This is a pretty formulaic concept, the quirky, grumpy, distanced cop who rubs everyone up the wrong way but is some kind of savant when it comes to solving crimes. It’s a formula that works, so I’m not being snotty about it, but there has to be something to make me want to watch this rather than just dust off an old box set. The first episode had two things that really hooked me. The first was Nicola Walker cutting through any sense of scandi-noir tone that the casting of Stellan Skarsgård might have had by layering on the London accent and the horrendously cheesy 70’s music. The second was the reveal of what makes River (the character) quite so quirky. I won’t spoil it, because it’s a really great moment when you realise what’s going on.
Unfortunately, I didn’t think the rest of the series didn’t quite live up to that opening. The twists and turns of the mystery start off ok, but they become increasingly tenuous until the final conclusions left me underwhelmed and actually a bit cross. Skarsgård and Walker could easily take their place in the pantheon of great detective duos, but sadly the material didn’t quite live up to their talents. I’m not sure a second series would work, and I’m not sure I’d really want to watch it.
I’m not sure of the timings of the release of these two series, as I actually pretty much binge watched them both on catchup, but I came to Unforgotten second and I only actually watched it at all because I figured I’d been so impressed with Walker in River (and Last Tango in Halifax for that matter) that I should give this series a try too. Thank heavens I did.
Where River is ‘quirky’ this is just a straight up police murder investigation, the only peculiarity being that the murder took place decades ago. The first episode nearly overwhelms you with the sheer number of seemingly disparate characters it introduces, but just as it all became a bit too removed, the links are revealed. In fact that was a pattern throughout the series, everything was stretched to the limits at time, but just before it became unbearable or inappropriate, it was pulled back, or the tone was changed. Unlike River, Unforgotten actually managed to carry me through to the end. I don’t think the resolution was as interesting or satisfying as the journey to get there, but it felt right enough.
Carrying the audience through is the wonderful Nicola Walker, just as in River she grounds the series into utterly believable human reactions. There’s just something about the way she delivers lines that’s completely compelling, the pauses and the body language, the emotions that are all over her face. She’s absolutely fascinating to watch and while River didn’t have great material around her leaving the series suffering a bit every time she wasn’t in a scene, Unforgotten had a solid story to back up the performance.
Jeckyl and Hyde
After about 20 minutes I had a sudden revelation that sometimes, it’s not necessary to watch the WHOLE pilot episode of a show if you think it’s so utterly miserable and unremarkable that you’ll never watch a second episode voluntarily. It just seemed a mess. Too many characters and locations, too little acting talent, too much exposition, too little caring. Nothing at all that made it worth watching.
The Frankenstein Chronicles
It’s a sad fact of Sean Bean’s career that I find it hard to accept him as a leading man. He just doesn’t feel like he’s every really more than a one-note character who is waiting around to die and motivate other, more interesting characters to greatness. It’s not fair, but it is what it is. He’s not really got much to work with here, the “good soul with a troubled past” is laid on tediously thickly in the first episode. Maybe it will develop a bit more, but it could really do with getting a move on. The rest of the idea is ok, but like the character, could do with moving a bit faster. Maybe I do just watch too much tv, but I spent most of the episode just going “yes yes, we get it, move along”.
I didn’t make it 15 minutes into this before I gave up. I suspect if I’d been better prepared for how much was subtitled, I’d have been more engaged, but I just couldn’t seem to keep focus on it and every time I was distracted I missed more subtitles and cared even less. I was expecting things to kick off with an action and adrenalin fuelled heist, but was pretty disappointed and nothing in the next 12 minutes managed to rise me out of that funk.