SPOILER warning: this post deals with the final episode of Unforgotten Series 3. Do not read on unless you are up to date with both series 2 and 3. Catch up with all the box sets on ITV Hub now.
Unforgotten bowed out after a tremendous third series at the weekend. No one disagreed that it was an acting masterclass from start to finish, led by stalwarts Nicola Walker as DCI Cassie Stewart and Sanjeeve Bhaskar as DI Sunny Khan. Since inception this show has attracted top quality British actors. This series was dominated by awesome performances particularly from Alex Jennings, James Fleet and Neil Morrissey (getting better and better in each drama part,although here he certainly need more screen time). But I wasn’t expecting such a split opinion on the ending, especially as this has become a truly beloved British drama. I wasn’t immediately on board back at their humble beginnings, and I admit I snarked at the first episode back in 2015. I was very happy to be proven wrong; the atmosphere wasn’t lacking in comparison to Scandi drama – it was just different.
Online, people seemed annoyed that there was no twist in the tale and that the final episode ran out of steam. Although, thinking about it, do any of the series so far provide a neat and satisfying ending? In series 2 because of the nature of the crime, the number of perpetrators and the time passed the police decide there was no value in pursing and prosecuting anyone. Was this what the audience wanted? Do we demand everything tied up neatly in a bow? Or do we realise if you strive for realism on TV in style and storyline that endings will inevitably be messy, just like in real life?
I see why we are always on the lookout for twist endings, because that’s what run-of-the-mill detective shows, books and films rely on. As viewers we’re expecting the rug to be pulled from under us, especially in the final episode. And yes, it’s fun working it out and spotting who Keyser Söze is before the big reveal. But Unforgotten is a different beast. It’s always been a how-to guide on solving crimes. You don’t need a bolt from the blue accompanied by a badly-played violin to figure out who the killer is. What solves cases is dogged, determined and actually pretty dull – it’s methodical police work; the daily grind gets cases solved. Cassie, Sunny and their team built all their evidence against the last renaming suspect and simply presented it to him. Clever though he was Dr Tim Finch saw no way out so he confessed. And the fact that he’s been lying about his fundamental character for his entire adult life was a much more interesting ending than another ‘only in TV-land’ magic resolution.
Kudos to Alex Jennings for being a thoroughly respectable pillar of the community right up until the point he wasn’t. That tiny curve of his mouth into the hint of a smile when he got ready to admit his crimes was thoroughly terrifying. And of course it wasn’t just one teenage girl he’d raped and killed. He was a serial killer and finally the police had enough evidence to put him away. Ok so the interview wasn’t as tense as Line of Duty or as emotional as Broadchurch, but slow yet inevitable march of justice and the redemption of Dr Finch’s loyal and broken friends was what the whole series was about.
Cassie is done. As with everything in this world, her breakdown was totally unspectacular and quietly normal. It feels to me like this is a natural ending for the series. Who knows what Chris Lang and the team will do next? All we know is an announcement on Series 4 is due soon. Turns out you can’t accuse them of not building tension.