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  • Writer's picturePaul Gainey

Unforgotten, Series 5

There’s a curious irony about whodunits that often the least interesting thing about them is finally discovering who did it. Either you’ve already guessed the identity of the murderer or else so many red herrings and silly coincidences have been introduced by the writer that you are completely baffled by the time the end credits come along.

 So what about the denouement of the latest series of ITV1’s Unforgotten – Series 5? Did it follow the majority of murder mysteries with an unsatisfying reveal, or did it manage to intrigue until the bitter end like the first series of Broadchurch or its Danish model, The Killing?

Just who did kill poor Precious and stuff her body up the chimney?

The angrily ambitious reset of Unforgotten took on generational trauma, social inequality, austerity’s devastating impact – and pulled it all off masterfully.

The prime suspects have all been lined up in the penultimate episode. There was Precious’s volatile mother Ebele (Martina Laird); Precious’s grandfather, the terminally ill Tory peer Lord Tony Hume (Ian McElhinney); Precious’s son Joseph (Rhys Yates), a squat-abiding mugger with a drug addicted girlfriend to support; and the up-skirting Polish ex-social worker Karol (Max Rinehart), who was being blackmailed by Precious.

Tying all these disparate individuals to the crime scene was a complex feat of logistics for writer Chris Lang. And while it all turned out to have been a terrible accident with added suicide, Tony Hume was exposed as a rapist as well as a politician whose past policies brought misery to millions.

At least it all kept me guessing until the end, and there was even a last-minute twist. But either way, these shows are more about the journey than the destination. And what’s equally (if not more) important than the plot in detective series like Unforgotten are the characters of the cop team involved.

Lang was smart in the way he introduced DCI Jess James (the excellent Sinéad Keenan) as Cassie Stuart’s replacement after Nicola Walker left the show. By making Jess initially unsympathetic and then allowing her relations with the mournful DI Sunny Khan (Sanjeev Bhaskar) to gradually thaw over the course of the series, he cleverly aligned this entente with viewers as we also warmed to Keenan.

Sunny and Jess even started sharing their relationship woes over a canteen lunch – Sunny’s partner Sal (Michelle Bonnard) having moved out after her miscarriage, while Jess’s cheating husband Steve (Andrew Lancel) was begging to be let back into the family home.

The rest of the team likewise began to appreciate Jess’s working methods and stopped making eyes at each other across the office each time she made a seemingly unsympathetic, un-Cassie-like remark.

Ultimately the storyline held together and didn’t disappoint. But most importantly for the long-term health of the show, the transition in the principal casting was deftly achieved. All things being equal, we can look forward to many more investigations with this attractive crew.

As we returned to that floodlit residential garden, DCI James and DI Khan faced the very real possibility of a double murder. Police had dug up the decomposed body of a young male with two bullet holes in his skull, likely killed around the same time as Precious Falade. Jessie was convinced that Lord Tony Hume was involved.

 As always with Unforgotten, the plot threads knitted together in powerful fashion. The letter of the law might not have prevailed but justice of a different kind was served.

 Writer Chris Lang ensured the hole left by Nicola Walker’s Cassie was rightly acknowledged.

 Sinéad Keenan was terrific and her initial clashes with the team felt realistic. Yet Jessie found her feet and forged a new relationship with Sunny. She also had the best line of the series - “You will only ever be remembered as a rapist who murdered his own great-grandson. That’s your fucking legacy, fella.”. Burning with righteous fury, Jessie goes a bit Ted Hastings.

Their dynamic has plenty of promise, her signature sweater vest a worthy foil for his rucksack. Signing off with some cowboy bantz, the duo look set fair for series six. Yeehaw.

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