Wasn't my night, last night I guess.

We'd finished watching season 4 of Unforgotten, not season 3.

So, spoilers I guess. You know the drill.

I wonder if Chris Lang had the arc of the whole thing worked out before it began, or if it came to him as the series progressed, or if the dénouement was something of a practical requirement because of Nikola Walker?

One of the great things about the show is watching the suspects react as more and more of their past is revealed. How they fray as each piece of the puzzle is slowly fitted into place.

Binging the show as we did, it seemed to me that by season 3, Lang wanted to show another side. There's a scene in season 3 where the victim's ex-boyfriend, who had been a suspect decades ago, delivers a lengthy, bitter, stinging rebuke to one of the detectives. It's pretty much the only reason he was written into the season, I suspect. In the first two seasons, the police are all depicted as competent, professional, empathetic "good guys," albeit with complicated personal lives, at least in the case of DCI Stuart and DI Sunny Khan who are the only police regulars with three-dimensional characters. I suspect Lang perhaps received criticism for that depiction of the police.

A love interest is introduced for both Khan and Stuart. In Cassie's case, he's an ex-career "copper" off the force for budget cuts, who was a junior detective on the original case, now "an historical murder." It seems his role was also to, at least at first, depict the police in a less-flattering light.

Season 3 also focuses on how DCI Stuart begins to fray, as a decades-long career as an empathetic police officer, interacting with people at the worst moments of their lives, finally exhausts her emotional resources.

Season 4 turns the spotlight fully on the police, as all the suspects are, or were, police officers. DCI Stuart has applied for early retirement for mental health reasons. Things aren't great at home, despite now being in a loving relationship with former DCI John Bentley. Her father has been diagnosed with dementia, and is in a relationship with a woman Stuart suspects may be taking advantage of him. A change of will is a plot point. One of her sons is living at home and seemingly slow to find work.

Her request for early retirement is denied, and DCI Stuart is forced to return to work for about three months to complete 30 years service to be eligible for full retirement, or forego over 100,000 pounds in retirement income. Suffice to say, she reluctantly goes back to work and cracks the case.

Not before being doubted, criticized, rejected.

And then her car is hit by a stolen Range Rover in a moment of distracted driving brought on by fatigue and emotional distress, ultimately leading to her death.

The best thing about Unforgotten was Nikola Walker's portrayal of DCI Cassie Stuart. I was fully invested in her character, and her death felt needlessly cruel and unfair. Mitzi said they lifted it right out of a Law & Order season, but I don't know.

So much of the series plays out on the faces of Walker and Sanjeev Baskhar as DI Sunil "Sunny" Khan, as they interview witnesses or interact with victims. What you see there, in Law & Order would be verbalized and far less effectively. I think that's what was remarkable and different as a police procedural. It's high-stakes played low key. The tension, the reactions, conveyed in subtle facial expressions, brief acknowledging utterances. No histrionics. No bravado. To be clear, there are hard, direct questions. But no bullshit table-slamming, or chair throwing.

I loved DCI Cassie Stuart. I loved the series. I loved Chris Lang's writing. In season 3, one of the suspects talks about how life can be turned upside down in a moment, in an arbitrary, unfair event that changes everything. And in another moment, it can bring joy and happiness, seemingly equally out of nowhere. I don't know if Lang was telegraphing Cassie's death, but it seems significant now.

Before she died, Lang lets us know she may be in a new place, a better one. That at least some of the anger was gone.

To borrow from Willie, "Out of kindness, I suppose."

Originally posted at Nice Marmot 05:47 Sunday, 20 August 2023