Show name: Baptiste
Release date: 2019
Genre: Murder mystery, police drama
Starring: Tcheky Karyo, Tom Hollander, Fiona Shaw
Created by: Harry Williams, Jack Williams
Length: 2 seasons, 12 episodes
Baptiste is a two-series spin off from The Missing, a crime drama about missing children.
Julien Baptiste was the retired detective called to help solve those earlier cases, and he has since got his own series.
Season 1 is set in Amsterdam. Baptiste and his wife are in the Netherlands helping their daughter and son-in-law with their newborn baby.
A sex worker goes missing and Baptiste is contacted by Martha, the city police commissioner, to find the young woman. He meets Natalie’s uncle Edward Stratton (Tom Hollander) and agrees to help.
Baptiste soon becomes suspicious of whether Natalie wishes to be found. When he does discover her whereabouts, he merely tells Stratton that she is safe.
It then emerges that Natalie was not his niece but a young woman he had paid for company (if not for sex) after his daughter died.
Natalie drowns by accident while hiding from a Romanian gang called the Brigada Serbilu. She had stolen money from them intending to use it to buy back her sister who had been snatched by the gang.
Baptiste and Martha become drawn into helping a European task force set up to infiltrate the gang and bring them to justice.
Baptiste’s family are threatened, as is Stratton and his ex-wife Clare. Stratton’s father is murdered as a warning to return the gang’s money immediately.
The series was much more brutal than the original drama on which it was based, which was already gruelling enough.
A new location, a fresh cast and a focus on organised crime and prostitution rather than the abduction of children produced a darker tone.
I love Julien Baptiste, so I was delighted when this spin off was renewed for a second season, which aired in 2021.
Season 2 starred Fiona Shaw as Emma Chambers, the British Ambassador to Hungary. Her teenage daughter in murdered in a drugs-motivated burglary at their home. Her husband is then shot some time later, and her two teenage sons are abducted at the same time as this killing.
Baptiste sees the case on TV and offers to help. This is rejected by Hungarian police but accepted by Emma.
The investigation initially believes that the boys (Will and Alex) have been taken in order to be ransomed. However, a video of Alex being killed by what appears to be Islamic extremists then emerges.
Both the police and Baptiste conclude independently that the video is false, although Alex has been killed. Attention then turns to the far right in Hungary using faked videos to stir up resentment against immigrants.
The investigation moves forward by considering whether Will and Alex may have been radicalised by the group before the abduction.
Meanwhile, Baptiste’s personal life continues to come under pressure as his ongoing commitment to missing persons’ cases tests his long-suffering wife’s patience to the limit.
I loved Baptiste, especially as I had really enjoyed its precursor, The Missing. The show was gritty and tough. But it addressed some truly challenging issues such as extremism and people trafficking in an honest way that made it compelling viewing.
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