‘Unforgotten’ Season 4 Episode 1 Recap: Cassie’s Reluctant Return

British mystery drama Unforgotten returned to PBS on July 11 for its fourth season. The show’s premiere neatly sets up the drama that will play out over the course of the next five episodes, which involves both a decades-old crime and Detective Chief Inspector Cassie Stuart’s (Nicola Walker) not-entirely-voluntary return to police work. Let’s recap what happened in the first episode. 

‘Unforgotten’ Season 4 begins with a body in a freezer 

Sunny, taking notes, and Cassie standing at a bar in 'Unforgotten' Season 4
Sunny (Sanjeev Bhaskar) and Cassie (NICOLA WALKER) in Unforgotten | (C) Mainstreet Pictures LTD

This season of Unforgotten begins with a grisly discovery. Workers at a dumpsite find the body of a young man, sans head and hands. Detective Sergeant Sunny Khan (Sanjeev Bhaskar) is on hand to investigate, along with DC Fran Lingley (Carolina Main). 

The body appears to have been stored in a freezer, and a few clues (the serial number of the bloody appliance, a candy wrapper) indicate the remains could be decades old. Identifying the victim is a challenge, but he does have an unusual tattoo. With that, the team is off to the races, or rather, the databases. In Unforgotten, detective work, especially in the early stages of an investigation, is more about quiet research than confrontational interviews with potential suspects (Law & Order this is not.) Before long they’ve figured out roughly when the crime occurred — 1990 — and who the victim is — a 24-year-old named Matthew Walsh. Now comes the hard part: figuring out how he died, and who’s responsible. 

Cassie Stuart makes a decision 

Not present during the investigation into Matthew’s death is Cassie. She’s been on leave for the past year after the harrowing events we saw last season. Bhaskar conveys the weight of his partner’s absence with Sunny’s pointed look at her empty office. 

It’s clear Cassie has no desire to return to the force. She’s given nearly 30 years and “everything [she] has” to her job. The emotional strain has become too much to bear, especially now that she’s dealing with her father’s dementia. But retirement is just out of reach. Unless she completes a full three decades of service, she won’t be entitled to her full pension. With the extent of her increasingly irascible father’s future care needs unclear, Cassie is stuck. Faced with a choice, that is, as she puts it, no choice at all, she agrees to return to work for three months. 

Tracking down another killer wasn’t on the top of Cassie’s to-do list, but once she’s back at work, she dives in with calm efficiency. She and Sunny immediately fall back into their comfortable dynamic. She’s steady and empathetic. He’s equally competent and sensitive to the unique challenges that come with their work, though with more of a sense of humor and ability to set work-life boundaries.

We meet the suspects 

Ram looking out a window in 'Unforgotten'
Ram (Phaldut Sharma) in Unforgotten | (C) Mainstreet Pictures LTD

Interspersed with scenes of the investigation into Matthew’s death and Cassie’s personal situation, we get glimpses at the lives of four people who are our likely suspects. Matthew’s body was discovered in a freezer owned by a recently deceased man. That man was ticketed for drunk driving in 1990 at a location not far from where Matthew was last seen. In the car with him at the time were four other passengers.

Ram (Phaldut Sharma) appears successful and happy (we meet him bringing a gift to his mom for Mother’s Day, and his wife is pregnant). But in a conversation with his brother, he drops an ominous reference to something they “both know … ain’t over.”

Liz Baildon (Susan Lynch) lives in Cambridge. Her elderly, bedridden mother is a nasty piece of work, bluntly telling her daughter that everyone she ever loved is dead. Meanwhile, her mother’s in-home caregiver is threatening to quit if she doesn’t get a raise and Liz’s girlfriend wants her not to invite the “evil old cow” to their wedding. 

Fiona Grayson (Liz White) is a family therapist with a picture-perfect family of her own. They live in England’s scenic Peak District, and their life is so outwardly idyllic that there’s a guarantee there’s some darkness hiding just below the surface. 

Finally, there’s Dean Barton (Andy Nyman), who is married, has a disabled son he clearly loves (as well as another child we see only in a photograph), and runs a non-profit. But there’s a hint of some sketchy business in his past when an old acquaintance named Felix reaches out and attempts to pull him into a mysterious deal involving a “massive shipment” that is obviously not entirely legal.

When does the next episode of ‘Unforgotten’ air?

With the main suspects introduced, it’s now up to Cassie and Sunny to pay a visit to each and dredge up aspects of their undoubtedly complicated pasts. And we get a sense of just how complicated those pasts might be in the episode’s final moments. That’s when the detectives learn that all five people in the car had just completed training to become police. Hopefully, we’ll find out more about that twist when Unforgotten Season 4 Episode 2 airs Sunday, July 18 at 9 p.m. ET on PBS. 

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