Nicola Walker’s lynx eyes and mobile lower jaw give me the horn, so I was eager to see the second series of Unforgotten. As in the first series, a body had come to light – semi-decomposed in a suitcase, at the bottom of a river – and a seemingly random group of people, when investigated by Nicola, the DCI, were found to have shared a murky past.
We had the lot: child abuse at a school,
IRA bombers, mad nurses, lawyers with a taste for sadomasochistic sex, Islamic prostitutes, bent coppers, gays in Brighton trying to adopt a moppet, blackmailing smackheads, and Wendy Craig as an old lady with a northern accent. There were even a few visits to the exterior of a house in Ealing where the Conservative Party had held wineand-cheese orgies.
The final twist owed much to Patricia Highsmith and left thousands of loose ends. How precisely had the suspects – who, it transpired, had come across each other originally when they were patients in a lunatic asylum – planned and carried out each other’s revenge killing? Nor did we find out anything further about who placed that body in the suitcase. Indeed, I was left so puzzled, I wondered if ITV had inadvertently forgotten to broadcast an entire episode. Such errors do occur. At the Old Picture House in St Andrews, when I was there in the 1970s, the reels of Wuthering
Heights were shown in the wrong order and, instead of dying melodramatically, Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon ended their story dancing away at a ball.
At least everyone got off – Nicola and her team couldn’t be bothered to press charges. It would indeed probably help the constabulary no end if victims of sex abuse quietly killed off their tormentors.
The same lesson was propounded in Apple Tree Yard. Emily Watson’s character was very brutally raped and, in the aftermath, she egged her lover on to visit the brute in question and jump up and down on his head until life was extinct. There was a court case – Emily got off. The programme allowed Emily to give us a lot of her trademark painteddoll face, with its downturned mouth. She gazed at herself in mirrors, as if perfecting and checking the expression.
The idea was that she was a woman scientist in early middle age whose drives and juices were still able to fully flow when Ben Chaplin walked into a room. They did it in cupboards, down dark alleys, under restaurant tables and, had the location been available, no doubt behind the Speaker’s Chair in the House of Commons. Then came retribution. A creepy jealous colleague, Selway, grabbed Emily at a party – and the rape scene in the university office was very coldly and harrowingly staged.
Instead of reporting the incident to the authorities, Emily threw her torn clothes in a wheelie bin. She preferred to suffer in silence, no doubt so that she could give herself plenty of motivation when turning her mouth down at the corners. She also for some reason wouldn’t confide in her nice husband, perhaps because he was often away at academic conferences in Estonia, where he was conducting energetic affairs of his own. Her husband was played by Mark Bonnar, who was also a supporting player in Unforgotten. Another member of that cast, Adeel Akhtar, was likewise in Apple Tree Yard, this time as Emily’s solicitor. Has the number of available actors on the books of Equity shrunk?
In my party-going days, if I wasn’t impersonating Shelley Winters swimming underwater in The Poseidon Adventure, I was giving my version of Karen Matthews at her press conference, wailing and sobbing about wanting her Shannon back. The Moorside was a dramatisation of that curious case, when in 2008 a mother abducted one of her own children, in the hope of grabbing some money – a crime inspired by the donations sent to the family of Madeleine Mccann. Sheridan Smith, as the spirited and community-minded neighbour, was so tough and enterprising;
what a great prime minister such a person would make.
The tone of the drama, however, was documentary grittiness, whereas to me the story was sheer black comedy. Also, it would be a mistake to think that these people were hopeless at raising their numerous offspring, were bone idle and casually cruel, because they were poor and working class. Wealthy, posh folk behave in exactly the same fashion. The difference is that servants come along afterwards with the bucket.
Lots of loose ends: Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar in Unforgotten