By now you’re probably up to date with The Missing, and if you are, up until about an hour ago you were one step ahead of me. I’ve just managed to catch up with episode four of the second series, which has so far been twisting and turning like a python dancing to Chubby Checker. The last I saw of the Websters Alice was out in the back garden with a shifty-looking Colonel Stone, who was intimating to Alice that she should keep her mouth shut. But in the two episodes I’m quickly going to recap, a whole load more stuff has happened and the story has moved on significantly.
You can’t accuse The Missing of dawdling. It’s like the best page-turner of a novel, toing one way and froing the other with almost wild abandon. Whether it’s careering around a bit too much for TV drama is open to debate, but on the whole I think that the dual timeline approach is better balanced this time around, although it isn’t without its flaws.
By the end of episode four we had found out what had happened to Sam Webster (he was badly burned trying to save the life of his daughter Alice), and Alice (she took her own life by setting the shed she liked to stay in on fire). We found out how Sam and Gemma’s marriage had imploded because of suspicion about Alice’s identity, and we found out more about Henry and Daniel Reid – Baptiste had found Daniel in Iraq, who had told him (while in the middle of a gun battle) that he had found out something about his father and that it disgusted him. This turned out to be paying money to an antiquities man in lieu of the atrocities he and Stone had caused against his sister (the inference was that these atrocities were very much of a sexual nature) during their tour of Iraq. I’m sorry, but I just wasn’t buying Baptiste and Anderson’s foray into theatre, trying to talk to Daniel as he shot and dodged bullets (somewhat unsuccessfully in the end). It just didn’t seem plausible or credible.
Anyway, by the end of the fourth episode Baptiste had left Iraq and, like the 2014 timeline, you felt that plotlines had been tied up there so we could concentrate on the present day.
Let’s hope so, because once again I’m struggling to connect emotionally with the characters. Both Keeley Hawes and David Morrissey (terrific actors, the pair of them) had begun to flex their acting muscles in these two episodes as things began to hit the fan after a relatively muted start to the series for them, but the dual timeline approach was, once again, beginning to blunt any real connection. As soon as you thought you were beginning to connect, off we trotted to Iraq in the present day. Only Baptiste, who we’ve had a history with, resonated, while the others (the Websters and the Stones) seemed like emotional reactions to the scenarios rather than fully formed characters. There just hasn’t been the time to draw them fully.
That’s not to say that The Missing isn’t quality crime drama, because it most assuredly is: it’s well made, well paced, well acted and expertly plotted, dropping in huge twists at just the right moment. It really is hitting those beats beautifully. But there’s just something missing for me… as if all the all the plotline pyrotechnics are obsuring the most important elements: the characters.
As per, The Missing dropped another big twist at the end of episode four. Gemma, who had been trying to assuage her guilt ever since she found out that the body in the shed had matched her husband’s DNA (which suggested that the body was indeed her daughter Alice), by trying to investigate photographs from the rollercoaster footage we saw earlier in the series and find her daughter’s real location. She had found that there was another girl in the photographs – a third girl – sitting alongside Alice and Sophie Giroux. And inthe final moments of the episode we switched to Switzerland where a grown woman was sitting in a cafe… who turned to the camera and revealed herself to be Alice. Or at least the girl we know as Alice.
So what happened in the shed? Alice had disappeared for three hours before her apparent suicide (Baptiste had found out she had visited the grave of Henry Reid) – did she bring back someone else to burn so she could fake her own death. She had been displaying real signs of Stockholm Syndrome before the fire; perhaps she longed to be with her captor. But what about the DNA match? It matched Sam Webster’s DNA… if it wasn’t Alice, does this mean he had fathered a child elsewhere? And what about Colonel Stone? Is he faking his dementia to get him off the hook for his dodgy dealings in Iraq?
As Baptiste said as he was poring over CCTV footage, trying to figure out what Alice Webster did in the three hours before she took her own life: the devil is in the detail.
For our episode one review, go here
For our episode two review, go here