It may not be the series finale, but it felt like one, as a medical drama randomly broke out in the middle of our Unforgotten Season 4 finale episode. There were tears, uncomfortable waiting room chairs, bedside confessionals, and DCI Cassie Stuart, only weeks from retirement, in a coma, having been smashed into by a car and taken for surgery.
There was even a marriage proposal, as Sunny, moved by the shocking turn of events, proposed then and there to Sal. But fans already could guess what was coming, and somehow the announcement Cassie would never wake up felt almost inevitable when it arrived. Her father was left with nothing but a message he was too angry to answer, listening to it on repeat forever.
She longest lives, who most to others gives, herself forgetting. Cassie Stuart 1972-2020
With that development, the rest of the episode felt almost obligatory. There was Liz, getting the redemption arc edit as she tells her wife-to-be Janet everything and that it was their love that helped her live again after spending years besieged by guilt. Fiona also got a redemption arc. Her husband Geoff said he still loved her despite everything and was proud of her for owning her past. Even the survivors of the Walsh family got a happy ending as Jerome reached out to his Uncle Clive.
And then there were Ram and Dean, confronted by fountain pens, clearly one of them guilty. Actually, both of them were. Murray followed the trail of money breadcrumbs straight into the Calais job from the opening episode, with Dean's payoff to Ram for helping him clear things with the border patrol and smuggle cocaine across the border popped up in an account attributed to Ram's first wife. It only took one arrest — of that border guard from the opening episode who proceeded to sing like a canary.
But in the end, the answer to who killed Matthew Walsh was somewhat unsatisfying. There were several possibilities. The most obvious (and problematic) would have been Ram in a fit of rage, but that didn't fit the CPR clue. Another would have been Fiona, drunk and in a fit of PTSD, or Liz taking revenge for her girlfriend. The most satisfying and the most realistic would have been the "it's not the crime but the cover-up." Matthew hit his head and died from an accident, and these five people have been suffering guilt for years because no one called an ambulance like a sensible person.
But no. Unforgotten had to go the surprise gangster route and pull up an extra dead relative for Dean, Stephen Quinn, who died in 1989. The academic one in the family, he bought Dean a fountain pen for his 18th birthday. His death was what drove Dean to change his name and join the force, horrified because his brother was stabbed to death by a rival drug family down the road, and the family closed ranks to deal with it themselves, but then didn't. Instead, the lowlife who murdered his brother walked free.... free to sexually assault his classmate Fiona and beat the snot out of his BFF Ram in a pub. Matthew Walsh killed Dean's brother, and this was a crime of revenge.
And with that, both Dean and Ram also get sympathy edits. Anna struggles through her issues with their child and decides she has the strength to bring a child into the world who won't be perfect, promising Ram they'll be there for him when he gets out. As for Dean, his complete breakdown in the interview room that he failed to escape the violence and criminality of his family is enough. Meanwhile, Marnie sits at home waiting for a call from him that will never come, but she's put up with a lot in that marriage. As long as the charges never hit her, it's likely she'll take him back too.
Once again, Unforgotten runs up against an issue it's had before: Sometimes, the guy whose death Cassie and company are trying to find justice for deserved to die. The law failed Dean, so he took it into his own hands, just like Marion, Colin, and Sara in Season 2 in the Case of David Walker. And perhaps, had Cassie lived, she might have seen the connection, realized that her last case would bring her no peace, that there is no closure, only the knowledge of when it is time to walk away. Unfortunately, she never got there, and instead, she died in a random crash by a carjacker, utterly unrelated to the case at hand.
But since Dean Barton is no Colin Osborne, there is no defense on the quality and meaning of justice to persuade anyone. Instead, four people made a terrible choice 30 years ago, and now their lives are ruined. For the first time in Unforgotten history, everyone goes to jail. Liz and Fiona are charged with the "prevention of the lawful and decent burial of a dead body," with Fiona getting a secondary charge for practicing medicine without a license. Ram and Dean are charged with the cocaine smuggling, with Ram getting extra charges for behavior unbecoming of an officer of the law and Dean for murder. Is this justice? Some might call it so, but all I see is a tragedy.
But that's not the end for Unforgotten. Cassie may be gone, but Sunny, Fran, Murray, Jake, and Kaz will soldier on. When the show returns (and it will), it'll be a new day, a new DCI, and a new era.
Farewell to Cassie Stuart, who served not wisely but too well.