As good old Kylie Minogue sings, ‘I’m spinning around’, this is exactly what popped into my head as the ending credits rolled to the first episode of Baptiste on BBC One. Nevertheless, it was bamboozlement in the finest sense of the word.
Coming off the back of a brilliant second series of The Missing, the BBC decided to commission a spin-off series about its main character, ex-detective extraordinaire Julien Baptiste (Tcheky Karyo). He is one of the greatest fictional TV characters to have been created within the last twenty years or so.
It is hard to define exactly what is so likeable about Baptiste, but it all lies in this strong sense of confidence that he exudes as a mature man. Created and written by brothers Harry and Jack Williams, he is a bit like the John Wayne of the detective world. It also must be said that he is brilliantly acted throughout by the sublime Tcheky Karyo.
This time around we found Baptiste and his family in Amsterdam, Holland. His wife Celia (Anastasia Hille) and he, are doting new grandparents to their daughter’s child. He is also taking it easy somewhat having just recovered from having had a brain tumour.
Soon into the narrative though, Baptiste got the call about his help being required once more to find a missing sex worker called Natalie Rose (Anna Prochniak). The call coming from Martha (Barbara Sarafian), an old flame of Baptiste’s, who is one of the most senior police officers in Amsterdam. What with us seeing her drinking whilst on duty, we gather that more will be revealed about Martha as the narrative proceeds in the weeks ahead.
The other main character was Edward Stratton (Tom Hollander). He claimed at the start to be Natalie’s uncle and so he and Baptiste set about trying to find her. For a time, it was all pretty much formulaic stuff as they had successes and hit dead-ends with their search. Just as their search had started to get a bit tedious, a major narrative twist took place involving a transsexual character.
It was narrative twists such as this that made for such stimulating viewing. Just as we had regained our composure then boom, we got another one and a corking of a cliffhanger at the end. The writing needs to be lauded for keeping us on our toes. In an age now where we are often spoon-fed boring middle-of-the-road detective dramas, Baptiste like The Missing, stands out positively for at least trying to be original.
Another thing you must bear in mind about the great writing, is that the writers do not want us to understand everything at the beginning of the narrative. It is a thriller, and so we are meant to find some things confusing at first. The viewer enjoyment here is all about the thrill of the ride and the second guessing about what is about to happen. You just need to accept that certain things will not make sense for now, but will do so in time as long as we keep watching.
A final aspect of Baptiste that needs applauding was the European style cinematography that was also present in The Missing. It added to the haunting quality of the narrative beautifully.
Yes, my mind was ‘spinning around’ by the end of this programme, but it was spinning in a good way. Intrigued to see how it develops in the coming weeks. 4/5.