This is a bit of a tricky review to write, without getting spoilery….
Suffice to say the resolution of Episode 1 of Baptiste I pretty much saw coming and if our hero detective didn’t see it then maybe he needs a plucky sidekick.
Baptiste is a spin-off from the very excellent series The Missing, which had two rather tense seasons crafted by talented brothers Jack and Harry Williams (Liar).
Both featured veteran French actor Tchéky Karyo whose star turn as detective Julien Baptiste was a principal reason for its success. Now he returns, retired and with a brain tumour, but never far away from a complex crime. Joining him are Anastasia Hille as wife Celia and Camille Schott as daughter Sara.
If Julien Baptiste was afflicted before now he faces all kinds of challenges, struggling with retirement, a sense of purpose and declining health. When his former boss Martha (Barbara Sarafian) reaches out for help over a missing sex worker, you know it doesn’t take much for him to slip into old habits.
“We’ve got no-one else with your experience,” she urges.
“I’m not the man I once was,” he warns. “But I will do the best to find her, I promise.”
The case centres around Edward Stratton (Tom Hollander) whose niece Natalie Rose has gone missing while working the streets of Amsterdam’s red light district. This is a stark world of red-painted ladies hustling their wares behind glass windows on the street, but Baptiste teams up with the desperate uncle to look for clues.
Suspicions will point towards Romanian drug trafficker Dragomir Zelincu, but along the way there are sex traffickers, a chase, bugging and betrayals, all with the backdrop of canals and streetscapes.
There’s also a B-plot surrounding the brutal murder of a man in England, but how it fits into the picture is deliberately unclear.
While The Missing was gripping and hooked around the ailing parents (James Nesbitt, Frances O’Connor in S1), Baptiste shifts sideways with the clue-solver taking centrestage. As a result there is less tension and less innocence in this world, but is in safe hands with the assured and soothing tones of Tchéky Karyo.
Jack and Harry Williams have proven to be masterful storytellers so I have confidence they will peel back an onion of complex storylines to challenge our hero and us as viewers.
But while Julien is not the man he once was, Baptiste is not quite The Missing it once was either.
Baptiste begins 8:30pm tonight on BBC First.