Any self-respecting TV crime drama writer these days knows it's not enough any more just to leave us guessing who dunnit. In 'Southcliffe', it was all about the 'Why?' 'Broadchurch' had us all invested in the 'Who's been affected the most?' Now, 'What Remains' has us asking 'How could this happen?'
David Threlfall is the only person interested in what happened to Melissa Young
Because the body of Melissa Young (Jessica Gunning) has turned up at the top of Number 8, Coulthard Street, a mere two years after she was last seen by anybody. Melissa is somebody you or I could pass on the station platform any morning - a pretty but unassuming young lady, whose biggest vice seems to be eating too much chocolate, and at whose secret life we can only guess.
"Who was she?" her neighbour Kieron Moss (Steven Mackintosh - great to see) was asked by his girlfriend. "No one, really," he replied. Ouch! "I thought she left. Turns out she didn't."
But it's already clear Melissa's not the only one with secrets, as writer Tony Basgallop carefully starts to put the jigsaw pieces on the table. Russell Tovey is the house's new resident, all jovial and jolly until he comes face to face with his Nemesis former school teacher Mr Sellers, a rubbery, creepy David Bamber, and Tovey turns unrecognisably sinister with impressive speed.
Vidya and Michael (Amber Rose Revah and Russell Tovey get more than they bargain for when they move into Number 8
While 'Broadchurch' and 'Southcliffe' tapped into the collective effect of a crime on a tightknit community, 'What Remains' does the opposite - highlights just how it's possible for people to get lost, and stay very alone, in a big city, where close living conditions no longer mean close neighbours, in fact, often the opposite in our desperate struggle for personal space.
The only warrior against this urban loneliness is Detective Len Harper, on - guess what - his last week in the force. David Threlfall's on form as this ramshackle British Columbo. The worn out brown leather jacket is great, the eyeliner not so much, but he effectively carries the weariness of a man who's seen it all, and yet can't bring himself to believe that a young woman can remain so uncared for, and her neighbours so uncurious.
He's right to worry. Kieron Moss no doubt summed up the secret fears of many with his concern, not for how a woman living only a few walls away could end her life so abruptly, but of the adverse effect this might have on house prices. This was horrible to hear, but possibly horribly accurate, too.
Anybody believing a tale like this is ridiculously far-fetched could do worse than watch the moving and disturbing 'Dreams of a Life' starring Zawe Ashton. Equally surprising, and based on a true story.