Cold cases make for hot drama on ‘Unforgotten’

Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar lead an all-star cast in an encore presentation of two seasons of the gripping mystery series, “Unforgotten,” returning this summer beginning Saturday, July 6, at 9 p.m. on “Masterpiece.” (Catch up online or via Passport: Season 1, episode 1; episode 2; episode 3. Season 2, episode 1; episode 2; episode 3)

Two stone-cold cases of murder test the wits of crime-solving duo DCI Cassie Stuart and DS Sunny Khan, played by Nicola Walker (“Last Tango in Halifax”) and Sanjeev Bhaskar (“Indian Summers”), in back-to-back seasons of the critically acclaimed UK crime series “Unforgotten.”

The Telegraph (London) called the series’ opening episodes “the gateway to a labyrinth of absorbingly interconnected lives,” adding that Walker and Bhaskar portray “two of the most credibly ordinary cops currently on the TV beat.”

The Australian (Sydney) singled out screenwriter Chris Lang as “a cunning master of parallel plotting,” while The Independent (London) lauded the remarkable supporting cast of “unforgotten and unforgettable actors.”

Joining Walker and Bhaskar are Tom Courtenay (“Little Dorrit”), who won a best supporting actor BAFTA for his role in the series. Peter Egan (“Downton Abbey”) appears in both seasons as Cassie’s father. Also appearing in Season 1 (episodes 1–3 on “Masterpiece”) are Gemma Jones, Trevor Eve, Cherie Lunghi, Bernard Hill, Hannah Gordon and Ruth Sheen. Guest stars in Season 2 (episodes 4–6) include Badria Timimi, Mark Bonnar, Lorraine Ashbourne, and Rosie Cavaliero.

Season 1 begins with a human skeleton found beneath a basement. The remains could be centuries old — or far more recent, as comes to light upon further investigation of the crime scene. Cassie and Sunny eventually discover the victim was a young man, Jimmy Sullivan, and his nearly-disintegrated pocket diary leads the detectives to a list of names that may hold the key to solving the murder.

That list of names includes a mobster who bribed his way into the aristocracy (Eve), a beloved vicar with a dark secret (Hill), a reformed skinhead (Sheen) and an elderly bookkeeper (Courtenay) taking care of his wife (Jones), who is suffering from dementia. They lead very different lives, but something links them — something that explains Jimmy’s final resting place and the torture marks found on his bones.

Season 2 starts innocently enough with a routine river dredging operation. When the scoop brings up a soggy, old suitcase, the workers find a corpse sealed up so long that the tissues have turned to a soapy substance. Gruesome forensic work identifies the victim as David Walker, a businessman missing for twenty-five years.

Cassie and Sunny locate Walker’s wife, Tessa (Ashbourne), now remarried. A hard-bitten DI herself, Tessa reminds her fellow police officers that “sixty-three percent of all murder victims are killed by their partners.”

“You’ll be thinking that, won’t you?” she says. “I would be.”

But Cassie and Sunny have other suspects to consider, including a teacher who wishes she’d never heard of David Walker (Timimi), an attorney in the process of adopting a young girl with his partner (Bonnar) and  a harried nurse in a children’s cancer ward (Cavaliero). Maddeningly, the puzzle pieces won’t fit together — until, as The Telegraph notes, Cassie has an inspiration that results in “the perfect ending.”

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