[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Unforgotten Season 4 Episode 2.]
Some intriguing new details surfaced in Cassie and Sunny’s investigation into the death of Matthew Walsh. He’s the young man whose body turned up in the Season 4 premiere of Unforgotten, 30 years after he was last seen alive in London. We learned more about the victim and about the four living suspects, two of whom are active-duty police officers.
But the whodunit is only part of the story in this absorbing British crime drama. Equally potent are the lives and well-being of the two main characters, police detectives Cassie Stuart (Nicola Walker) and Sunny Khan (Sanjeev Bhaskar), whose caring, respectful partnership is a beacon of light amid all the pain and darkness that accompany their work.
Cassie has been struggling to come back from an emotional breakdown she suffered at the end of the previous season. Even though she only plans to return for the three months needed to earn her full pension, one of the highlights of this episode is a scene where Cassie discusses the case with three members of her team (played by Jordan Long, Lewis Reeves and Carolina Main). It concludes with them telling her that it’s good to have her back, and their sentiment elicits a rare, brief smile from Cassie. The beauty of Unforgotten comes as much from its depiction of little moments like this one as from the intricate mysteries it unravels.
Regarding the case, a more vivid picture emerges of the victim, and it’s a sad one. Matthew had multiple run-ins with the law, including drug arrests. His family was destroyed by booze and drugs, and his parents are dead. His girlfriend, who was pregnant at the time he disappeared, later died of a heroin overdose. When Cassie speaks to Matthew’s adult son, Jerome (James Craze), he can’t mourn for the father he never knew.
At the conclusion of the first episode, Cassie and Sunny learned that Robert Fogerty, the dead man who’d kept Walsh’s body for decades, was pulled over for drunken driving the night Walsh disappeared, and he had four other people in his car at the time. All five had been celebrating their graduation from the police academy. We learn more about the remaining quartet, the characters who were introduced in the premiere.
Dean Barton (Andy Nyman), who left the police soon after graduation, appears to be a successful and benevolent businessman, husband and father. But after receiving a phone call from someone named Felix, he smuggles a van full of something into France. He looks terribly uneasy about it, though, and when the job is complete, Dean phones Felix and makes it clear he’s done doing business with him.
Ram Sidhu (Phaldut Sharma), a detective chief inspector in London vice, has problems at home and at work. He’s worried that the child his wife is carrying will have birth defects; then, when he finds out he’s being accused of sexual harassment by a female coworker, Ram explodes, claiming that the charge is racially motivated. Is it? Or is claiming discrimination a way to avoid taking responsibility for bad behavior?
The life of Cambridge graduate Liz Baildon (Susan Lynch) looks rosy. She’s planning her wedding to Janet (Amanda Douge) and interviewing for the job of chief constable in her region. But she’s got a bitter old crone for a mother — played by the terrific Sheila Hancock — who seems to enjoy torturing her daughter and knows that she’s hiding something.
Fiona Grayson (Liz White) is the most enigmatic of the bunch. A therapist who’s applying for a mortgage with her husband, she is also seen visiting the graves of her parents, including her police officer father.
The former friends have gone their separate ways and built seemingly good lives for themselves. But their stunned and scared reactions when they see a news report about the discovery of Walsh’s body leaves no doubt that they’ve been keeping secrets about the night he disappeared for 30 years. Liz even breaks a couple of mugs, a classic TV reaction to such situations.
Although we’re a third of the way through the season, Cassie and Sunny have yet to interact with their suspects. Expect plenty of that in the next four installments. And yet, part of the brilliance of Unforgotten writer Chris Lang’s script is that I’m not waiting for the pace to pick up. I’m content to get to know these new characters, reacquaint myself with the old gang and wait for clues and motives to be revealed.
In the meantime, it’s nice seeing Cassie come alive again, even slightly, as she works the case and tries to cope with changes in her personal life, including attempting to rouse her adult son Adam (Jassa Ahluwalia) from bed in the morning. “Do I seem angry all the time?” she asks boyfriend John (Alastair Mackenzie) at one point. “Not all the time” is the patient man’s reply.
It’s easy to empathize with Cassie, even during moments when her anger erupts. Walker’s performance is full of nuance, and the life changes she’s facing are enough to test anyone’s mettle. Leaving a job she’s had for three decades, selling her house to move out of London with her new partner and dealing with her father’s battle with dementia are taking their toll.
Cassie’s anger could be a driving force that sees her through this case, although Sunny worries she may be trying to settle a score with a police establishment she feels betrayed her, by charging a current or former police officer with murder.
“There is a small bit of me that wants to punish someone,” Cassie admits to Sunny. “If you see it getting in the way at any point, you call me out on it.”
You know he will. Cassie and Sunny are Unforgotten’s equivalent of a supercouple.
Unforgotten, Sundays, 9/8c, PBS (check local listings at pbs.org)