Not As Strong As He Used To Be
Acting as a spin-off to the critically acclaimed The Missing, Baptiste is the latest BBC crime thriller, focusing on one of the characters from that show Julian Baptiste. While it’s not necessary to watch The Missing before jumping into this, prior knowledge of events certainly helps here, given the character background for this retired French Detective.
After a brief prologue in Dean, England involving a shell-collecting pensioner and a gas meter reading employee, the story cuts to Julian Baptiste, now retired from duty and on baby formula buying duties for his niece. When a particularly troubling case involving a Romanian group of sex traffickers is linked to the disappearance of a young teenage girl, Julian is thrust back into the line of duty.
Most of the episode follows a pretty formulaic route from here, with Julian teaming up with the girl’s Father whose still reeling over the events that occurred previously. After chasing a suspicious man on foot, they soon learn that the local sex club may hold the key to finding the young girl. Most of the episode then involves Julian trying to piece together bits of the puzzle while asking around the area for the location of this girl. A lucky break late on in the episode leads him onto the case of a prolific trafficker called Dragomir Zalinku. As Julian begins diving deeper into the associations with this name, help from an unlikely source offers some newfound information, giving Julian a reason to get to work and solving the case.
While this plot develops, we do see some of the episode from the perspective of the sex traffickers, with another big secret revealed late on that brings a new level of complexity to the fold and changes the game completely. All of this looks set to build up to a thrilling set of episodes to come and a complete mystery around what direction this show is likely to take next.
For the most part, Baptiste does well and there’s enough here to hold your attention through to the end. Stylistically, the series is pretty formulaic in its approach and some of the dialogue is a little clumsy and unnecessary. Hearing Baptiste tell people he’s not as strong as he used to be three times in separate conversations is a little excessive and combined with his mental fogginess and physical ability, this does feel a bit overkill in getting this message across.
Still, there’s certainly a lot of promise here with this one and even this early in the game, Baptiste’s tone and general pacing make it feel like a series waiting to burst into action. Given the way other BBC dramas have started promisingly and faded thanks to poor writing, it remains to be seen how this crime thriller holds up by comparison. The final fifteen minutes of the show do speed things up, adding some much-needed urgency to the show and hopefully BBC have nailed the formula this time around for this spin-off series. Only time will tell though but I’m certainly keeping a keen eye on this one going forward.
Provisional Season Rating