Like many prestige shows currently on TV, Baptiste's second season begins in medias res. Emma Chambers (Fiona Shaw) wakes up and lowers herself into her wheelchair before meeting Toby (Jamie Maclachlan), assisting her with something not entirely above board. What that is, the show will get back to before this is all over, but until then, it's time to jump 14 months previous to the night before she lost her family.
Emma: I always thought people who do their job for free are either delusional or not very good at it.
But before we cover the setup for this season of Baptiste, we should rewind to the show that initially introduced the character, the BBC series The Missing, which aired over here on STARZ in 2014. Though the show was billed as a mystery thriller, it was really a story about obsession. James Nesbitt starred as Tony, who turned his back for a moment during a football match and never saw his eight-year-old son, Oliver, again.
Tony could never accept his son was gone, convinced somehow Oliver could be found and Tony redeemed. Even after the truth comes out that the child was killed in a hit and run, Tony still doesn't accept it — and neither does the audience, having seen a bearded kidnapper figure stalking children who looked like Oliver. But the final scene reveals the kidnapper is Tony, now gone utterly mad, having become the thing he believed himself chasing.
Season 2 downplayed the obsession angle some, relying more on star Keeley Hawes' emotional roller coaster to hold it up. Baptiste Season 1 also attempted to move away from the central obsessive nature of Edward Stratton's search for Natalie. Both suffered for it, though at least The Missing Season 2 came up with a happy ending to make up for the loss. Baptiste Season 1 did not and is the weakest entry because of it.
But the new season of Baptiste fully returns to the series as a portrait of obsessive fixation, the personal belief that if someone can fix one thing, they can somehow fix their lives. Baptiste (Tchéky Karyo) has fully dived into that, having lost his daughter Sarah, whose drug relapses were never far from the edge of the picture and whose death seemed to have taken the life of her child as well. It is a choice that will drive Celia (Anastasia Hille) to leave him.
But like The Missing, Baptiste is only as strong as the guest star the BBC pairs with Karyo. In this case, he's been given the great Fiona Shaw, who does not just co-star but takes the entire show wholesale and turns it into The Emma Chambers Mystery. Her obsession drives this season, and her madness, which fully careens off the deep end by the end of the hour, is what's worth watching.
Chambers is not a happy woman. Her husband Richard (Adrian Rawlins) is a misogynistic jerk who's resentful of having to revolve his life around her ambassador job in Hungary. Her two teenage sons also resent her, especially since the death of their sister Laura, in an incident that left younger son Will (Conrad Khan) mute, and only communicating with his brother, Alex (Stuart Campbell), by text.
After an uncomfortable dinner where Emma drunkenly overshares their story with "hotel friends" Benjamin and Sally (Rhashan Stone and Michelle Duncan) and ends with her and Richard having a row, she wakes to discover all three gone. It's not until she finds Will's phone — his only method of communication — still in his room that she realizes something has gone very wrong and alerts assistant Nadeem (Ace Bhatti).
Baptiste was already running from case to case without stopping when he heard Chambers' plea from his hotel TV. So he drops everything and just... goes to Budapest because that's how he lives now. The woman in charge, Major Zsofia Arslan (Dorka Gryllus), knows who he is and is not best pleased with his arrival. (The police and hotel were already passively working to keep this case from making headway.) When Baptiste finds Richard's body along with his phone that contains a recording of the moment of his murder and the boys' kidnapping, it drives Emma to work harder at finding them.
Benjamin saw the getaway car on his way back from schtupping the nanny, but did not think about what he'd witnessed. (Any man who sleeps with the nanny does not think.) But he identifies the driver as a man with a giant neck tattoo. When Will manages a silent payphone call, the announcement in the background gives Emma and Baptiste their location and sends them to the train station. It brings Baptiste face to face with the tattooed driver: Andras Juszt (Miklós Béres).
Cut to the present day, and Baptiste, now drunk, divorced, and unemployed, wasting away in France. Whatever happened on the case was ugly, ending in a blood bath, leaving Emma in a chair and Alex dead. Emma spends every day at Alex's grave until she discovers someone else regularly visiting, too: Juszt. Instead of recognizing a man who regrets and could give her closure, she sees the only path to finding her son Will, who she believes she can still save. As the episode closes, she opens the trunk of her car and reveals to Baptiste her enraged and tattooed caged cargo while looking every inch the portrait of a woman who has gone well over the edge.