Note: Contains spoilers for episode six of Baptiste.
Julien Baptiste's most personal case yet drew to a tragic close in the final episode of his spin-off show's first series: his long-lost son Niels was revealed to be a corrupt cop with blood on his hands, Niels' mother Martha was killed in a final stand-off with the police and Christina – sold into sex trafficking by Romanian gangsters – was never found.
But is this really the end of the story? Will Baptiste return, and could the enigmatic Serbilu brothers, the true criminal power behind everything, show up in a second series?
Digital Spy spoke to series creators/writers Harry and Jack Williams about what's next for Julien and the series one finale's brutal twists.
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Did the idea of Julien's son being a rotten apple inspire the series, or was it something that came later?
HARRY: I think it came along at the same time we came up with the idea that Julien had this other kid – from Martha. Both ideas came along at once. It felt almost Greek tragedy-esque, in a way. Both ideas just fitted together, weirdly.
The idea of Julien, who’s such a calm and wise presence, and a rock for the show... having his son be this evil guy, it just felt like a really interesting dilemma for him to be faced with that; that his own flesh and blood could do such things.
JACK: It’s quite hard, sometimes, with any detective show. If there’s any element of a whodunit, you can turn around and point at someone and go, 'It was that guy in the background, who was being slightly shifty.'
So it was interesting to make it someone who was really important to the story, and knew Julien already. It feels more satisfying because there’s much more emotional investment than just saying, 'Oh, it’s that guy.'
Just to clarify, how involved was Niels in the crimes that the Brigada Serbilu committed? Was he personally involved in the killing of Kim and/or Constantin?
JACK: He’s pretty involved. As was hopefully clear, Niels was recruited, he's not the head... he worked for Constantin, rather than the other way around. Or at least, they have some loose affiliation, because Niels is a policeman and has all the information.
But yeah, the timing... in episode four, if you go back to when he and Julien went off to see Herman, Niels goes back to arrange Kim's murder. So he’s crossed a line. He hasn’t just taken money and looked the other way. He’s actively colluded in things. But he’s just another cog in the machine.
The end of the story unfolds in slightly unusual fashion. Why did you decide to jump ahead two months, and then flash back to fill in the gaps?
HARRY: You’re always led by the story. We could've just told that in a linear fashion, but It didn’t feel in the spirit of the show. It felt like a really intriguing thing to suddenly see Julien with his arm in a sling, and have the audience go, 'Hold on, where the hell am I?'.
It gives you that old flavour that we had in The Missing when you jumped forward in time a bit, and it was just teasing that sort of feeling. It felt like the right way to go.
JACK: There’s also a lot to get through! And it just felt like if Niels was suddenly brought to justice at the end of a single day… it would take, realistically, a number of weeks at least. So actually, if you're going to do justice to that, you have to find a way, narratively, to show it... It’s the Missing-style approach and it felt like it fitted.
Martha bit the bullet, accidentally shot by Niels in the final stand-off... was it always set that she'd die at the end of the series?
JACK: It wasn’t. Looking back, the series definitely had a fairly high body count! Which is, I think, part of the function of how we storyline, which is just to try and put one thing in front of the other, and not to try and map things out too far in advance, but to go with what’s the most exciting.
And I think we just felt… again, there’s something very epic, emotionally, about this story. Julien has another son. A son you didn’t know he had. And actually, with Martha… if everything tied up neatly, it wasn’t quite as interesting, or as messy emotionally.
When we tried plotting it without [Martha's death], it just felt a bit more like 'everything else'. But we didn’t intend to kill her from the beginning. She’s a brilliant actress and a really good character.
HARRY: Ultimately, yeah. And it told you more about Niels, and who he was, and why he’s the kind of person that went to those lengths and did that stuff for the Brigada Serbilu. He’s a fundamentally selfish person, to the extent of taking his own mother hostage. It showed him for who he really was, which is an interesting thing for that character.
Were Baptiste to return, would you be interested in revisiting Niels?
HARRY: I think so, yeah. When we first came up with Julien having this illegitimate son, and also the fact that he was capable of this thing, we definitely thought, 'Yeah, that’s a great end point for the series.'
But going forward, having Julien have this son who has done these awful things, is a great thing psychologically for him to dig into, because he’s Julien Baptiste. He’s going to want to try and understand that in his own way.
Niels will probably have more secrets. I think this won’t be the last we see of him. Unless we don’t see another Baptiste, in which case we won’t see any of them again!
JACK: [laughs] That’s the spirit!
Have you given any thought to which other characters might appear in a second series?
HARRY: Every time we do a new one, say, on The Missing 2 or on Baptiste, we’ve discussed: 'Oh, can we bring [James Nesbitt's character] Tony back? Can we bring Keeley [Hawes, who played Gemma] from season two back?'.
We’re always keen to keep the world alive, and keep its history alive in the show. But it’s got to be if the story allows it, really.
JACK: Jason Flemyng! We keep talking about bringing Jason Flemyng back [as Mark Walsh], but that hasn’t happened yet.
I don’t think we’ll be seeing Tom Hollander's character [Edward Stratton] again, which is a shame, because he’s really good! But there are elements, like with Niels, where that’s something that we wish we had explored more. Or Genevieve’s character, who we don’t know a lot about.
There’s definitely elements that are unexplored. And our hope is that Baptiste might return.
One unresolved thread – Christina isn't found. Why did you decide to go down that path, and did you ever consider having Julien find her?
HARRY: We were always quite sure that she should never be found, because I think that it was quite important to say: 'Look, he doesn’t come in and save everyone. This [sex trafficking] happens all the time, and there are so many left undiscovered. Yes, he saves some people, but it’s not the right one. And this thing continues to happen, and it will continue to do so, on and on.'
So I think it was trying to make a point about that. He can’t save them all. And that’s a tragedy, really.
You decided not to kill off Edward Stratton in episode four – was he then guaranteed to make it out of the series alive?
HARRY: Yeah. It felt like there had to be some light at the end of the tunnel, because he’s just spent five hours in a pressure cooker, having the most horrific time. We thought, 'God, he’s not going to die – there needs to be a redemption arc for him, and he needs to feel like he’s done some good, and that all of this has counted for something.' Because ultimately it would be so miserable as an arc, for the character, without that.
He’s not the happiest man alive by the end, but he’s starting from not a place of abject misery. Which for him is a huge achievement. Ever since he lost his daughter, he hasn’t allowed himself an inch of happiness. And now he’s on the beginning of that journey.
Towards the end of the episode, there’s talk of Bucharest, an the unseen presence of the Serbilu brothers is looming large throughout. Were those things you were planting for a second series?
JACK: There are avenues to explore. Niels knows a great deal about the Serbilu brothers' operation, even though he’s in prison. It’s something that if we were to come back, we would definitely keep exploring.
And if Julien Baptiste were to return, will he now have a dodgy arm as well as a leg?
HARRY: [laughs] He’s had enough! He’s had a brain tumour, a limp, and his arm in a sling. He’s suffered quite enough. I think he just needs some physio now. A good rest!
Baptiste series one is available to watch in full on BBC iPlayer.
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