The TV factory is well and truly back up and running following the grinding halt imposed by the pandemic, and with Showtrial done and dusted it's straight onto the next one.
You Don't Know Me, which is based on Imran Mahmood's crime novel of the same name, debuted in BBC One's primetime Sunday night slot (5th December), which speaks to the confidence that the broadcaster has in the series, and rightfully so. It's a compelling, well-executed piece of telly that is deserving of your attention.
Like the former, it also revolves around a murder and the crucial question of 'whodunnit?'. A young drug dealer – so junior he's still in college – has been shot dead and the trial to uncover who pulled the trigger has reached its final stages when we join the thriller.
The four-part series opens in a courtroom, with the CPS barrister reeling off a raft of key evidence that ties our protagonist Hero (Angela Black's Samuel Adewunmi) to the killing – gunpowder residue found on his clothing, traces of blood discovered beneath his fingernails, and more of the same. It's not looking good for him and if we were watching a real-world case unfold, we would have believed that his days were numbered. But this is a work of fiction, which means we're only just getting started.
Hero chooses to deliver his own closing statement rather than have his legal representative do it for him, which takes us right back to the very beginning of this whole sorry saga.
"But to talk about Jamil," he says, referencing the deceased, played by Informer's Roger Jean Nsengiyumva, "I have to talk about Kyra (Sophie Wilde)." She sits at the heart of this narrative and as Hero relays his account to the jury, we learn how one fleeting encounter with the doe-eyed, aloof woman who is never not clutching a book in her hands leads to such a violent end. This is a crime thriller but writer Tom Edge (Vigil, The Crown) takes significant care in sketching their blossoming romance, tracing it from the pair's initial encounter on a double decker bus, with Kyra overtly uninterested in Hero's playful advances, to their fixed status – at least in Hero's eyes – in one another's lives.
In one scene, the pair bounce around Kyra's living room together like newborn lambs high on the currents of life, unfiltered joy splashed across their faces. There's a particularly delightful montage of Hero attempting to master the art of cooking a carbonara fit for an Italian nonna in order to impress her. He rattles through 42 eggs in the space of one week in his quest to perfect the dish, which he eventually does – *the audience descends into rapturous applause*. It's a seemingly minor detail that, as we learn more about the plot, speaks volumes about the type of man that Hero is: someone who loves fully and deeply, and would do the unthinkable for those that he is devoted to. It's a window into his commitment to Kyra, exhibiting why he goes to such drastic lengths to find her following her sudden and unexplained departure from his life.
Who knew a bowl of pasta could say so much, eh?!
You Don't Know Me has all of the elements that we want and expect – mystery, drama, high stakes and so on and so forth – but the writing, complemented beautifully by Sarmad Masud's direction, ensures that those softer moments are as tender and warm as they need to be. They also create a distinct tone and atmosphere that elevates the series in a market which is heavily saturated.
Credit must also go to the cast, who handle the at times challenging material with an authoritative ease. The evidence stacked against Hero is damning but you believe his claim that he is innocent, which underscores Adewunmi's talent. There is a real depth of sincerity to his performance that makes you root for Hero, which is exactly what you want in a protagonist, so much so that if he is revealed to be guilty of the crime, it would be a genuinely heart-rending development. Before his life is turned on its head, we see Hero in happier times as he pursues and subsequently forms a relationship with Kyra. We watch as he flexes his best traits – he's charismatic, endearing and sweet-tempered – with Adewunmi nailing each and every beat, drawing you in as he drew Kyra in. It's key that we see him in those lighter moments as someone who lives a good, honest life because it makes the series' central question - is he really capable of murder? - so much more riveting.
While we feel that we know Hero, Kyra is a closed book and just like our lead, we want to know more. She will often allow those around her to do the talking while she listens and observes, almost cat-like at times in the way she watches Hero from her chosen vantage point, sizing him up with big, brown eyes that pull you into her orbit. There is a measured intensity to Wilde's performance, and even in scenes where Kyra says very little, she remains an engaging presence, communicating so much with so little.
Bukky Bakray also deserves a mention as Hero's sister Bless. Her role is fairly small-scale but she still manages to make an impression and once again cements why she was such a deserving recipient of the BAFTA Rising Star Award back in 2019 for her performance in Rocks. At just 19 years of age, Bakray is a staggering talent who gives the impression that she's been at this game for a lot longer than she has.
You Don't Know Me is both a crime series and a love story, which gives you the best of both worlds.
It also explores how anyone, regardless of their current circumstances, can suddenly find themselves sucked into a storm without warning. If you were in Hero's shoes, what would you do? How far would you go to protect the ones you care for most?
You Don't Know Me continues on Monday 6th December at 9pm on BBC One. All four episodes are available to stream now on iPlayer.