Every season, the Drama After Dark team gathers ‘round the (still virtual) conference room table to watch the latest and greatest in all things drama. This month, I'm delighted to finally get another season of one of my absolute favorite mysterys from MASTERPIECE: Unforgotten. Each season of this twisty, frought show covers a complex cold case with incisive devestation, and I could not be more here for it. If you haven't seen previous seasons, catch up here, and I'll be recapping season 4 as it airs on Sunday nights.
I can’t be the only one who’s been waiting with bated breath for TWO YEARS for Unforgotten to come back, right? Surely there are other Nicola Walker stans; other Sanjeev Bhaskar disciples, who have bided our time for the triumphant return of this wonderful series? Anyway, quick recap within a recap: last season followed the cold case of a young woman who was found dead off the side of a motorway after disappearing on New Year’s Eve. I won’t say who the killer is just in case you haven’t seen season three yet, although if that’s you, what are you doing here? Go watch it!
Regardless, the emotional fallout from the resolution from that case (and a career of solving similar crimes) was so intense that it caused our hero Cassie to take an extended sick leave. And that brings us back up to season 4, which starts with a fella arriving at work at a construction site. Is he a future murder victim? No, but he’s probably about to lose his breakfast, because his buddy just noticed an honest to god leg sticking out of one of the refrigerators they’re moving. And before we can get their full horrified reaction, it’s time to jam out to the Unforgotten theme song while scrutinizing the credits for clues about what’s gonna happen this season.
Now of course, a dead body doesn’t turn up in a weird spot without ruining somebody’s day, and in this case, it’s Sunny who’s drawn the short straw. He calls up his Lady Friend to let her know it’ll be a late night, shoulders his signature backpack, and looks longingly at Cassie’s conspicuously empty office before corralling young DS Beanpole out into the field.
Elsewhere, Cassie and her very cute new haircut finish a TENSE breakfast with Boyfriend from last season. The reasons for her tension are twofold: first, she’s going somewhere stressful, and second, her son is still asleep despite the fact that an estate agent is coming to look at the house soon. On top of that, Boyfriend has a job interview in the city, so he won’t be around for moral support when she returns OR to deploy the extreme measures sometimes needed to remove young adults from their childhood bedrooms. Regardless, everyone seems committed to pretending everything is fine, and before we can prove otherwise, we head back to the crime scene, just as Sunny and DS Beanpole arrive.
DS Beanpole, leaning into her role as “Cassie’s less awesome replacement”: Ha. Funny.
DS Grumpy: Did someone call for some exposition?
Sunny: Hell yeah, lay it on us!
DS Grumpy: Here’s the deal: it’s probably not a body dump, because they have good security here. Seems like this was just a normal appliance collection. We already started working on the scene and pulling records.
With that, Sunny heads into the tent where our body for this season is resting. Coroner gives us some basic info: the victim is in his 20s, and the mutilation probably happened post-mortem. Oh, did I not mention that part? Both of the victims hands and his head are missing.
There’s no obvious cause of death, and there’s one big, odd, unusual clue: a weird white wrinkly pattern on his skin. Coroner doesn’t miss a beat though; she has a theory, which is borne out by the internal body temperature so cold it’s snapped her thermometer: freezer burn.
With that chilling revelation (I’m sorry), we head across town where a dapper South Asian businessman in quite a hurry jumps out of his car. This guy is clearly a fixture of the community — he exchanges hellos with a beat cop, then walks through a store, doling out compliments to the clientele and cash to the clerk, who if I’m not mistaken is his nephew, before making his way into the alley behind the business and up into his mum’s house. He’s running late, but in the way of most mums, she’s just absolutely delighted that he’s here, because it’s her birthday.
Elsewhere (Buxton, to be precise) a woman reads out measurements of a bathroom to her partner, who’s appraising the space with her. While they return to what sounds like a well worn argument about carpeting, we learn that they’re designing a space for some type of medical care, which she wants to be somewhat homey. She’s also on a budget, and not sure she really wants to be there in the first place. Despite her misgivings, she agrees to meet up with her brother in law the next day to finalize the mortgage, but when her husband’s back is turned, she looks like she’s already regretting it.
Back at the crime scene, Sunny, DS Beanpole, DS Grumpy, and the rest of the squad look through all the refrigerators piled up in the lot, presumably for the missing body parts or any other helpful clues. And boy do they find one: DS Beanpole locates a freezer with a padlock attached to the door, and when they open it, it has a fair bit of dried blood on the inside. Normally, not something you really want to find, but in this case it could be helpful because if it’s the victim’s blood, they can hopefully use it to identify him.
Meanwhile, Cassie sits in a dark grey office and gets some unwanted news: while the top brass have okayed her medical leave, they won’t agree to medical retirement. Even with her time away, she is, annoyingly, just 3 months shy of 30 years of service, the pension cutoff. If she doesn’t come back, she’s going to lose over £100,000, and let’s be real: that’s just too much money to leave on the table. Her supervisor is sympathetic, but he can’t do anything to help her, so Cassie is stuck. On hearing this news, Cassie is, understandably, ripsh*t, and leaves the office to go contemplate the age old dilemma of rock vs. hard place.
In Cambridge, a woman bikes through the city on her way to an absolutely lovely historic row home. She comes inside, says hello to a housekeeper/nurse before popping right upstairs to visit her mother, who’s bedbound, listening to Mahler, and NOT interested in being interrupted before the movement is done. This is pretty rude, but don’t worry: she’s just heating up.
MahlerFan: I guess I shouldn’t be surprised; you never liked REAL music. It always disappointed your father that you didn’t share his passion.
Not Good Enough: Bit unfair to say the only real music is classical, but go off I guess. Anyway, dad and I bonded over other stuff.
Not Good Enough: Anyway, what are you up to today?
MahlerFan, snide: Well, thought I’d go clubbing after a spot of rollerskating. Get your head out of your butt: I’ll be sitting here wishing I was dead, because everyone I ever actually enjoyed being around already is. Ask dumb questions, get rude answers.
Not Good Enough: Awesome. Guess I’ll just leave.
Yikes. Talk about a bummer! Speaking of which, we head back to the crime scene where DS Beanpole has found some registration info for the blood fridge, and Sunny has ascertained that this particular model was discontinued over a decade ago. Unfortunately, that isn’t particularly useful, since there’s nothing to say the body wasn’t put in there more recently. What is useful is a VERY outdated Marathon (a proto-Snickers) wrapper that Coroner found in the victim’s tracksuit pockets. It’s starting to look like a proper cold case after all (again, sorry for the refrigeration puns… but not sorry enough to stop).
Meanwhile, a man in a fancy home office chats with someone on the phone about the ins and outs of an upcoming charity auction. After ringing off, he quickly scrawls out a tepid “hope you’re well” in a Mother’s Day card, then secretively shoves the card into his briefcase when his wife excitedly interrupts to call him downstairs to dance with their adult son, who appears to have some kind of mental disability. This family, unlike the last one, seems to actually care for each other, which makes me wonder why Charity Auction Guy is hiding the card, but I suppose we will find out eventually.
Back at the station canteen, Cassie and Sunny grab lunch while she shares her crappy news.
Sunny: Ugh, well that’s bullcrap. What’s the plan? Take on a project? An admin job?
Cassie: Bite your tongue! I’m not a desk person.
Sunny: Well then come back with us.
Cassie: And lose it again? It wasn’t just that one guy, it was 30 years of horrible stuff. I just don’t know if I can hack it, even for a few months.
Sunny, switching gears: How’s Boyfriend? And your family?
Cassie: Everyone’s fine. Dad’s miserable — he’s aware enough about the dementia to be furious and scared. Anyway, I better jet, and you have a case to get back to — DS Grumpy mentioned it.
Sunny: Yeah, ok. Before you go: £5 if you know when Marathons became Snickers.
Sunny: 1990! Our victim had a Marathon wrapper in his pocket and we’re checking it for DNA – we’re pretty sure he was kept in a freezer based on the labs.
Cassie: And you think he’s been in there since the 90s? So weird. Why would anyone keep that around for 30 years?
Sunny: Hopefully we will figure that out.
Cassie: Indeed. Anyway, sorry I’m grumpy.
Sunny: Well lucky for you I’m a ray of damn sunshine, so I forgive you.
Cassie, on her way out: You know, once you find out where the freezer was, look for a second one — they might have kept the rest of the body too.
Across town, Businessman has escaped the bosom of his family to smoke out a window upstairs when his brother discovers him. And why, praytell, is he smoking in the window? Because he wants to reminisce a time, many years ago, when they successfully defended themselves against racist bullies. The memory of their past success puts a smile on both brothers’ faces, but it’s short lived, because Businessman ominously insists that they both know it isn’t over.
Back at the station, DS Beanpole shares an update with Sunny: she’s been able to trace the serial number on the freezer to a branch of restaurants in Croydon, and while there’s a name associated with the business, the address won’t help them, as the whole block was demolished. But fear not: DS Grumpy, overhearing the conversation, recognizes the name. The folks who cleared out the old freezer were emptying a house owned by someone with that very same name who died just two months ago, hereafter referred to as Dead Hoarder.
Charity Auction Guy makes his way into his real office, where an assistant hands him several contracts and lets him know that he’s had a call from someone named Felix who makes the score turn ominous. Charity Auction Guy covers his concern well, but if I were that assistant I’d sure want to know who the mysterious, no-message-leaving Felix is! She’s more professional than I would be, however, and simply takes the addressed card Charity Auction Guy snuck into the briefcase earlier as requested. Once ensconced in his office, Charity Auction Guy nervously pulls out his phone, scrolling impotently through the Fs, where there isn’t a single Felix on file.
Meanwhile, Cassie comes home to find a surprise: Boyfriend’s changed his interview to next week so he can be there to support her. Awwww. Probably a good thing too, given the news she got, but there’s no time to be down about it: she’s got to head over to check on her dad soon. While she prepares for THAT, Sunny and the squad go to the newly cleaned out house where the frozen victim had, until that morning, been kept. They interview one of the cleaners, who tells them the whole house was a disaster, and that all he knows is that Dead Hoarder may have died of a heart attack, and was almost certainly an alcoholic. He also points them to the former location of the freezer, which is, of course, a creepy cellar.
Cleaner: Anyway, it was still plugged in when we got here. Had a weird bracket to stop us from opening it.
Sunny: And you didn’t think that was weird?
Cleaner: I mean, sure, but we don’t get paid a ton for this type of job, so we try to get in and out pretty fast.
DC Babyface: And there wasn’t another freezer in the house?
Sunny: And the rest of the stuff, where’s that?
Cleaner: All at our warehouse. No one’s touched anything — guy had no relatives or will or anything.
Sunny: Ok. DC Babyface is going to need to go through everything in your warehouse. We might be missing evidence.
Cleaner: Like what?
Sunny, summoning his inner David Caruso: Like the rest of the body.
On the way to visit her dad, Cassie talks over her situation with Boyfriend. She’s certain she doesn’t want to go back to work.
Boyfriend: So it sounds like we leave the cash on the table. It’s not great, but I think we can make that work.
Cassie: Sure, if it was just us… but I don’t know what my dad will need in the next couple of years, so I don’t think I really have a choice.
Back at the station, Sunny and the squad start researching their body-hoarding decedent and looking for clues on the victim’s identity by way of his distinctive Millwall tattoo, which my google sleuthing tells me is a football club (and from DS Grumpy’s muttered commentary, I’m guessing not a very good one). While DS Grumpy questions the life choices of others, Sunny gets a call from Coroner, who confirms what we’d already suspected: no obvious cause of death, which means they really are going to need to find the head to solve the murder.
Speaking of murder, Cassie, at dinner with her dad, might be seconds away from committing one. Dad, it seems, isn’t particularly sympathetic to Cassie’s situation, accusing her of malingering and complaining about her taxpayer funded salary and pension.
Cassie: It’s not just taxpayer funded; I’ve been paying into my pension for 30 years.
Dad, well actually-ing his own kid: Well. Technically for 29 years and 9 months.
Cassie, great strength of will: Well. Guess we better be leaving. Early morning tomorrow.
She and boyfriend basically run out of there, to be waylaid by Dad’s Girlfriend, who reminds Cassie that her dad doesn’t really mean all the crappy stuff he just said, and asks her to come around sometime soon to talk over his will.
Having a similarly rubbish evening is Sunny, who eats what looks like cold pizza out of a box in the middle of the kind of indoor disaster that only comes from moving houses, while his daughters fight off screen. Though I guess he has pizza, so who can complain, really? Back in the countryside, the male half of the duo who were rehabbing an apartment for some kind of medical thing earlier in the episode chats with his kids about their plans for mothers’ day. The daughter has a complicated project she made at school. The teenage son? Nothing so far. On hearing this conversation from the hall, the lady half of the couple (and I'm guessing the kids' stepmom) doesn’t seem too perturbed. In the car, she tells her husband that it’s good to remind the kids of how lucky they are to have a mom, given her own lack of parents and some of the dysfunctional people she works with as family therapist.
Back in the city, Cassie meets with her boss, telling him that she wants to be reassigned to her old unit. Well, wants is probably too strong a word, but she’s definitely more interested in doing that than hopping on a special project for a few months. That sorted, she sulks out of the office (fair), ignoring his attempts to cheer her up. Meanwhile, Not Good Enough all but runs out of her mom’s house, only to be waylaid by the live-in caretaker, Eugenia, who has some bad news: she’s thinking of leaving.
Not Good Enough: Oh. No. Uh, can I ask why?
Eugenia: Your mom sucks, the work is hard, and I’m struggling to make ends meet. I’ve been here for three years and my pay has only gone up £1 an hour.
Not Good Enough: Well, that’s actually above inflation and the going rate for this job?
Eugenia: I get it, but I work a lot of hours and am still having trouble paying my bills.
Not Good Enough, kind of a brushoff: I don’t want to lose you, let’s talk at the end of the week.
Back at the station, Cassie swipes in and casually walks to her desk like it’s no big deal that she’s appeared after almost a year out sick. They’re all British, so the “this is fine” meme strategy seems to be second nature.
Cassie, to Sunny, who’s followed her into her office: Uh, what did you tell them?
Sunny: Exactly what you said? That you didn’t want them to make a big deal out of it?
Cassie: I said no big deal, not act like I just stepped out for a minute to get tea!
Sunny: LOL. Realtalk: you ok?
Cassie: You know what, I think so? I’m just gonna do the job, not get too invested… this will be fine. It’s fine!
Cassie: Anyway, where are we?
Sunny: Well we found Dead Hoarder in the system — he had a DUI conviction from 1990.
Cassie: Oho — same year as our candy wrapper!
Sunny: Indeed. And there’s more info on the microfiche so I’ve got an appointment to go look. DC Babyface is going to go sort through all the rest of the guy’s stuff. And, best of all, pretty sure we know who the victim is.
That’s pretty good news indeed, but even better is watching Cassie’s signature crime solving gleam return to her eye. Across town, poor DC Babyface starts mucking around in the warehouse. There are… a lot of boxes. I almost feel bad for him. While he starts searching for clues, across town, Businessman accompanies his wife for a prenatal ultrasound appointment. Everyone is all smiles at first, chit chatting about the pregnancy (her first, his third, and the tech’s first day on the job) when the tech notices something that makes her look a bit concerned and asks mom’s age, which is 46. She pops out to get a second opinion, which leaves everyone worried.
At the station, DS Grumpy tacks up a picture of a young fella named Matt, who he’s pretty sure is the victim. They were able to get photos taken by Matt's then girlfriend, Karen, which show his tattoo well enough that they feel pretty confident it is a match. Matt went missing in March 1990, close to his home, and DS Grumpy is looking for the old case files to see if they had good leads, or information on his next of kin.
Back in Cambridge, Not Good Enough parks her bike outside a building to pick up her fiancee. As they walk through the rain to do some wedding shopping, Nice Fiancee suggests that Not Good Enough reconsider inviting MahlerFan to the wedding, due to her generally rude jerk behavior.
Not Good Enough: I have to invite her, she’s my mom! I promise, I won’t let her ruin anything.
Nice Fiancee: You’re weird sometimes, you know? I would have legit put her in a home a long time ago. Anyway, let’s go get some stuff on the registry, shall we?
At the station, Sunny comes into Cassie’s office with the file on Dead Hoarder’s DUI. First of all, the stop happened the same day and pretty much the same location that their victim Matt disappeared from. Based on that, it’s not completely out of bounds to assume that Dead Hoarder might have already had the victim in the trunk of his car. But here’s what’s really interesting: the arresting officer made a note that there were several other people in the car at the time of the arrest, which means several other mysterious potential witnesses, or accomplices, or both.
And if the plot wasn’t thickening fast enough for ya, Charity Auction Guy, having waited until everyone else has gone home for the night, makes a call to the mysterious Felix.
Felix, super shady: Here’s the deal. I need a favor. I’ve been let down on a big shipment. Can you help me out?
Charity Auction Guy, uncomfy as hell: I got out of the game 11 years ago, you know that. I don’t have contacts anymore, I’m just a regular guy. You’re going to need to ask someone else.
Felix: *ominous silence*
Charity Auction Guy: I mean... how much are we talking about?
Zoinks, Scoob. While Charity Auction Guy sets about, presumably, ruining his life, Cassie and Sunny return to their regular pub and meet up with the arresting officer for Dead Hoarder’s DUI. Lucky for them, he remembers it pretty well, because it was very weird. They pulled the car over for speeding, and when the driver got out he smelled like booze. He didn’t seem drunk, but they tested him, and sure enough, he was over the limit. But when they arrested him, he started to cry, which was odd because he was completely heartbroken over something which was, on paper, relatively minor. So why the tears? Because he was coming home from a party celebrating his brand new qualification as a police officer, and with this arrest, he’d ruined his whole career. Even more interesting: everyone else in the car came from the same party, and all of them had also just passed their qualification. Longtime fans of Unforgotten already know the drill: while Cassie and Sunny talk to the retired arresting officer, we get to see who these folks are now: Businessman, Charity Auction Guy, Not Good Enough, and Family Therapist. All seemingly reasonable people, and all, now, suspects. What brought them into contact with the victim that fateful night? And who’s a murderer? We’ll just have to keep watching next week to find out!