tue 14/07/2020

Unforgotten – Series 2 Finale, ITV / After Brexit: The Battle for Europe, BBC Two | reviews, news & interviews

Unforgotten – Series 2 Finale, ITV / After Brexit: The Battle for Europe, BBC Two

Unforgotten – Series 2 Finale, ITV / After Brexit: The Battle for Europe, BBC Two

Historic crime unravelled, and the EU's existential crisis

Exhuming the past: Sunny Khan (Sanjeev Bhaskar) and Cassie Stuart (Nicola Walker)

From Jimmy Savile to the Rotherham scandal, child sexual abuse has become a recurring nightmare of our society, and thus is inevitably grist to the TV dramatist’s mill. It has been a crucial component in The Missing, National Treasure and Line of Duty, to name merely three recent examples.

It gradually emerged again, like a monster from the deep, as the dominant theme of this second series of Unforgotten (★★★★) and writer Chris Lang had been skilful enough to thread it through the very different lives of his protagonists and deliver a finale that lived up to all that had gone before. Even if his plot did owe a none-too-subtle debt to Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train.

As in the first series, the minimally-expressed relationship between Nicola Walker’s Cassie Stuart and Sanjeev Bhaskar’s Sunny Khan rooted the developing drama in almost sitcom-like ordinariness, which provided a firm platform on which to build the cross-cutting stories of the characters. As the details of their lives were forensically unpicked by the detectives, helped along by flashes of turbocharged intuition from DCI Stuart, it became clear that the murdered David Walker was much less of a victim than the people he’d left behind.

As revelations piled up about Walker’s squalid career of evil, the present-day characters came to resemble a tattered troupe of walking wounded, left permanently maimed by a past they’d spent decades trying to forget. Amid a cluster of powerful performances – not least Rosie Cavaliero as Marion Kelsey, on a permanent hair trigger of rage and panic, and Badria Timimi’s devastated Sara Mahmoud – Mark Bonnar (above) stood out as Colin Osborne, the former City high-flyer whose painstakingly rebuilt life had crashed around his ears. His cathartic monologue about his abused childhood was delivered with quiet, appalling conviction. Having also just been one of the stars of Apple Tree Yard, Bonnar is suddenly looking like the man most likely to.

Despite the efforts of hordes of weeping luvvies and the permanently apoplectic Nick Clegg, it seems as if Brexit really is going to happen. In BBC Two's After Brexit: the Battle for Europe (★★★★), the Beeb's Europe editor Katya Adler crossed the Channel to sample the “populist” anti-EU sentiments bubbling up around the Continent.

Adler grew up in England and has family in Italy and Germany, and proved a shrewd as well as a multilingual host. She even introduced a splash of movie-star glamour. This worked especially well in Italy, where (rocking Gina Lollobrigida-esque sunglasses) she was summoned for a chat with Alessandro Di Battista, the motorcycling figurehead of the Five Star movement who looks more like a Gucci model than a right-wing politician.

Five Star is anti-globalist and anti-EU, and as Di Battista put it, "we believe in the revolution of popular sovereignty." Adler heard similar sentiments from the AfD (Alternative for Germany), and sampled unapologetically hardcore attitudes in Hungary, where vigilante patrols hunt down migrants who manage to get over Prime Minister Viktor Orban's border fences (below, Katya Adler with Hungarian hardliner László Toroczkai).

You'd assume Adler to be a Remainer, like her employers, but she offered plenty of ammunition for sceptics as she surveyed the pulverised economies of Greece, Spain and southern Italy and their 50 per cent youth unemployment. The one-size-fits-all Euro doesn't fit them, nor the embittered unemployed ex-workers of northern France. "The Euro isn't a currency, it's a political weapon," asserted the Front National's Marine Le Pen, who’s aiming to throw a spanner in the works of the French presidential elections.

The Brussels establishment deplores all this seditious talk, but it has an imagination problem. The only answer it can think of is "more Europe". Adler went looking for EU bigwig Guy Verhofstadt, who, like a character out of The Prisoner, has an office on floor five-and-a-half in the Euro HQ (the EU would be a plum target for satirists, if we still had any). As Verhofstadt rambled on about forming a European army under a single European government, a startled Adler told him he was the sole optimist about the EU's future that she'd been able to find. What began as the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951 is struggling to cope with a world transformed out of all recognition.


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