'Unforgotten's Season 5 Finale Leaves Us with "The Case of Joseph Bell"

Sinéad Keenan as DCI Jesse James and Sanjeev Bhaskar as DC Sunil "Sunny" Khan at the crime scene in 'Unforgotten' Season 5

Sinéad Keenan as DCI Jesse James and Sanjeev Bhaskar as DC Sunil "Sunny" Khan in 'Unforgotten' Season 5

(C) Mainstreet Productions

What is justice? It's a question Unforgotten's first two seasons grappled with heavily, with Season 1 failing to stick the landing by trying to address too many cultural issues at once, while Season 2 focused on the reality that many times, justice isn't going to come from within the system. Season 5's finale feels like a combination of the two, with the system being manipulated by outside forces to achieve justice, but with a result that feels unsatisfying, partially because it is deeply muddied by the series trying to smash too many social ills into a single case.

Jess: You were just trying to improve your wiki page. We see you.

We pick up the final episode right where it left off last week with the show's patented Episode 5 second body twist, a fun development, even if it was shoehorned at the last minute. (With all the Sunny and Jess drama, everything about the cases has been running behind its usual schedule, from the victim reveal not coming until Episode 2 to the second body dumped on the doorstep at the end of Episode 5. Balcombe shrugs; the body is young, male, and dead from two bullets to the head. It's not not Joseph Bell. Jess frets they still haven't proven Tony at the scene of Precious' death, but she'd bet her sister's life on it, so that's enough to send Murray to keep him from taking off on his plane.

As the sun rises, Lacy Emma goes out in the morning to dismiss what she thinks is a reporter sleeping in a car; Ebele steps out and stops her in her tracks by telling her ladyship who she is. While Emma meets her 58-year-old stepdaughter for the first time, Jess deals with Steve, who decides to come home and sleep in the guest room. He claims he didn't go as far as schtupping Debbie, it was more of an emotional affair, and now that he's had time to think, he's realized he doesn't want to do this after all. I don't have to tell you how this goes over or how fast Jess walks out the door.

Ian McElhinney as Lord Tony Hume gets questioned in 'Unforgotten' Season 5

Ian McElhinney as Lord Tony Hume in 'Unforgotten' Season 5

(C) Mainstreet Productions

Karol gets questioned first, confirming he is a red herring. (No, I will not feel sympathy for his "upskirt photos," and trying to make me because he's Jewish and experienced anti-semitism is, frankly, offensive.) At least he gives Jess what she needs: Tony Hume cleaning the Hammersmith House the morning after the murder. Back on the houseboat, Ebele has heard the reports of the second body and is damned near hysterical, screaming at Dave that she lived there but "her dad" paid the rent, had keys, and shipped her off to Cornwall during that time. (Poor Dave is perplexed since Ebele always claimed she never knew her father.) 

Meanwhile, Kaz and Balcombe confirm the body was Joseph Bell, and "Joseph Bell" is Jay Royce. But Fran has the real prize, placing Hume at the Hammersmith House on the night of the murder because (I love this) he stopped to get gas at the corner station. In interrogation, Jess asks outright if Hume killed his granddaughter. He tries to lie; he only has grandsons. But he's been playing Ebele monthly for the last 30 years, to which he admits she was the product of a "brief relationship," and he knew about her and Precious. Graham (Surprise! Graham is his lawyer!) tells him to "No comment" his way through this, as we've seen his daughter and great-grandson do. But privilege will out. 

So, like so many Agatha Christie stories, Hume confesses. After supporting Ebele since learning of her in her mid-20s, Precious found him in 2015. When Ebele said her daughter was homeless, the Hammersmith property was empty, so he gave her keys. The night she died, Ebele called to say Joe was high, freaking out, demanding money. He told Ebele to deal with it but then went himself. Joseph was violent, waving around a gun, trying to force Hume to take him to a cash machine when Precious interceded. The gun went off, and the bullet hit Joe; Precious, horrified at killing her son, turned the gun on herself and took her own life. At that moment, Ebele walked in.

Martina Laird as Ebele Falade goes to visit her father in 'Unforgotten' Season 5 

Martina Laird as Ebele Falade in 'Unforgotten' Season 5 

(C) Mainstreet Productions

He claims he left Precious' body with Ebele, took Joe, and buried him at Ebele's apartment because it was the first place he could think of. He also claims he had no idea Precious had been stuffed in the chimney, and Ebele claimed she'd buried the body in the woods. He also confesses he was the one who called and told them where to find Bell's body after Graham called with Jay's reveal last week. Hume swears this is the truth, but Jess seems doubtful. (But hey, she doesn't believe Steve either, and yet she's letting him stay, at least as long as he keeps putting the twins to bed.) She asks for Ebele to be brought in.

Ebele begins with her mother, Nigerian immigrant Yetunde. At 17, she was cleaning staff at his father's firm, pressured by a teenage Tony after hours to drink until she passed out, whereupon he raped her. (So much for Tony's "brief relationship.") Yetunde wrote Tony and his father upon discovering her condition. (So much for Tony's "not knowing" until Ebele was in her mid-20s.) Having brought shame to her family, she committed suicide when Ebele was three weeks old. At 18, when Ebele found out Tony was her father, she confronted him, and he threatened her. (See previous "so much for") She stalked him, proved his paternity, and threatened to go to the papers to gain financial support.

As for that night, Ebele says Tony called her because Joseph called threatening him, not the other way around. However, the scene when she arrived was as he said: Precious dead, Joe dying, blood everywhere. He told her the same story he told Jess and Sunny; at the time, in shock, she didn't question it. But looking back, she does. Not that she has any idea what happened. However, she did place her daughter in the chimney and had a friend go back a couple of weeks later and fix the plasterboard, never knowing why it was damaged. However, when asked about "Jay Royce," she looks blank and asks who he is. 

Rhys Yates as Jay Royce staring into the Thames in 'Unforgotten' Season 5

Rhys Yates as Jay Royce in 'Unforgotten' Season 5

(C) Mainstreet Productions

Speaking of Jay, Cheryl took off with Jordan, leaving him rudderless. When Sunny approaches him, asking to talk, he seems perplexed. Why? Nothing will happen. Sunny argues he is the only eyewitness to what happened in that room, and if Hume is going to be charged, they need him. So Jay sits down, confirming his mother was intent on keeping him off the radar; neither Hume nor his Nan knew he existed. Hume arrived first, about ten minutes before Ebele. Jay hadn't planned on going downstairs, but then Joe and Precious began screaming at Hume, so he watched from the landing as Joe told Hume off for raping his great-grandmother, and Hume began to throttle Joe, choking the life out of him.

According to Jay, that's why Joe pulled the gun, as Hume promised his body would disappear. Precious did freak out at the weapon; she and Joe wrestled for it, as Hume said. But the bullet hit Precious, not Joe. Hume demanded the gun, and Joe, sixteen, in shock, his mother dying, Joe handed it over. Hume shot him in the back of the head. That's when Ebele walked in and Jay ran. Brought back in, Hume doesn't dispute Jay's version, saying he's spent the last six years trying to make amends, but it's not enough, never enough. (Honestly, though, this just makes the whole scene at Mustafa's house and the offer of money creepy now.)

The police charge Tony with the murder of his great-grandson in 2016 and also with his original crime: the rape of Yetunde Falade, a 59-year-old crime far older than anything Cassie ever landed. Maybe Jessie James will fit in just fine?

Stream Now


Police officers investigate the murder of a boy whose diary implicates four couples.
Unforgotten: show-poster2x3

But we're not done yet. Though the ancient crime is real, and justice will be served for a woman who took her own life and a family that has never known a moment's peace since, apparently, the charge to get there is not true. When Ebele comes to the estate to find Jay and announce she's his Nan (as if this abusive drunken woman who struggles with a lack of therapy and AA, who has spent decades in denial about her own life, is somehow about to be sunshine and roses on her houseboat with this kid), he admits his story was a lie.

Hume told the truth. Precious did kill Joe and then took her own life. Jay's story was revenge for four generations of pain that he wrought upon their families, for all the wrongs white aristocrats have been inflicting on the working class since Thatcherism. Ebele stares silent, shocked, blanching. This is the Jay we know to be true; this is the Jay we saw standing tall in the halls of Parliament, giving a black eye to a lordship without fear of reprisal. Perhaps it is Jay's Nan who should tremble in fear of what four generations have produced.

Justice was served a long time ago. Justice will never be served. Hume is merely accepting it as his fate. Maybe Jessie James will fit in just fine.


Ani Bundel has been blogging professionally since 2010. A DC native, Hufflepuff, and Keyboard Khaleesi, she spends all her non-writing time taking pictures of her cats. Regular bylines also found on MSNBC, Paste, Primetimer, and others. 

A Woman's Place Is In Your Face. Cat Approved. Find her on BlueSky and other social media of your choice: @anibundel.bsky.social

More to Love from Telly Visions