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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Another French connection

Review by Ben Soton

Baptiste Series 2, currently showing on BBC1, Sundays at 9pm; also available on BBC iPlayer. Created by: Harry Williams, Jack Williams. Written by: Harry Williams, Jack Williams, Kelly Jones, Catherine Moulton. Stars: Tchéky Karyo, Anastasia Hille, Barbara Sarafian.

BBC1 is currently screening the second and final series of Baptiste, a gripping drama in which the retired French police officer Julien Baptiste (played by Tchéky Karyo) tracks down missing persons, those whom the regular police are incapable of locating. The drama emerged from an earlier series, The Missing, originally shown in 2014, in which the main character played a prominent role. The French detective was later revived when the first Baptiste series was launched in 2019.

In the current series the family of the British Ambassador to Hungary, Emma Chambers (played by Fiona Shaw), goes missing and she uses Baptiste to find them. The search leads them to a Hungarian far-right party and its links to an even more sinister terrorist group known as Gomorrah. In episode three a Hungarian far-right politician uses a children’s story as the basis for a speech she is about to make, showing the simplistic and childlike nature of their arguments. At face value, the programme dismisses the view that the European Union is an oasis of enlightenment, and that Brexit Island is a bastion of ignorance.

Episodes so far have been dominated by flash-backs between past and present. The purpose of this technique is to keep the viewer focussed but equally it can also cause confusion.

The event that separates past and present to us is a massacre by the fascist terror group Gomorrah, in which Chambers is seriously injured and Baptiste has a nervous breakdown. As the series progresses it appears that Gomorrah is the key to the disappearance of Chambers’ family. Meanwhile, the sub-plots based around Baptiste’s chaotic personal life also feature.

Baptiste raises the issue of why people go missing. An estimated 170,000 go missing every year, an equivalent to one person every 90 seconds. Around 70,000 of these are children, many of whom are in local authority care – known as ‘Looked After Children’.

Previous series of Baptiste and The Missing have focussed on the global sex industry and the trafficking that accompanies it as a possible reason why many of the people, particularly women and children, disappear.

A television series set in Hungary, involving the British ambassador with a French police officer, is a reminder that we live in an interconnected world. The Hungarian police are portrayed as incompetent, corrupt and possibly in league with the far-right. Ironically, the British police, who would normally be involved with such a high-level disappearance, are nowhere to be seen. Is this part of the BBC’s Remainer agenda, which views this country as being left isolated after Brexit?

When it transpired that the British husband of the Hungarian extremist leader is the mastermind behind Gomorrah my fears came to light. The narrative promoted by the series is as follows: Britain has left the EU, whilst the far-right are gaining ground in Hungary. The two events are connected. The British ambassador, left disabled after a shooting, represents Britain isolated and weakened after Brexit. The saviour is a retired Frenchman, acting out of good will.

The series is soon to reach its climax. I am anticipating a dramatic ending as well as a resolution of Baptiste’s personal problems. When watching the BBC, however, beware false narratives.