If the last season of Luther recently terrified people into avoiding buses, then this past week it seems the BBC did it’s job once again of scaring the general public about their everyday activities when Baptiste depicted a less than helpful gas engineer visiting a pensioner with a chainsaw in his toolbox. Viewers took to Twitter, especially thankful they had smart metres, much to the joy of British Gas’s marketing department no doubt.
Anyway, we’re talking bollocks here. Literally. Ahead of the opening credits, a young man called Niels visits a urologist to discuss implanting prosthetic testicles. After the discovery of Kim Vogel’s transition last week, is this story really about what it takes to make a man in a modern world?
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. At the end of the last episode, Baptiste had persuaded Kim to reveal Natalie’s location to him, where she revealed the truth about Edward Stratton. She can’t believe Edward had the audacity to involve the police in his search and tells Baptiste that he was an obsessive former client who had turned violent, breaking her jaw when she refused to see him exclusively. She tells Baptiste that Edward works with the Romanians to traffic women, utilising his innocuous charm to reach the places the gang can’t. Chillingly she also warns that he isn’t afraid of anyone – least of all the police, whom he has in his pocket.
So where does this information leave Baptiste? With Natalie unwilling to be found and a denouncement of Dutch policing ringing in Maartje’s ears, he goes to his previously agreed rendezvous with Edward to conduct a tense resignation from the search. Edward isn’t happy – and weirdly defiant about his past and his actions. “I am a fucking survivor,” he spits at the retired detective, before demanding that he stay out of his way (while stealing his car keys in the process, the rogue).
Increasingly we are witness to how Baptiste’s physical state cannot match his mental prowess anymore, this time evidenced in his inability to catch up with a determined Edward – who accesses Julien’s navigation system to find out where Natalie is hiding. Constantin is subsequently dispatched to take care of the situation but doesn’t reckon on Natalie’s will to survive – who takes a long plunge in the cold depths of the canal to escape his clutches. Unfortunately for her (and unexpectedly for us), this desperation leads to an untimely demise – and a sad end for a woman broken by the world around her. It’s all a bit trite and perfunctory and didn’t particularly sit well with me.
Niels (Boris Van Severen, who you may recall as the eminently punchable bad boy in Salamander) turns out to be Maartje’s son – and a detective. He meets with Baptiste back at Natalie’s address to discover she’s absent, and a gruff call to Edward reveals neither party has knowledge of her whereabouts. It’s not long though before her body is fished out of the drink however – and the weight of her death clearly hangs heavy on Baptiste’s shoulders, who blames himself.
It’s unclear at this stage why Baptiste would want to continue with the case but a chat with Celia reveals his growing obsession with the mystery of who Edward Stratton really is. It’s a mystery that the Dutch police aren’t really keen to unwrap any further, with Niels dismissively telling Baptiste that the sex trafficking task force he works for has no information on Stratton – therefore he can’t be a person of interest. Youthful hubris or not it’s strange he’d be so close-minded to the possibility of a suspect, so Maartje gently persuades her son to acquiesce and invite Edward in for questioning – but the Englishman has beaten them to it, turning himself in at the local police station.
The conundrum of Edward Stratton is explored further as we progress through the story. Increasingly sweaty and demented as the story unfolds, he pays a visit to Kim Vogel and tells her a story about being bullied at school, the punchline of which is to intimate his emerging deadly psychopathy as a child. The landscape of Stratton’s shattered mental state is picked up in tiny fragments herein throughout the show – a facade of normality in talking to Niels, a genuine belief in his twisted love for Natalie, a fraction of delayed aggression in handing back a phone. “This is a performance”, Baptiste notes. “Most of my life I have tried to find people who are missing, but perhaps it is too much to look for their soul.”
The biggest piece of this puzzle is put in place when Baptiste makes a call to Stratton’s ex-wife, Clare. She confirms the couple did actually live in Antwerp for a time, but separated in the wake of the death of their teenage daughter Lucy. The fact that death was caused by an overdose is not lost on Baptiste, whose own daughter struggled with addiction throughout parent show The Missing. Clare documents how this incident broke Edward mentally, and it’s clear his actions since have been informed by it’s legacy. But just how sympathetic are we supposed to be toward his character with this knowledge? It seems unclear at this stage – but certainly it feels increasingly like Stratton is being set up as the antithesis of Baptiste, with divergent moral lines along a similar history that may have led the retired detective down a very different path if he hadn’t saved his own daughter’s life.
Elsewhere, Niels visits a hospital to meet a former boyfriend who Natalie listed as next of kin, but he doesn’t seem to surprised or upset about her death. Niels isn’t keen on medical facilities, wholly understandable as he’s recovering from testicular cancer. It seems Natalie’s former lover fathered a child with her, as it transpires our lonely farmer is her father. Mr De Boer had a busy episode – finding a big bag of Euros in his field, then visiting his grandson in hospital presumably to take him away before his deadbeat father returned. The Williams Brothers tend to excel in their dissection of the minutiae of family politics, and we now have three men with three ill-fated daughters intersecting in what are likely to be increasingly miserable ways toward the whereabouts of Natalie’s sister.
Did anything really happen this episode? Not so much it seemed. It felt like we hit the brakes somewhat on that frenetic opener last week. I have a fairly low threshold of patience for cat and mouse thrillers as they tend to require a sense of disbelief to the point of being unwatchable, and whilst Baptiste hasn’t tipped itself over into incredulity yet I can feel it’s imminent. Typically, the showrunners pulled a lazy Strangers-style, five-minute denouement to compel us to watch next week – with both Baptiste and Celia in supposed peril at the hands of Stratton and Constantin, respectively. It’s a trick that’s wearing increasingly thin, especially when the previous 45 minutes didn’t do much to warrant it.
FOR OUR EPISODE ONE REVIEW CLICK HERE