The first episode of The Missing absolutely caught people’s imaginations (it scored over five million viewers). And no wonder – a subject as emotive and stirring as a child going missing is every parent’s worst nightmare (as well as non parents). Throw in the thrill of a (potential) murder hunt and suddenly you have an unmissable series on your hands.
Episode one did a fine job of switching timelines, exploring the stomach-dropping events of the disappearance itself and the subsequent emotional fall-out, as well as Tony’s desperate attempts in the present day to pursue the first promising lead he’d found in eight years of teeth-grinding obsession and dedication.
We have strands and suspects being established all over the shop – there’s the paedophile Vincent Bourg, Ken Stott’s sinister construction and property developer (SO good to see the masterful Stott in anything), the too-good-to-be-true Mark (Emily’s new partner) and the ruthless but shady journalist Malik. All of these character’s back stories were filled out in episode two, with everyone, at one point, becoming a suspect. But I have to say The Missing deals with each one remarkably even-handedly. Take Vincent Bourg, for instance. Quite rightly, all sex offenders are the first people looked at in cases like this and, for Bourg, he was bang to rights, surely (he often swam at the hotel pool the Hughes stayed at). But we also saw a human side to Bourg, which portrayed him as fully aware of his demons, contrite even. This flew in the face of our fury and our need to ascribe blame.
Another interesting sideline was the journalist Malik, who met Emily in the present day and told her that Tony and Julien were working on the case again. He told her that he was determined to prove ‘what she and Tony did’, which suggests the finger of suspicion will point at the parents (just as it did in the McCann case).
So this week the dual story arcs continued. I spoke to some friends about the series a few nights ago and one of them expressed dissatisfaction at this technique. I understand that, but I do think it works better than most I’ve seen in recent years. It acts as a respite and as a suspense builder – whenever things in either timeline threaten to get too tense or upsetting we switch. And of course we get to have little mini cliffhangers at the end of each timeline switch. It’s effective, but you have to stay focused.
My favourite scene this week though showed what happens to a couple when something as awful as this happens. After a grueling day that included a press conference Tony and Emily headed back to their hotel room, frazzled and exhausted. They hug. The hug led to a kiss. The kiss led to a frenzied xx. But they couldn’t go through with it. They both collapsed, crying on the bed, the realisation of the situation crushing them both. It was Emily who instigated the passionate clinch, and I got the impression it was an attempt to reignite something within them that had died when their son was taken. When they both realised they couldn’t go through with it, you knew there and then their relationship as husband and wife was over.
And this is the thing that really interests me about The Missing. Yes, it’s a riveting watch with plenty of staple crime drama twists and turns but it’s the relationships between the central characters that are heartbreaking, interesting and what sets The Missing apart from a lot of other series.
For our episode one review go here.