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REVIEW Baptiste (S2 E2/6)

After last week’s intriguing and rather gripping first part of the story, I think it’s safe to say that Baptiste is well and truly back.

Which is a good thing, because this second series really has the feel of series one of The Missing, where Julien Baptiste was first introduced and where we saw parent Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) become obsessed with finding his child and walked a path of solitude and madness.

For Tony Hughes read Emma Chambers.

In that first episode we saw how her husband and her two teenage boys disappeared, and later how her husband were found dead. That was 14 months ago, but in the present day we saw Chambers – now in a wheelchair – and a completely broken Baptiste now a drink and a failure.

In this episode, the two-timeline technique was once again used but I couldn’t help thinking that creators Harry and Jack Williams had really nailed the device – adequate time was spent in each one so you really got a feel for what was going on, and each one ended with a sort of cliffhanger.

In this episode – and in each timeline – we got plenty of action and information.

In the flashback timeline we got to see the fall-out from the murder and the disappearances, namely Emma’s desperation to do something, anything, to help the investigation. Andras Juszt had been captured shortly after his encounter with Baptiste, and shortly after a ransom video was sent to the police, apparently by a radical Islamic cell who, apparently, shot Chambers’ oldest son in the head. This timeline ended when Chambers helped to free Juszt after it was promised her remaining son, Will, would be released.

We know from the present-day timeline that this was not to be the case.

Having persuaded a down-and-out Baptiste to have another crack at finding Will, they used Juszt to get to a terrorist organisation called Gamorrah. At this stage it wasn’t clear whether if this was indeed a radical Islamic cell or a right-wing cell posing an Jihadists. And this is the beauty of the dual-timeline approach – you can drop little nuggets of information and foreshadowing in the present day while you go back and watch the flashback timeline after being warned that something awful will going to happen.

We kept hearing about something terrible that was going to happen at the police station and, of course, we know that Chambers is still in a wheelchair but don’t know how or why.

To get Juszt to do their bidding in the present-day timeline they re-hire Zsofia Arslan, now a security guard (so she must have lost her job at some point in the recent past).

Episode two of Baptiste was gripping with plenty of well-constructed segments – high on action but also some neat characterisation, especially when we saw Julien and his wife find his daughter dead.

In among the action, this reflection and contemplation was very welcome and only made me like Baptiste as a character even more. And joining him in my affections was Emma Chambers, almost a carbon copy of her new partner-in-investigation. It only remains to be seen if this case will break them or make them.

Paul Hirons

Rating: 4 out of 5.


BBC confirms transmission date for Baptiste series two

Baptiste series two is on its way to BBC One, and it really is just around the corner.

The channel has now confirmed its t ransmission date.

Tchéky Karyo returns as the titular detective, and this time he’s in Hungary.

Ambassador Emma Chambers (Fiona Shaw), is thrust into the crosshairs of Baptiste’s most complex case to date, as the detective navigates an untrustworthy Hungarian police force and international media interest as he hunts for her husband and two sons.

The six-part series starts on Sunday 18th July at 9pm on BBC One. It will also be available as a box set on iPlayer in the UK.

BBC releases first images from Baptiste series two

The BBC has released three first-look images from series two of Baptiste.

The Missing spin-off, starring Tchéky Karyo, returns early in 2021.

The titular detective will delve into Budapest’s corrupt underworld in an attempt to find a British Ambassador’s family, who goes missing on a skiing holiday in the Hungarian mountains.

Ambassador Emma Chambers is played by Shaw, a character who is thrust into the crosshairs of Baptiste’s most complex case to date, as the detective navigates an untrustworthy Hungarian police force and international media interest as he hunts for her husband and two sons.

More news as we get it…


REVIEW: Baptiste (S1 E6/6)


It’s been a long road to this final chapter of Baptiste – and it’s been a very bumpy journey along the way, beset with gigantic plot holes and paper-thin characters. How such a poorly constructed show could have been extrapolated from the brilliant elements that made The Missing such a hit is a mystery that even the erstwhile detective from both series couldn’t solve. To add insult to injury after doggedly wading through the tedium of this series for six weeks, viewers were treated to a finale which was on a whole other level of mediocrity, even by this show’s standards. It literally was the least the writers could do.

Now before we begin, remember this mantra. This is Baptiste, we don’t do logic here.

Pint-sized James Bond wannabe Edward Stratton tries his hand at interrogation with would-be assassin Nikolai in the aftermath of his ex-wife’s murder. Now I know Edward has been through the mill somewhat in these past weeks, but he seems remarkably calm in the wake of seeing his beloved Clare with her throat slit. Either way, Nikolai doesn’t know anything about Kristina’s whereabouts but does tell Edward that Dragomir might know, advising him of the gang boss’s transition into Kim Vogel. Edward leaves the caravan park (I hope he paid extra for cleaning) to travel back to Amsterdam by plane, even though last episode he had to leave the Netherlands by an illicit drug boat because both the Brigada and Europol were pursuing him. No watch lists needed. This is Baptiste, we don’t do logic here.

Elsewhere, we waste fifteen minutes doing a Maartje the Mole dance before arriving at the inevitable reveal. Baptiste and Genevieve – now inexplicably best buddies apparently – roust the poor woman outside her yoga class, but she is indignant they would suspect her of trading information with the Brigada. A few minutes later the pair are accosted by a gun-toting Brigada assassin in what resembles a knock-off version of a scene straight out of Bodyguard – my only conclusion being that Baptiste must have learned his driving skills in Formula One, and that his Volvo estate is clearly bullet-proof. It’s a ridiculous scene – but is immediately topped by the pair revisiting Mr Visser’s Secret Squirrel Spy Cave where they magically salvage a fully working computer from the pervert’s skip and immediately find incriminating CCTV footage of Niels dishing information to his buddy Constantin and ordering Kim Vogel’s murder, all with crystal clear audio. No search warrants needed. This is Baptiste, we don’t do logic here.

This whole debacle was eye-wateringly bad, but at least it dragged us to where every viewer had already been for weeks – that Nasty Niels was the real villain. The mucky mole visited with a random replacement beard in lieu of Constantin to order the murders of Baptiste and Genevieve. New Constantin duly sought out Genevieve’s apartment armed with a rusty meat cleaver (no chainsaw for him – he’s on a budget, what with that bag of money missing). Now I’m assuming this was written to build tension into the fact that the least likable character in the show might get swiftly murdered, but it was more flop than chop and went absolutely nowhere. Instead, Maartje tipped off Niels to the fact he had been exposed and the Brigada swiftly did whatever the criminal version of ex-communication is and cut off the entire Dutch arm of their enterprise, leaving Niels and his cronies on the run. Nope, this multinational trafficking ring doesn’t just replace or kill their rogue elements to keep business moving, they simply disavow them and damage their own financial standing as a result. No bag of Euros (or yacht invoice) needed anymore. This is Baptiste, we don’t do logic here.

Apparently the Brigada are totally cool with all these loose ends and lost money, so Genevieve tells Baptiste the coast is presumably clear, and that his family are therefore safe. Celia gets two lines and his daughter doesn’t even appear and get a reconciliation scene at all. There is literally zero emotional conclusion to this strand of the story, which leaves you thinking why have it there at all in the first place? But that’s fine, because we have twenty minutes left on the slate – plenty of time for an action-packed finale…

…except there wasn’t one.

Instead every single viewer was given the script-writer’s middle finger with the laziest plot device known to animal, vegetable or mineral. No real conclusion needed. This is Baptiste, we don’t do logic here.

Two Months Later.

Having run out of story, the script sees Baptiste meet Edward on a grey English beach. In flashbacks, Baptiste recalls the previous eight (busy) weeks. Firstly, the box that Kim left Greg contained – as predicted – all the vague plot devices to bring down the Brigada’s operations. It also contained exact coordinates for all of the trafficking dens that the gang ran. Baptiste (who you may recall is retired and has no official capacity in any active investigation whatsoever) helps the police bust every location – but their efforts are thwarted when it transpires Kristina has been sold on to persons unknown for a few hundred Euros. Maybe it’s a true reflection of a grim reality, but considering her fate was the sole purpose of the plot of this show it feels like viewers got incredibly short changed here. Would it have killed the writers to give her a happy ending?

But all that pales into insignificance against the frankly ludicrous endgame for Niels. Meeting with his mother in a crowded marketplace, he soon realises she has sold him out to her colleagues and subsequently holds her hostage. Inexplicably, Baptiste is allowed to lead the negotiations – only for his son to accidentally kill Maartje and wound his father (and a week before Mother’s Day too, the cad). How many women has this show brutally killed for no reason now? I’ve lost count. I can’t even begin to explain how terrible this ending was – it was both an insult to the audience’s collective intelligence and some of the most ham-fisted writing I’ve ever had the misfortune to sit through.

As we’ve all lamented in the comments section each week, there were the embers of a good series in here somewhere. I even actively petitioned the boss to review it, thinking I was going to be treated to a show on a par with its parent’s quality. There was an open goal of a premise to score from, and all the components present to construct a great show – seasoned actors, a celebrated writing team and a proficient director. How those ingredients resulted in this flaccid mess is anybody’s guess, but this current fashion in drama entertainment for soap-style plot twists at every conceivable juncture is partly to blame – something that bears heavy on the twist but forgoes the actual plot part of the equation. It’s not enough to string a show together based on the moments where you try and retain your audience for the following week – you actually need to have something in between rather than be all talk and no trousers. Or in the case of Baptiste, tout parler et pas de pantalon.

Andy D






REVIEW: Baptiste (S1 E5/6)


If broadcast television is largely a game of numbers then there is a bit of a discrepancy on the books with regards to Baptiste, which debuted with nearly eight million expectant viewers and is now trailing out of its first season with half of that audience share depleted – a remarkably similar trajectory to Strangers, the show-runners’ previous series for ITV. It’s an indication that high-concept premises need to land their delivery or your audience’s patience will wear thin as a result.

In this penultimate episode (or What Edward Stratton Did On His Summer Holiday) the cast of characters are becoming increasingly desperate. Edward bribes a drug trafficker to ferry him across the channel back to England (as you do – how did he find this dodgy sailor?), where he promptly drags his ex-wife Clare and her partner to a local caravan park (after apparently telling them the whole brutal story in the taxi on the way there – I hoped they tipped the driver). It’s a bit of a bizarre set-up for a secret location – with extended scenes of random food preparation filling out the episode – but does afford the estranged couple some time together to process the emotional fallout around the death of their daughter Lucy (remember her? She was mentioned in Episode One and was the reason for this whole thing).

Unbeknown to Edward, Baptiste had a friend stakeout Clare’s house as a precaution. Baptiste arrives at the caravan park to discuss what kind of plan Stratton has that will bring some form of closure to this case. He tells Baptiste that he made a promise to Natalie that he would use the bag of ever-decreasing money to leverage the release of her sister Kristina (remember her? She was mentioned in Episode One and was the reason for this whole thing), and the retired detective asks to stand in as the negotiator with chainsaw-enthusiast and beard-stroker Constantin.

Let’s pause for a second here and put our logic caps on. How did Edward running away with the money last week make any narrative sense if he is perfectly happy to work with Baptiste now, less than two days later? Moving locations doesn’t change anything and it’s not as if this plan is a mystery to Julien, as it’s been discussed and agreed previously. This whole exchange negated nearly all of the previous episode’s plot, and is just one of many lurching flips the story makes this week to fit itself into an endgame.

Caps back off. Baptiste has other plans with the money of course, and tells an increasingly apoplectic Genevieve (whose off-key anger at everybody made this episode virtually unwatchable) that he intends to use it to buy a yacht. Presumably this yacht is worth the EXACT amount left in the bag, which by my calculations is now probably about €700. Despite spending the majority of the episode questioning the professionalism of the law enforcement officers around her, we are led to assume Genevieve thinks this half-baked idea is a winner. Baptiste meets with Constantin over lunch (this guy really likes meeting over meals, all those threats he delivers must give him indigestion surely) and reveals his purchase, which was set up to be a twist and fell flat with a resounding thud.

Let’s pause here again and pop our logic caps back on. The assumption throughout this episode was that Constantin hadn’t told the Brigada Serbilu (which sounds like the off-brand German detergent I buy in Aldi) about the missing money. This presumes that a million Euros is a big amount to lose for an international crime ring, or that it infers Constantin wasn’t as big a boss as we have been led to believe throughout the entire series, if he’s that worried. Not only this, but Baptiste explicitly states that the Brigada would have expected Constantin to launder that cash anyway, so didn’t he just do the job for him by buying a clean asset that could then be liquidated at a later date? Top that off with the assumption that Constantin even believed Baptiste bought the boat in the first place – all he has is a crappy printout to confirm that. Finally, let’s not forget this bag of money has financed a new car, illicit medical care, multiple shopping trips, illegal transportation over international shipping lanes and a week’s stay at a caravan park. Was Constantin just going to deliver the remainder of the bag’s contents to his murderous bosses and say sorry guys, shit happens?

Caps off for the finale Ladies & Gentlemen, because it’s a doozy. The money bag (you know, that major plot device everybody’s been chasing for five episodes) becomes immediately redundant the second Constantin (you know, the major villain everybody’s been running from for five episodes) is thrown to his death off a balcony by his disgruntled colleagues (smart cookie Genevieve hilariously asking “is it suicide?” in the aftermath). This precedes another senseless and wholly unnecessary murder with Clare having her throat slit whilst Edward shops for wine. That’s a third tactless attempt at mangling a character for no other purpose than to provide a quick exit for their storyline (see also : Strangers – AKA just kill ‘em all and let the plot sort ‘em out), but it did allow Stratton to suddenly morph into Jason Statham and successfully wound a man four times his size with a blunt bread knife. Some tea may have been spluttered in my household at the ridiculous nature of this scene.

It’s all become a bit laughable hasn’t it? If you don’t ask too many questions of your brain on a Sunday night it might be a passable use of an hour, but it is absolutely punishing to your rationality if you are paying attention. We wrapped with two lazy plot strands to conclude next week – Maartje the Mole (spoiler: I bet it’s Niels instead) and Kim’s bereaved partner Greg finding a mystery envelope (spoiler: I bet this is the secret evidence that brings the crime ring down) – with all lanes now cleared for a final showdown between Baptiste and the Brigada with his family in the middle. How they’ll pad out the remaining 55 minutes is still to be confirmed.

Andy D





REVIEW: Baptiste (S1 E4/6)


It wouldn’t have been out of place to hear the familiar duff duff duff of the Eastenders closing theme tune at the end of last week’s episode, such was the level of melodrama on display – and it seemed it was met by the same level of incredulity from most viewers. Despite opening the season with a solid premise, a well-loved character and that genre-leading writing and direction team, Baptiste has unfortunately been a real mess of a TV show. With three episodes left on the slate you would usually hope to see the plot strands tighten up significantly leading into the final third, but instead, we were treated to an hour of absolute filler that instigated terrifying flashbacks to the mediocrity of Strangers and had me reaching for the vapours.

Our chief rogue Constantin continues to be about as threatening as a wet lettuce and spent most of this fourth episode letting his beard do the acting, while holding Edward in a variety of uncomfortable physical positions. He shows Stratton his trusty chainsaw. He tells him where his jugular vein is and how easy it would be for him to slash it. He threatens him with some loose cutlery. It’s pure cartoon villainy and is only compounded by Edward’s bizarre predilection for willingly placing himself in continual danger with the man.

Constantin’s ridiculous behaviour is only matched by the hand grenade of incendiary unpleasantness that Europol’s finest officer Genevieve deploys on everyone she meets, primarily based around the fact she couldn’t read a book to her illicit – and somewhat vegetative – lover when she got caught out by his wife. This bubbling volcano of rage was portrayed throughout the episode by Jessica Raine as if she had smelt something horrendous just slightly out of shot, and she was absolutely taking no prisoners. She tells off Maartje for being a lush. She walks into rooms and shouts at Edward for various reasons. She continually tells anybody within earshot she’s running this really big operation and doesn’t have time for ANYTHING.

But this is all small change in comparison to the worst offence the programme commits this week in robbing of us of the only interesting character in the show, Kim Vogel. Judging by column inches, Talisa Garcia has been the breakout star of the series and her background as the former Romanian gang boss turned good was compelling viewing. But this week Kim got short shrift when she was resoundingly rejected by her partner and then was unceremoniously dispatched in a particularly nasty manner. It was a dismal display of violence that did absolutely nothing to advance the plot, just like the demise of Natalie before her. Both women’s deaths were wholly unnecessary to tell this story and only served to have me mentally check out on my investment in this show for good.

The meagre whiff of a plot this week saw Baptiste on a wild goose chase through a smattering of suspects who might have Constantin’s ever-dwindling bag of Euros. De Boer tells the retired detective he suspects his local window cleaner has the cash – and after twenty minutes of purchasing bolt-cutters and stopping for a sandwich whilst his target inexplicably shopped for snacks, Baptiste breaks into the man’s home only to find his secret squirrel spy dungeon (second only to the overflowing cork-board of threaded pins and suspect photos in the Top Ten Terrible Crime TV Tropes). This hilariously over-baked scenario (“I am not a pervert!!!”)  leads Baptiste to find CCTV footage of the real culprit, local dentist and strip club enthusiast Jasper – who he promptly shakes down with the optional alternative of having his head caved in by a mob of angry Romanians. What did the nation that gave us delicious cabbage rolls ever do to deserve being the perennial villains in every crime show in the western hemisphere?

Baptiste eventually bags the cash and waits for Edward to nearly give himself a hernia attempting a rooftop escape from his hotel where Genevieve’s officers have him under observation. But Edward’s done a dodgy deal with Constantin, double-crossing both Baptiste and Genevieve in a bid to save his own life and pass the money back to the crime boss directly. Setting up a stalled vehicle so he can nab Julien’s car and the illicit cash, he races off into the night leaving Baptiste to sum up what viewers are thinking when he exclaims “Merde!!”. Well, you said it mate.

As you might be able to tell, I am actively leaning into the ridiculous nature of this show now as it’s the only way to save my brain from atrophy whilst watching. If we’re looking at it as a comedy, there are some great moments of silliness in this show that makes you wonder if the writers are equally aware as us that they are phoning it in. Genevieve’s professional recommendation to a man who is being relentlessly hunted by bloodthirsty gangsters to use the Spa and relax was a cracker (“Perhaps I’ll get my nails done”), as was the prolonged periods of silence followed by furious scribbling between Edward and Constantin that she failed to pick up on the wire. Add to that Kim’s inexplicable agreement to meet a complete stranger without backup, a Europol officer publicly telling Amsterdam’s Chief of Police she stinks of booze, prolonged scenes for no reason of a man buying crisps and Edward’s tentative trip among the wrinkled genitalia of a Dutch spa for a change of scenery and you have the recipe for a particularly odd concoction of a TV show. I doubt the BBC’s recommission department will be coming back for a second helping.

Andy D





REVIEW: Baptiste (S1 E3/6)


Judging by the critical response to Baptiste in the past week it seems there is a growing sense of it not reaching the same dramatic heights as its parent show The Missing. While the shows might share a central character it’s clear show-runners Harry and Jack Williams are trying to hit a different narrative beat to the former series, something that was on display again in this most recent episode.

If anything, this episode saw a third inversion of our expectations in its characters and their motivations. If the first episode portrayed Edward Stratton as a doting uncle desperate to find his niece and the second revealed him to be a grief-stricken sociopath with nothing to lose, then this third inclusion muddied the waters even further. Just who is the real Edward Stratton? Here he constructs a new story to Baptiste, one which again involves his own daughter Lucy at its centre. In this telling, Lucy became a sex worker herself before committing suicide five years ago. By chance, Edward sees Natalie in the red light district and conflates her appearance with that of his dead daughter. Edward begins to visit Natalie and in his interpretation, their relationship is one of mutual comfort and support.

Baptiste seems sceptical, and he has good cause to be. How much can he trust this man who has actively lied from the start of their journey together? Whilst some of Edward’s details intersect with Natalie’s description of their relationship, she previously portrayed a much more obsessive and violent version of Stratton to the retired detective. This aside, there is, of course, the small matter of the severed head in the basement to discuss. Edward offers a rather fantastical explanation – one that involved Natalie and him conspiring to steal a million Euros from Constantin in a bid to leverage the release of her teenage sister Kristina from the human traffickers.

That’s a lot to unpack in itself, but Edward further proposes that Constantin found out about the robbery and killed Edward’s father in retribution whilst threatening the life of his ex-wife Clare into the bargain. To prove the veracity of his intentions, the gang boss left the decapitated head of Edward’s father on the man’s kitchen table as a visceral warning to return the money. That’s a considerable commitment from Constantin to travel to another country purposely to decapitate a pensioner and bring the head back to Amsterdam as a warning to a man who he assumes still has his money (the logistics of these things always intrigue me, did he have an icebox for the head? Did he have to check it in as overhead baggage? Where does one get plastic bags durable enough for this kind of thing? etc). I mean, he does say later he loves his job – but that’s above and beyond.

Either way, Natalie absconds with the cash after Edward confronts her, which is what led to Edward’s desperate search for her. It was never about the girl – it was all about money. It’s a compelling story for sure, but Edward has told us similarly believable tales before. All we know for certain is that we have two corpses, a bag of money and a girl still trapped in the grim mechanics of the trafficking system. There are some significant inconsistencies in Edward’s account and it’s clear Baptiste isn’t quite sure what to make of it all.

However, he hasn’t got time to think too hard – Edward tells him Constantin had called earlier to say he was visiting Celia. Baptiste rushes back to central Amsterdam only to find his daughter’s flat in a mess that shows clear signs of a struggle. Whilst the police search the area, Baptiste magically finds his wife in a local laundromat. She recognised Constantin from the supermarket and was able to fend him off before making her escape. It’s one of many big leaps in credulity that have begun to pepper this show – do we really believe a chainsaw-wielding psychopath like Constantin would be put off his target by a light struggle? Either way, Celia is understandably in shock and the pair realise just how deeply they are now involved in the deadly nature of this case.

Baptiste takes his family to the police and Celia’s description of her assailant matches the photo file of Constantin that Niels has from his task force work. Maartje issues a warrant for the gang boss and offers Baptiste security and a safe house in return – but he is doubtful of the police’s ability to keep them away from harm, suggesting he’ll make his own plans. Whilst Baptiste takes his family to a secure location in the woods through his own connections, Niels investigates Edward’s house – but there is no evidence that can link the murder of his father back to Constantin.

Maartje’s warrant is flagged to Europol officer Genevieve (the real one this time, not the one I mistook for Clare last week), who travels to Amsterdam to explain she is the lead detective on a multi-national task force designed to bring down the entire Romanian gang that Constantin works for. As such, Edward and Baptiste’s separate investigation must stop so as not to damage the work of the larger case. Understandably, both men aren’t best pleased with Genevieve’s command, and whilst she unsuccessfully tries to convince Edward to “wear a wire” in a bid to incriminate Constantin, Maartje tells Baptiste to continue his search for the money unofficially.

Niels joins him as they attempt to track down Natalie’s ex-partner in a bid to find the money. Whilst the pair bond over a shared history of damaging illness, they discover that Natalie’s son Matthieu was never officially discharged from the hospital. Elsewhere, Natalie’s father Herman has managed to return home with his grandson, having used the stolen money he discovered to purchase a car, bribe a nurse and pay off a local doctor along the way. Splashing that cash might be something he lives to regret however, as he soon realises his car has been broken into and the remaining money is missing. It’s an act that intimates the arrival of Constantin, who was inexplicably preceded by the sound of buzzing flies throughout this episode like a thrift store horseman of the apocalypse.

It’s not much of an action-packed ending, so the showrunners decide to shoehorn a wholly unnecessary trite closer into proceedings. For reasons that are never explained on screen in his previous actions, Baptiste has Niels’ used coffee cup tested for DNA – only to find out the young man is his son. It’s a secret which he confronts Maartje with in a hilariously overwrought cliffhanger that had me rolling my eyes and checking if I was watching a crime drama or a soap opera. It’s a shame, because there is the kernel of a great show here which is being constantly undermined by clunky exposition and plot holes you could drive a truck through. However, we’re halfway through now – so hopefully the quality picks up as the plot strands coalesce into the final half.

Andy D



REVIEW: Baptiste (S1 E2/6)


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.

Andy D


REVIEW: Baptiste (S1 E1/6)


It’s been three years since the second season of The Missing aired – a show that launched the careers of creators Harry and Jack Williams, who have since gone on to become one of the hottest properties in crime drama television. Although the show deftly mimicked the emotional dynamic of earlier European hits like The Killing by focusing in detail on the families involved, the real breakaway star was it’s taciturn detective Julien Baptiste (played wonderfully by the charismatic Tchéky Karyo). It was a performance so notable (and well-loved by viewers) that it has earned him his own spin-off show, Baptiste – and it’s a high-calibre affair written again by the Williams brothers, with Börkur Sigþórsson (Trapped) on directorial duties.

We start off on the gloomy beaches of Deal, England – which gets remarkably gloomier when a man masquerading as a gas engineer suffocates a trusting pensioner with a plastic bag before swiftly dismembering his corpse with a chainsaw. It’s quite the opening scene and I’m sure there were a few spluttered cups of cocoa across the country tonight in what is traditionally a much cosier Sunday drama slot.

The action then switches to Amsterdam, where we catch up with Baptiste (or Bappers as our editor Paul likes to call him) – looking a lot happier (and healthier) than when we left him at the end of The Missing. The brain tumour that nearly killed him then bears a visible legacy in his dyspraxic movements, but he seems settled and content with a new life approaching something towards domestic normality – sharing a space on holiday with his long-suffering wife Celia and ex-junkie daughter Sylvia, visiting with her partner Ron and now raising her own child.

We are thrown into the mix quickly when Baptiste meets with Maartje Horchner the Amsterdam Chief Of Police, who just so happens to be a former lover of the Frenchman (viewers might recognise actor Barbara Sarafian from Professor T). She has a case that requires his unique skill set – a missing girl that might lead to a larger criminal conspiracy. Baptiste is reluctant, his confidence shattered by his health issues – but the lure of the mystery presented is enough to convince him to contribute. Natalie Rose, a local sex worker, is missing and her disappearance is presumed related to the activities of a Romanian gang of human traffickers. She was reported missing by her uncle Edward Stratton (Tom Hollander), who we see desperately canvassing the red light district in a bid to find his niece (in scenes not that dissimilar to the Williams’ recent fish-out-of-water clunker Strangers).

The stress is too much for Edward, who collapses in the grip of a panic attack. Maartje asks Baptiste to visit him in hospital, and the pair bond over a hot dog in the rain. Edward explains he raised Natalie when her parents died in a car crash, and his difficulties with her growing up seem to mirror Baptiste’s struggles with his own daughter. Edward believes a gang of traffickers led by an enigmatic Romanian crime boss called Dragomir Zelincu kidnapped Natalie as she knew too much about their operations, but this in turn feels like a lot of information for an average man to know – is Edward as trustworthy as he claims to be? Either way, Baptiste manages his expectations by saying he “isn’t the man he used to be”.

It turns out Edward is half right – although Dragomir is more of an urban myth and the real culprit in this case is drug lord Constantin, who is the link to his missing niece (“Find Natalie, find me”). He also seems rather well connected to the police investigation, having been informed by persons unknown that Baptiste is on the case. We know Constantin is a very bad man already because we last saw him chopping up a pensioner, but here he also beats a man half to death with a billiard ball just to reinforce that. Later on he inexpertly hides behind a pineapple to spy on Celia in the supermarket before laying down some light threats about her husband (and bugging her handbag for good measure).

Meanwhile Edward and Baptiste patrol the seedier areas of Amsterdam looking for clues, before giving chase to a teenager who is taking a keen interest in their activities. With a little monetary grease he reveals the owner of a transsexual brothel called the Dream Room is asking after why they are looking into Natalie’s disappearance. There, they meet with boss Walter who balks at the mention of Dragomir but not much more – and it seems the mysterious Romanian’s name has the same chilling effect on most of the patrons around town.

The fact they are making waves doesn’t go unnoticed however, and they are soon meeting with cafe owner Kim Vogel (Talisa Garcia) who also runs a collective for sex workers. Kim tells them Natalie’s drug habit was out of control and she had taken to stealing, subsequently getting in debt with the Romanians – and eventually deciding to abscond to Germany. Kim’s motives in telling the duo this seem a little disingenuous but the news is a hammer blow to Edward, who is beginning to fall apart in the futility of his search for his niece.

Baptiste makes the connection through a Rita Hayworth poster found at the Dream Room and Kim Vogel’s DVD collection of the Hollywood star to put two and two together and magically uncover that she actually used to be Dragomir Zelincu, having transitioned to a woman to start a new life away from crime and also make amends in her support of sex workers’ rights. Baptiste correctly expounds that Natalie found this out, and Kim offered to protect her in a bid to hide her secret. With this revelation hanging in the air, Kim gives Baptiste the address of Natalie’s location – and upon meeting her there she sensationally reveals Edward isn’t her uncle, a fact laid gruesomely bare when we see him return to his house in England, complete with a severed head in the basement. Is Edward actually seeking Natalie to kill her, and is he in collusion with Constantin?

It’s classic Williams stuff, packing a tremendous bait and switch ending with enough loose plot strands to keep us rabidly theorising until the next episode. It also already feels like a show in it’s own right away from the aesthetics of The Missing, with a distinctly darker underbelly. Amsterdam pulls double duty as a beautiful green space of a city as well as a sickly, neon-lit pit of misery and looks spectacular in either role. Karyo fills the role of Baptiste with a charming sense of guile, and it’s great to see his family again (although how happy they remain is up for debate). All the elements are in place for what feels already like a roller-coaster ride through a complex case that only the erstwhile Baptiste can unravel – but this time with a kind-faced killer (Hollander rapidly finding his niche in polite psychopaths by pulling another Bird Box) already known to us, the dynamic has shifted away from mystery to thriller. Whether or not the strength of the set up can sustain itself over six episodes remains to be seen, but so far the signs are very promising.

Andy D

BBC One confirms transmission date for Baptiste

This is one of the big ones of the year.

Baptiste – the spin-off from Harry and Jack Williams’ Missing – is a six-parter set to air on BBC One. Now we know when it’s going to be.

Here’s the trailer.

Julien Baptiste (Tchéky Karyo) is trying his best to enjoy retired life with his family in Amsterdam, but when Police Commissioner and former girlfriend Martha Horchner (Barbara Sarafian) asks him to assist with a missing person’s case, Julien can’t refuse.

He meets Edward Stratton (Tom Hollander) who has been desperately scouring the streets of Amsterdam to find his niece, sex worker Natalie Rose (Anna Prochniak). Julien has great empathy for Edward’s plight and the two men delve into the seamy and criminal underworld of the red light district looking for clues as to Natalie’s whereabouts.

But the case takes an unexpected turn and Julien soon finds himself unravelling a complex web of deceit and lies.

Baptiste: Sunday 17th February, 9pm, BBC One