mon 22/07/2024

The Missing, Series 2, BBC One | reviews, news & interviews

The Missing, Series 2, BBC One

The Missing, Series 2, BBC One

How much doom and despondency do you really need?

Not many jokes: Keeley Hawes and David Morrissey as Gemma and Sam Webster

It seems morbid, and perhaps even in dubious taste, to create a TV drama franchise focusing on the hideous fate of abducted children and the repercussions this has on their family and friends. Still, ratings are their own reward, and the first series of The Missing (a collaboration between the BBC and the US network Starz) was a critical and commercial success.

So welcome to series two, now starring Keeley Hawes and David Morrissey in place of series one's James Nesbitt and Frances O'Connor (they call this an "anthology series"). Our new protagonists are Gemma and Sam Webster. Thanks to Sam's army career, they're based in Eckhausen in Germany, and for the past 11 years have been doing whatever one does to try to adjust to the disappearance of their daughter Alice. We were shown a flashback of her in her school uniform being picked up by person(s) unknown in a yellow VW camper van as she walked by the side of a deserted, wintry road.

Matthew likes getting drugged up with some thuggish-looking German headbangers

Then out of the blue Alice suddenly reappears, walking into the Eckhausen town centre before collapsing unconscious (rapid surgery is required to fix her burst appendix). Informed by military and local police of her return, Sam and Gemma seem more dazed and disorientated than delighted, and their daughter's traumatised condition is signalled by her emaciated body, ghostly complexion and Walking Dead sunken eyes. Her father's tentative attempt to put an arm round her is met with blank frigidity. There's no knowing how long it might take to nurse her back to any semblance of normality.

However, in the show's slightly too-clever time scheme, Alice's reappearance took place back in 2014. In a present-day narrative layer, we find Julien Baptiste (Tcheky Karyo), the French detective from the first series, trying to wangle his way into Iraq to find a former British Army soldier, Daniel Reed, whom he believes is connected to the disappearance of another girl, Sophie Giroux. According to Alice, she'd been held captive with Sophie, whom she'd last seen being semi-starved to death (Abigail Hardingham as Alice, pictured below).

With all these morbid plot fragments pointing off into an unknowable future, we got to wallow in more dolorous detail about the fractured lives of the Websters. Sam, whose face and body bear what look like severe burn scars, has been undergoing counselling by army shrinks. A career crisis is compounded by a personal one, since he's having an extra-marital affair. The Websters' son Matthew has shaved his head and gone feral, and likes getting drugged up with some thuggish-looking German headbangers.   

The Missing is stylishly shot and skilfully acted, but there's an emotional black hole in the middle. The complex time frame, elaborate tangle of relationships and leaps between Germany and the Middle East feel more like devices to titillate your curiosity than necessary tools to tell a meaningful story. Surely drama ought to be about a bit more than just burdening all your characters with an insupportable weight of doom.


'The Missing' is stylishly shot and skilfully acted, but there's an emotional black hole in the middle


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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What puzzles me about "The Missing" is why there is such a large army garrison in Germany. There are hardly any units there now. My father was in the army. I never knew anyone who had a fourteen year posting in Germany.

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