A shocking triple twist was delivered in the final moments of Baptiste’s debut episode on BBC1 – and we have a lot of questions.
The first instalment of The Missing spin-off followed beloved French detective Julien Baptiste (Tchéky Karyo) as he helped distraught Edward Stratton (Tom Hollander) hunt for a missing sex worker, Natalie (Anna Prochniak), who he claimed was his niece.
But in the closing scenes, we discovered that:
a) Edward is NOT Natalie’s uncle
b) He has the head of a man (the one gruesomely decapitated in the opening scene) in his basement
c) Natalie has a younger sister, Cristina (Freya Kingsley), who is being sex trafficked.
So why wasn’t Cristina ever mentioned before? Why is that decaying head in Edward’s basement? And is Baptiste’s family in danger?
Here, the show’s writers Harry and Jack Williams provide us with some answers…
Baptiste and Edward spend the whole first episode tracking down Natalie, the sex worker who Edward claims is his niece and who, thanks to a tip off from the mysterious Kim Vogel (Talisa Garcia), Baptiste later finds alive and well in her own apartment.
Edward had explained how he effectively adopted Natalie after her own parents passed away – and he plays the role of her concerned uncle convincingly, dashing from sex shop to bar to hunt her down and even suffering a panic attack in the street for fear of not finding her.
But when Baptiste finally locates her, Natalie dismisses her relation to Edward, telling the Frenchman: “he’s not my f***ing uncle. He is not who you think he is, not at all.” So who is he?
“The relationship of Natalie to Edward is the heart of the show and it’s literally the thing that drives the entire show in a way that we don’t think anyone will expect,” say Harry and Jack Williams. “It’s a complex relationship and Edward’s a really complex character. He’s caught in a web.”
At no point in the search is there any mention of Cristina, Natalie’s younger sister, who is being held in captivity by sex traffickers – we only know the connection between the siblings because Cristina explains to a fellow captive how she was kidnapped during a visit to see her sister.
So, what is Cristina’s story, does Edward know about her – and if so, why didn’t he mention her before?
“It becomes clear in episode three. The behaviour of everyone in the show, particularly Edward, is incredibly complex and layered. In keeping with the show’s themes, it’s often about what’s not said and why it’s not said.”
Cristina is in captivity with a group of girls who appear to be being sold off as sex slaves to unknown buyers who choose their victims via video call. As Cristina tells one of the girls, she has been at the mercy of the traffickers for months, after being kidnapped in Amsterdam when she got into the car of a man who offered her weed.
But who is the person on the phone seen selecting the young women from a line-up? And could this whole operation be linked to the Romanian criminal who we see at the start of the episode and who is closely watching Baptiste?
While we are on Edward’s side at the beginning, willing him to succeed in his search for his missing niece, by the end of the hour he is looking very much like a guilty man.
Not only has Edward lied about his relationship with Natalie, but he also has the rotting, decapitated head of a man we saw brutally murdered at the start of the episode hidden in his basement.
So, why, if Edward seems to be implicated in some heinous crimes, would he risk being caught by reporting Natalie’s disappearance to the police? What is worth that risk?
“Edward is a desperate man,” explain the Williams brothers. “Desperate men do desperate things and it’s very, very important that he finds this girl. But his motivations for doing that are not straightforward at all. It’s important that he finds her and important that he’s willing to take risks.
“There’s a duality to him and we’re never quite sure where he stands – and neither is Julien. Edward genuinely doesn’t know where Natalie is, and so even if reporting her missing implicates him in something else, it’s worth the risk. He wants to find her, for good or bad reasons we don’t know, it’s a muddy thing.”
In the opening scenes of the episode, we see a man in his idyllic British seaside home being suffocated and sawn to pieces by a Romanian thug posing as boiler man. That very same man is later seen in Amsterdam discussing Natalie, telling a criminal associate that the police are looking for her in order to find him. Knowing that Baptiste has been recruited to track her down, he bugs the handbag of the French detective’s wife Celia (Anastasia Hille) after following her through the supermarket.
Then at the end of the hour, the murdered man’s head is shown rotting in Edward’s basement. Harry and Jack Williams were impressed by the gruesome shot:
“It looks amazing, what a prosthetic. And there are flies in there, very good. Very expensive flies.”
But who is the man who was killed? And does Edward know the dangerous ‘boiler man’ who committed the gruesome crime?
“In the first half of the series we’ll find out more about the head and it will deliver on a lot of levels. Again, like everything in the show, nothing’s played for shock, everything’s there for a reason.
“Things we see in episode one pay off right at the very end or half way through – everything has its place so we haven’t seen the last of that and the meaning is very much unpacked for us.
“[The man’s killing] is a very important scene for the rest of the series.”
We first hear the name Dragomir Zelincu when Edward tells Baptiste he thinks Dragomir, who used to run a Romanian sex trafficking gang before he disappeared, either took Natalie or knows the person who did.
Meanwhile, one of the sex workers who Baptiste approaches for information goes to see Amsterdam café owner Kim Vogel, telling her: “You said you were going to protect [Natalie] and now she’s disappeared… they will kill me, they’re coming after me next… if you really care about us girls, you will help.”
This tense conversation prompts Kim to contact Baptiste.
After the detective sees Rita Hayworth DVDs at Kim’s house and a Rita Hayworth poster at a trans brothel owned by Dragomir, he makes the connection and realises that Dragomir has actually transitioned and is now a woman: Kim. This also explains the notorious criminal’s disappearance and the fact that there are no records of Kim preceding 18 months ago.
When Baptiste confronts Kim with this theory, putting it to her that she protected Natalie so the young woman wouldn’t reveal her former identity, Kim relents and gives the detective Natalie’s location.
But is Kim also hiding other secrets? The sex worker who visited her in the café seems to think Kim has something to answer for – and there’s a secret they’re all in on that someone seems ready to kill to protect.
And if Edward lied about his relation to Natalie, did he also lie about knowing who Dragomir was? Given they both have complex relationships with Natalie, perhaps Edward and Kim have more history than we are led to believe…
At various points in the episode, we are shown a mysterious, lonely tulip farmer who spends a large portion of his time chatting away to his dog.
He finds a necklace with an ‘N’ for Natalie on it, before his pet frantically digs up something that makes his owner’s jaw drop when he sees it. What has he found – and how will it link back to the main story? The Williams brothers remain cryptic:
“More mystery. Herman, the tulip farmer, is a very interesting character for us. There are no red herrings in this series, everything we see is very important but it does all ultimately connect. There’s nothing wasted. We’ll see more of him.”
Episode one shows the unnerving encounter between the Romanian mobster and Baptiste’s wife Celia when he bugs her handbag and stares threateningly at Baptiste’s baby granddaughter.
We then see the Romanian listening in on Celia’s conversations with Baptiste and following his investigation into Natalie’s whereabouts. Could Baptiste’s family be used to blackmail the detective and stop him from pursuing the Natalie case?
“Baptiste’s family are definitely in danger. That is a huge and exciting thing in this series that’s never happened before, him being so embroiled in a way where the stakes become incredibly personal.
“We tried to do something unexpected with that as well, hopefully it’s not what you think it will be.”
Baptiste continues on Sundays at 9pm on BBC1
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