not even in the overseas edition of the Daily Mail?
Back home, Cassie’s problems intensify; she finally can no longer disregard signs we have picked up over the past two series that her dad Martin (Peter Egan) is suffering from incipient dementia. His mild cognitive impairment has so far cost one burnt saucepan – as far as we know – which drives her to an internet search on the illness. Worse, he has hooked up with the predatory and passive-aggressive Jenny (Janet Dibley), whose every remark on their first meeting at the dinner table is a veiled criticism of Cassie.
As Cassie’s home life becomes more fractious, Sunny is having a purple patch; he even manages a fleeting encounter with ex-wife Usha (Shobu Kapoor) at home with unaccustomed equanimity. It’s the first time we’ve met her, and it is evident that their children are hoping for a rapprochement.
Unforgotten’s director Andy Wilson has a masterly eye for the exterior colour palette; pathetic fallacy comes into play with the weather. The generally sunlit exteriors of the first two episodes have given way to leaden, louring skies, intimating the weight of guilt on our quartet. A clearer picture is now emerging of the inextricable dynamic between the suspects.
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