Must be getting sentimental in my old age, but I’ve just watched Seasons 1 & 2 of “Unforgotten” (6 Ep’s each) over two long evenings this weekend on Netflix. Not sure how we missed them when first broadcast back in 2015, but I guess we don’t watch that much ITV. (See post note re Seasons 3 & 4)
Lots of reasons it’s a genre we like in TV crime dramas, probably going back to the Nordic Noirs (The Killing we watched in the original Norwegian in Norway) and peaking in the likes of Line of Duty (and culminating most recently in the Icelandic Valhalla Murders) but Unforgotten is pretty special. Pretty obviously convoluted multi-threaded whodunnit’s at root, as old as Agatha Christie – more gruesome crimes, victims, suspects, motives and opportunities than you can shake a stick at. Yet, full of love.
Unforgotten has some obvious attractions for me and as a UK drama generally. Lots of 70’s and 80’s London cultural locations today and, thanks to the passage of time since the original crimes, lots of picture postcard drone shots of wider UK locations – Southend, Cambridge, Brighton, Salisbury, etc so far. They had me at the pub venues.
Seasons 1 and 2 had deep social issues (racism and homophobia in S1 and child-abuse in S2) behind the historical crimes. (I was at the anti-nazi-league rallies in London in the mid to late 70’s – got me again – the daily IRA threat in London, Vine Street and the “Old Main Drag” experienced only through the Shane MacGowan lyric – there but for the grace.)
And through all of that, the really striking aspect of Unforgotten is the people. The stories, the scripts, the actors – the A-list casts – and their acting. Police caring for each other in the office day job really stands out; caring for the victims and the criminals as victims; the victims and criminals as family members. Everyone is someone’s son, daughter, father, mother, partner, brother, sister. No-one is exempt from dealing with a problem from a difficult past.
The forensic aspects of decades old cold-cases are an obvious – but light-touch – element. The thing that cements Unforgotten into a coherent whole is the humanity, the care, the love. Need to make space for seasons 3 and 4.
Season 3 (6 Eps) – not quite as good, slight wobble in the believability of the police incompetence story line as Cassie makes a blunder that leads to a death (and doesn’t get suspended)? And her “overworked & married to the job” personal life gets a bit cliched? Though even her blunder fits the “positive” non-cynical overall vibe – a genuine mistake, not punished. But, generally still very good in terms of cast, script, acting and the atmosphere of love – despite the twist of real evil in this one – to the very end. (The high drone shots around the victim’s grave becoming a bit of a signature meme.)
(Season 4 (6 Eps) – will watch in 2 blocks of 3 once broadcast. No spoilers please.)