As we reach the halfway point of ITV’s Unforgotten we know that all our characters have links to poor dead Jimmy Sullivan, but there is still a lot to learn.
The four characters we are following (the priest, the entrepreneur, the husband with a secret and the community charity worker) all see their lives start to fall apart.
One of the strengths of the writing here is seeing the pieces tumble one by one like dominoes. Our police duo of DI Cassie Stuart (Nicola Walker) and DS Sunil Khan (Sanjeev Bhaskar) have only to follow basic procedure and the ripples from their investigation threaten to become tidal waves, sweeping away the lies and pretensions of the suspects.
The ever-controlling priest, Father Greaves (Bernard Hill) is the first to fall. Early in the episode he is conducting a christening. He is part way through when the police arrive. As they enter the church, his words echo in the air: “Do you repent of your sins?”
This theme of sins is repeated across the episode. Jimmy Sullivan may have died in the late 1970s but, as far as we know, those involved are still alive and need to suffer.
Father Greaves is consumed by events; he suffers a panic attack at a family meal, and is soon confessing past misdemeanours to Stuart and Khan in the form of his affair with a young woman named JoJo.
More satisfying is the situation Trevor Eve’s entrepreneur Sir Philip Cross finds himself in and the slow destruction of his public image. Thanks to an underworld contact selling his story to the papers, we know now Sir Philip had a handy technique for collecting money on behalf of the Fennick brothers. This technique involved the use of bolt cutters and this puts him in the centre of the frame for Jimmy’s murder.
Sir Philip’s family could fill a TV show all on their own. Sir Philip is a self-obsessed bully, who cares nothing for his immediate family. His long-suffering wife looks on in despair as their daughter (a human rights lawyer) cares only for the impact on her career – like father like daughter. Trevor Eve gets the best line in a well-scripted sequence: “I am the brand!”
This perfectly demonstrates his obsession with himself, and the flaws in a self-referential character that takes one unexpected rip for his entire persona to tear apart. Most poignant is the son who actually offers some support; his father ignores him, much like he ignored the earlier chance to help his son’s business. Superb stuff.
There is much else to enjoy and if there is a weakness in Unforgotten it is a consequence of the strength of the characterisation of the suspects leaving little room to develop the central stars of the show.
While we are being drip-fed the backstory for DI Stuart, we are learning little about DS Khan, and Sanjeev Bhaskar seems underused.
Aired at 9pm on Thursday 22 October 2015 on ITV.
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