As Season 3 continues, Unforgotten's detectives land their first clear lead, as Sunny and Stuart build a picture of the failed case.
Hollis: "They've come -- the police -- about her."
This week's episode is where viewers might start feeling the fact that PBS did not choose to smash together the season's episodes into three 90-minute outings, and instead let the show run for six weeks at 45-minutes a pop. In our first two seasons, this week's episode would have run as the "back half" of the premiere. As a standalone installment, it plays somewhat differently, but it does help that the show keeps improving every season. Season 1 was difficult because of the time factor, a fifty-year-old case with suspects all in their 70s or later. When the murderer was revealed, none of it felt much like justice served. In Season 2, the case happened in the early 1990s, so less removed, and the young ages of those involved meant the suspects were still in the prime of life. That backfired with the discovery their young ages meant they were the real victims, once again leading to a conclusion where serving justice wouldn't have felt like a victory.
The Season 3 case is by far the most recent the show has done, taking place in the wee hours of the beginning of the current century, and the victim this time is definitely only a victim, due to her age. The digital media aspects of reopening the investigation also make it feel far less "cold case" than the other two. And while our suspects are still all older white men, they're not so old that a conviction would feel like justice too late. The nature of the crime and their positions in society (at least for two of them) makes this feel like a case where the results will matter. All four have something to hide. As the story breaks big, splashed across the front pages of The Sun, and reported across the BBC online and by radio, the sudden rush of anxiety in all their eyes suggests the answer is guilty, the whole damn lot of them.
All four are busy with small little lives. James is horrified his ex-wife Mel knew about Elliot's "experimentation," as he terms it. Elliot (now "Ells") isn't interested in talking to James until it's "better," though they are willing to leave the door open, telling dad "I love you." Peter snuck off and cashed the check from the guy he strong-armed into buying his useless widget, instead of leaving it for 14 days, as is the cancelation policy. Now the daughter is demanding the order be retracted, and the money returned. Too bad Maria spent it all already, covering months of unpaid bills, even as she eyes other men ad berates Peter for his inability to support the family.
In worse news, Chris' van has been broken into, and his dog Frankie is gone. Interestingly, the first person he phones in this crisis is our good Dr. Finch. James talking about a planned get-together for a drink with the four of them is not a rare occurrence, but part of a much tighter circle. In fact, Finch drops everything as soon as he finishes his testimony on the charges that he abused Mrs. Avery to set Chris to rights. Finch encourages him to go through with getting a flat for himself and Jamila, and maybe even a bank account. Jamila accepts his marriage proposal, by the way, so maybe Chris will listen.
The press may have jumped on the story, but there's still the little matter of actually identifying the body, though the team's "needle in a haystack" approach has made it a better-than-average odds bet this is Hayley. Jessica, the identical twin sister, submits to a DNA swab for the confirmation. Mum Suzanna (Brid Brennan) collapses with grief when she learns the evidence points to a strangulation case. Jessica, however, is more concerned about the publicity this will bring. Her sister's death was a PR disaster for their seaside tourist town, and it took a decade for the local economy to re-right itself. Dragging the story back up isn't going to make anyone feel neighborly towards the Reid family. It certainly doesn't help when blogger Sandra Rayworth (notably "pro-Brexit") does an incendiary post entitled "I Blame The Parents."
Sunny and Stuart track down the original junior detective DCI John Bentley (Alastair MacKenzie). It turns out the lead investigator bungled things, assuming Hayley had run off with the boyfriend, Adrian Mullery. They lost five full days before the boss admitted that wasn't the case, and then compounded the mistake by attempting to gin up abuse charges on the boyfriend and/or the dad when they were unable to pin it on any of the locals. While Stuart doesn't consider Adrian (Gerald Kyd) a suspect, the local papers are ready and waiting to bring all that back too.
Stuart, meanwhile, finds the missing piece. Hayley's body was found in London, but nothing suggested she traveled up there while alive. That meant Hayley was already dead, killed by someone who would be far more comfortable hiding a body in the city, a.k.a. a London resident, a holidaymaker. Her suspicions get a massive boost when she and Sunny learn Hayley covered for one of her friends cleaning a holiday rental called "The Spinney" a couple of days before her disappearance.
As the episode closes, Stuart's team has found the name of the man who rented The Spinney over the week of New Years 2000: James Hollis, with listed guests Peter Carr, Tim Finch, Chris Lowe, and Mel Hollis, all with phone numbers. (And yes, just about damn near everyone says "Wait, the TV guy?") Like a good celebrity, Hollis lawyers the hell up when Stuart and Sunny turn up at his door, much to their surprise. Even more strangely, he doesn't call his ex-wife to warn her about the visit, but Ells.
Curiouser and curiouser.