Unforgotten 2.01: Episode Review

“Sex, death, and revenge: Here are three of our main topics.”

In this instance, teacher Sara Mahmoud (Badria Timimi) is talking about Shakespeare’s Macbeth, but she could just as easily be talking about Series 2 of Unforgotten on Masterpiece Mystery. For where would the world of crime drama be without sex, death, and revenge? Not to mention dead bodies turning up unexpectedly.

Dredging the River Lea in North London, workers come upon a large suitcase. To their surprise (but not to ours, considering that we’re watching a crime drama), the suitcase contains the fetid, decomposed remains of a human being.

DCI Cassie Stuart (Nicola Walker) and DI Sunny Khan (Sanjeev Bhaskar) are back in business.

Forensic science and some old-fashioned pavement pounding reveal the dead man to be David Walker, who worked in the “leisure industry” (aka nightclubs) and vanished in 1990, leaving behind a wife and 5-year-old son.

Walker’s wife was the woman now known as DI Tessa Nixon (Lorraine Ashbourne), remarried, self-possessed, and ready for retirement from the police force after 19 years of service. She’s perfectly willing to tell Cassie and Sunny all she knows about her former husband’s disappearance. He’d suffered from depression, was known to take off for brief periods without telling her where he was going or where he’d been, and left behind a struggling business. After he’d been gone for some time, she assumed he’d committed suicide.

Lorraine Ashbourne as DI Tessa Nixon and Will Brown as her son, Jason. One has moved on; one hasn’t.

Now it’s clear he was murdered. “Sixty-three percent of all murder victims are killed by their partners,” Tessa reminds Cassie and Sunny. “You’ll be thinking that, won’t you? I would be.”

She seems credible enough. Still, her tendency toward flattery seems hollow. Is she just blowing smoke at Cassie and Sunny? Signs point to yes.

Who else might have skeletons in the closet? At least three people: Colin Osborne (Mark Bonnar from Shetland) is a lawyer in Brighton working pro bono on behalf of clients with dodgy pasts. He’s preparing to adopt a little girl with his partner (Charlie Condou) and feeling threatened on a number of fronts, including by the girl’s birth father (Josef Altin, whom you might know from Game of Thrones and/or The Alienist).

Marion Kelsey (Rosie Cavaliero) is an oncology nurse with a warm spot in her heart for a teenage patient. She has a bossy sister (Holly Aird) and a husband (Nigel Lindsay, aka Sir Robert Peel in Victoria) struggling to keep the peace between them.

Badria Timimi as Sara Mahmoud. What lesson do we learn from Lady Macbeth?

Sara Mahmoud is a high school English teacher aiming for a better job at a school with more challenging pupils—challenging as she was when she was a teen. Her road to becoming the devout Muslim wife she is today was not smooth.

If Series 1 of Unforgotten taught us anything, it’s that these seemingly disparate characters are destined to have some common bond that links them to the dead man. No matter how much they deny it, we know it’s there, and it begins to emerge before the end of this episode. We’re even treated to the same sort of blurry, confused, shared memory flashbacks that we had in Series 1, reminding us that all of these people were in the same place at the same time at one point in their lives. (Have we descended into formula already? It’s too early for that!)

Once again, the cast is top-notch (including Bryony Hannah from Call the Midwife.) Let’s hope writer/creator Chris Lang has some surprises in store for us in Series 2.

See also: Unforgotten 1.03: Episode Review

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