sat 18/05/2024

The Disappearance, BBC Four | reviews, news & interviews

The Disappearance, BBC Four

The Disappearance, BBC Four

French crime drama finally ditches the red herrings to keep it in the family

First cousins: Camille Razat as Léa and Zoé Marchal as Chris

The Disappearance, shown in France a year ago, was adapted from a Spanish drama. Both shows had a more gender-specific title: Desaparecida or Disparue.

A less abstract translation into English might have been The Missing, but that title had already been taken by a recent BBC drama with which The Disappearance shared a dogged fidelity to a template (see also Broadchurch, plus a lot of Nordic noir): one fresh suspect per episode, enough false leads to set up a red herring factory, and then a big reveal to finish [spoiler alert: the denouement is discussed below].

The titular absentee was Léa Morel (Camille Razat), who went out one night in Lyons to celebrate turning 17 and never came home. It took four episodes for a corpse to turn up, another four to find out who killed her. There were plenty of potential culprits for new cop in town, the reflective detective Molina (François-Xavier Demaison). Half the city’s youth seemed to be in love with Léa. But in the end the drama came down to a rupture in the dense network of family loyalties. From episode five, when the camera started looking at Léa’s uncle Jean (Laurent Bateau) in a funny way, it seemed evident he was being fingered. At the end of the penultimate episode he chillingly gaffed by revealing to his brother Julien (Pierre-François Martin-Laval) something about the murder that he could only have known if he was in some way complicit.

Jean duly confessed to murdering Léa, on top of the blackmailing prostitute Jenny and former employee Nico whom he fitted up as the killer, and found himself banged up with half of the final episode still to run. Underwhelmed, you wondered why everything had been wrapped up so precipitately. When visiting Jean in prison, his daughter Chris (Zoé Marchal) seemed implicitly to forgive him the murder of her cousin a little too easily. Sure enough the story crept out, of a fatal fight between two cousins, the motherless only child Chris desperate to emulate the life of Léa, even down to wearing the same earrings while sleeping with her rival’s boyfriend. Her father's false confession, plus his pair of ancillary murders, bought her a future in the family of the cousin she'd killed. The truth revealed itself to Léa’s mother Florence (Alix Poisson, pictured below with Pierre-François Martin-Laval) as Chris, a cuckoo freshly landed in the nest, occupied Léa’s bedroom, invaded her wardrobe and claimed her identity.

For all the quiet bond between the Morel brothers, The Disappearance was finally a gripping crime drama that hinged on the female psyche. The showrunner was Charlotte Brandström and the two main scriptwriters Marie Deshaires and Catherine Touzet. They ensured there was plenty to keep you coming back for more: a high level of pulchritude in the cast, panoramic drone-cam settings, and a kinetic narrative style which cut to the chase whenever a new lead came up. There was none of that endless leaping in and out of cars integral to The Bridge. Demaison was hugely watchable as a humane cop you could really root for, while Poisson as the bereaved mother was the drama’s beating heart, matched by Stella Trotonda’s amazingly confident performance as the eight-year-old Zoé (especially as the rest of the young cast looked about five years older than claimed).

There was also plenty to query. Obsessive in his desire to find his daughter and then her killer, Julien Morel had an infuriating habit of interfering with police business, turning up at crime scenes as if by divining rod and in the end even filching his daughter’s inquest notes from Molina’s desk. Molina’s teenage daughter Rose (Myra Tyliann) was a fun distraction but the parallels between the two fathers looking for Léa’s killer were insufficiently explored, while it felt gratuitously tidy to have her find Léa’s body on a day out at the lake. It wasn’t quite clear how or why Jean would own the perfect bag with which to zip up a body, plus a shovel for burying it. A Twin Peaks fan ready for all eventualities? And maybe this is just a French thing but, even though they'd already been steeled by grief, Jean and Chris were both possessed of implausible levels of sang-froid as they kept their dark secret from the audience and the other Morels. The fondness for portentous slo-mo was a bad habit picked up from Broadchurch. And how come a mere waiter could afford a house with his own private garage?

The script had an insouciant attitude to the business of tying up loose ends. Julien didn’t pass on to Florence the discovery that Léa was a cocaine dealer. Florence’s abortion drove a wedge between her and Julien, but the discovery of Léa’s pregnancy by her racing instructor was never deployed as a plot lever. It was left to the viewer to assume that perhaps raging hormones contributed to her bitter outburst which provoked her murder.

The Disappearance's outro felt psychologically pat. With Chris interred after a fatal car accident when she dashed from her new home, and the Morels’ trauma laid to rest with her, the conclusion looked towards a happier future. We were also invited to imagine the melancholy Molina hooking up with his comely comedy sidekick Camille (Alice Pol, pictured above with François-Xavier Demaison), whom the script never quite worked out what to do with beyond giving her a fetching array of low-cut tops, a snack habit and a useless ex-boyfriend. A second series has been mooted. How about making it a screwball policier romcom?

Underwhelmed, you wondered why everything had been wrapped up so precipitately


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article


Can anyone explain to me the significance of Chris having 2 earrings that matched the one earring the police possessed? I followed EVERYTHING else and was defeated at the last!

The police never found the earring that Romain stated Lea found when she was in the back of his car. The picture in the police file was taken from the one that Chris supposedly hadn't lost. The fact that Chris had both earrings meant that she had picked up the other earring somewhere - presumably Lea had it and then Chris took it from her body after she had killed her. 

And why did Chris, in the hospital, speak as if she was Lea? That was chilling!! 

Yes I found that very odd and very hard for Lea's parents to witness. Whether it was the result of brain injury or medication, I'm not sure but I thought it was meant to reinforce how badly Chris wanted to assume Lea's persona and her place in the family - as if her subconscious believed she had become Lea on some level?

I think Chris had a personality disorder which caused her to be obssesed with lea and was desperate to be just like her and when she was at the hospital she was so shook her personality of lea took over

I do not think that someone literally at death's door would have the presence of mind to do what Chris did. I like to think it was Lea seizing the opportunity to speak to her mum.

I am confused about the earrings too. Why did Chris have 2 earrings when there was a photo of one in the police file?

When was the photo taken of the earring which Chris retained? I don't recall that part in any episode. I will need to re-watch the episode where Romain explains what happened in the back of his car (Lea finding the earring), as I was baffled that Chris had 2 earrings and the police appeared to hold one also. If the police never had the earring, when did they take the photo?

So the earrings was in the car ..picture was taken by police so must be in police vault as evidence ...not stuck in evidence book !  sorry wont wash ..I am not ten ! 

But Leas mun found an identical pair on her youngest daughter ..and automatically had evidence that Leas best friend must have killed her ?

Hmm ! Why did it just trigger the best friend is a copy cat !! It wouldnt mean evidence of being a killer !! 

So was this a dumb clanger does anyone see the significance of the pair ?

Maybe leas best friend broke in to the vault to get the other one .

and thats how the pair matched up !!! 


aah I see maybe Chris broke it to the evidence room tog et her earring back or was it stuck int he evidence book leas dad stole ..and then chris had an affair with him in the basement and found her earring !! at let his daughter wear the pair as chris was up to do a double murder !!

Wonderful drama,does anyone know artist and song played at the end 

Sirens Call by Cats on Trees

Music Theme is 'Disparue (Main Titles) by Frans Bak & it's available on iTunes

The song is called "Sirens Call"  by CATS ON THE TREES!  

That was Sirens Call by Cats on Trees 

Great song, it was Sirens Call by Cats in Trees

Sirens by cats on trees 

does anyone know what was the mysterious parcel that Lea received on her birthday?

Racing gloves

Did Chris die in the end? And why was she talking as if she was the Morels' daughter at the end?)

Chris loved the family, especially Zoe and wanted to atone for her crime, though not to reveal it. But she was clearly loopy by now: seen dressing up in Lea's clothes. Heavily sedated in hospital, it's hardly surprising she was hallucinating.

likewise bugged about the earrings. One was kept by Chris, the other went from Romain's car to Lea but was taken from the murdered Lea by Chris (and kept). So how did the police ever get to see it and photograph it? We didn't see them ask Chris for it (and if they had she surely wouldn't have kept the pair so casually). they also didn't question Romain particularly about the earring. Feels like a plot error.


Does anyone know the song / artist from the band that performed at the World Music Festival in Episode 1 of the The Dis


Track id says "time for a change" by Elephant

Earring clue seems to be a mistake. ALso, in episode seven the autopsy report shows two blows to the head. Jean only reports one. How come the police don't notice that discrepancy??


I see maybe Chris broke it to the evidence room tog et her earring back or was it stuck int he evidence book leas dad stole ..and then chris had an affair with him in the basement and found her earring !! at let his daughter wear the pair as chris was up to do a double murder !

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters