The Missing’s first series was the story of a father’s obsessive and ultimately destructive quest to discover the fate of his abducted son. It was a harsh series, the subject of child abduction often making it a very uncomfortable watch. The darkness of the theme was assuaged by a stream of compelling twists supplied by series creators Harry and Jack Williams which kept viewers hooked through eight episodes to a decisive conclusion.
A second series was all but guaranteed by success both in ratings, and Bafta, Golden Globe and Emmy award nominations. Nevertheless, how to continue a series that had effectively taken its story to the end of a dark and lonely road? The answer is to find a new story, with a new cast – only French detective Julien Baptiste (Tchéky Karyo) returns.
The Missing series 2 episode 1 began with a young English woman, clearly in distress, stumbling out of a forest into a German town and collapsing in the market square. The young woman is Alice Webster (Abigail Hardingham) who was last seen sneaking out of a school for the children of British Army personnel stationed in Germany eleven years previously.
Opening with the reappearance of a missing child is an inversion of series one’s beginning, but this opening episode was no less traumatic for focussing on a family dealing with a missing child’s return. Alice is immediately hospitalised as she has a ruptured appendix. When her family arrives she is emotionally distant, perhaps in shock, and the long dreamt reunion is a bewildering one for her soldier father Sam (David Morrissey), mother Gemma (Keeley Hawes), and younger brother Matthew (Jake Davies). A scene where Alice dispassionately describes harrowing details of her abduction in front of them was especially chilling.
When asked by paramedics if she could give a contact name Alice had replied “Sophie Giroux”. This prompts British Army police officer Eve Stone (Laura Fraser) to contact the now retired detective Baptiste – who has become something of a celebrity thanks to series one’s case – as this is the name of a missing girl he had notoriously failed to find.
It is not just the character of the detective that returns from the first series. The new story also retains the device of crosscutting between several time periods. Episode one begins in 2003, with the abduction of Alice. The story then takes place in 2014 when she is reunited with her family, before suddenly jumping forward to the present day where it becomes instantly clear that some trauma has torn the Webster family apart. 2003 and 2014 scenes take place in frosty winter, with the present day moving into summer – and in the case of Baptiste, into the harsh light of the Middle East where he is attempting to follow a lead into Iraq.
What made this episode particularly compelling was how the time jumps were used to prompt questions in the audience. There are jarring differences evident in characters between 2014 and only a few years later. For example, how has Sam Webster come by the fearsome scars on his neck? We are being shown two points in time, beginning and end points, but must guess at the journey between them.
Did you tune in for The Missing series 2 episode 1? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Spoilers for The Missing series 2 episode 2 below. Still catching up? Read Stuart’s review of episode 1 here.
The Missing series 2 got off to a grim but compelling start with an expertly paced opening instalment. The series’ now trademark dual time frame device was used expertly to sucker the audience into thinking returned abductee Alice Webster had been institutionalised. Scenes set in 2014 showed her struggling to reintegrate into family life. Scenes set two years later found Alice’s mother Gemma and brother Matthew preparing to ‘visit’ her. Instead of a hospital their visit was to a graveyard to see the words ‘Alice Louise Webster 13.05.1992 – 22.12.2014’ carved into stone.
This new series promised to be about a story of surviving abduction. This hope is cruelly torn away. However, detective Julien Baptiste who is in Iraq still investigating the case then drops another bombshell “I believe the girl… was not Alice Webster”.
After the terrific opening episode, writers Harry and Jack Williams slow the pace and really start to flesh out the story. Action moved between Germany in 2014 and the present day.
In the present the Webster family has fallen apart. Sam Webster has fearsome scars suggesting he has been badly burned. He is further having an affair with Military Police Officer Eve Stone. Alice’s mother Gemma obsessively looks through photos of people riding a rollercoaster called ‘Der Werwolf’.
In the 2014 storyline Alice takes a police search party into the woods from which she stumbled only weeks before to seek her last place of captivity.
Both Baptiste and Gemma Webster have doubts about Alice’s true identity. In a key scene Gemma gives her a scarf that her daughter had knitted before the abduction. The grown ‘Alice’ does not seem to recognise it. Are these suspicions justified, or paranoia? Would a trauma victim, locked underground for years by an abuser, recognise an item of clothing from a lost childhood?
A wider conspiracy appears to be emerging involving the military. Baptiste is in Iraq hunting for Danial Reed, who we meet as a young soldier in 2014 trying to get an explanation for his retired soldier father’s suicide. This search brings him into contact with a female former army officer who served with his father. There is tension between the ranks. Reed has found his father’s diary and is convinced something happened during his time seeing combat in Iraq that has led to this. He asks for an explanation but is fobbed off with a well-used “combat changes you” speech he finds patronising. “You’re all the same… officers” says Reed.
Brigadier Adrian Stone, who in 2014 offers the assistance of his men to the police search for Alice’s prison, also has a connection to Reed’s father. In the present, he has developed dementia. On a visit to a care home he has an episode and suddenly starts to talk about Henry Reed.
The connecting thread between these characters and Alice is elusive, but something sinister is happening. The 2014 police search finds an abandoned WW2 bunker deep in the woods. Alice claims this was the final place she was kept captive. Eve Stone indicates that this must have been missed in the original search. However, is it really credible that a large underground bunker would be missed in a police search? Could the original search have been led astray?
The Missing series 2 episode 2 again provided some meagre answers that only created more questions. The show is often confusing and deliberately obfuscatory, but watching the pieces of the puzzle slowly form a picture is the pleasure of a mystery narrative.
Did you tune in for The Missing series 2 episode 2? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Spoilers for The Missing series 2 episode 3 below. Still catching up? Read Stuart’s review of episode 2 here.
Clever jumping between time periods in 2014 and the present day makes watching The Missing feel like playing a complicated game of hangman and realising the word slowly emerging is in a language you do not understand.
The Missing series 2 episode 3 opened with a family travelling through Switzerland in the present day. Their son sees a red VW camper van parked in a forest. A close up of the wheel arch reveals it has been repainted from the original yellow. This was colour of the van Alice told police was driven by her abductor.
While the mystery of Alice’s abduction begins to unravel in the rest of the episode, this odd detail undercuts many of the revelations, in Alice’s claim that the butcher Mr Herz was her abductor. Of course, the scene was never returned to or explained. Another of writers Harry and Jack Williams’ great teases.
There were several story lines in this episode. In the present: retired detective Baptiste in Iraq looking for the former soldier Daniel Reed; Military Police Officer Eve Stone’s struggles with her former Brigadier father’s dementia. In 2014: the Brigadier in full control of his senses and his connection to Reed’s father; Mr Herz’ wife (or former wife) struggling with the aftermath of her husband being accused. However, it was Alice’s story line in 2014 that really took the attention.
Is the returned Alice the Websters’ daughter? Baptiste doesn’t think so. The feeling that something is not quite right with the situation is shared by Gemma Webster who tells her husband Sam “I don’t feel it. I don’t feel it is her.”
In a chilling family dinner scene, Sam tries to lift the mood in the house by suggesting they visit a German Christmas market and have a glass of Gluehwein, a hot wine punch. Alice smiles suddenly. She says the last time she had a glass was after she had been on a roller coaster.
Gemma realises she means with her abductor. Alice disturbingly tells her possibly/maybe parents, “There were times we were happy, you should know that”. She reveals that the baby she had while captive had died. “I’m supposed to be free. Am I? I don’t feel free. I don’t feel anything at all.”
At least now we know the reason why Gemma has been obsessively clicking through those roller coaster photos.
Series director Ben Chanan is doing terrific work. All three episodes look fantastic. The careful differentiation of visual tones and details keeping the audience orientated when the time frame and location is continually shifting.
But in this episode Chanan give us a truly haunting image. A static shot of the Websters’ back yard covered in frost in the early morning. Beyond the garden are woods. The shot is held for a long time with no apparent activity in the frame. Then the girl slowly emerges from the foliage, so pale and tiny the effect is virtually as though a ghost has appeared.
Is Alice a ghost metaphorically? Is Alice even Alice? And if not, who is buried in the present day under a headstone with Alice Webster carved onto it?
Did you tune in for The Missing series 2 episode 3? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Spoilers for The Missing series 2 episode 4 below. Still catching up? Read Stuart’s review of episode 3 here.
As we approached the mid-way point in this series of The Missing, writers Harry and Jack Williams appeared to be on the cusp of answering the mysteries surrounding the return of Alice Webster.
Episode 3 ended with Alice’s 2014 death in a fire. It is ruled a suicide because gasoline cans were discovered in the smoking ruins of a garden shed. There is no suggestion from anyone, not even Baptiste, that this could be a ‘locked room mystery.’ But why would Alice take her own life so soon after returning home?
Episode 4 was filled with procedural detail, with dual investigations taking place. In 2014 Julien Baptise and German police officer Jorn Lenhart try to discover Alice’s movements on the day before her death. She had been reporting missing from the family home, but had returned three hours after sneaking out of her room into the forest behind the house. In the present, Gemma Webster and Military Police Officer Eve Stone investigate the fairground where Alice had been photographed on a roller coaster. Gemma had identified another girl in the picture as her daughter, not the girl sitting next to her and now living in her home.
An air of sickness and fatigue seeped into the story. In the present, characters looked haggard and gaunt in icy winter scenes. In 2014 Sam Webster and Nadia Herz are both in hospital beds, Sam recovering from burns, Mrs Herz in a coma following a brutal home invasion. Even in the blazing sun of Iraq Baptiste looks pale and appears to be affected by the effects of his brain tumour.
The malaise was not only physical but also psychological. Alice’s suicide sends cracks through the foundations of the Webster’s marriage. Gemma describes how the family fell apart together when she was abducted but emerged stronger. Alice’s return breaks them apart again, but this time the broken pieces seem too shattered to be glued together again.
What is the mystery of The Missing? The story appears to be about the identity of the returned girl far more than her captor. Relatively little time is devoted to the butcher languishing in jail accused of the crime. However, the result of a post mortem DNA test seems to give a definitive answer to the core question of whether the girl was really Alice Webster.
What this series is doing particularly brilliantly is setting up the stories in the duel time frames in a kind of narrative dialogue with each other. Sometimes events on one time frame illuminate what is going on in the other. Sometimes the opposite is true. Several key plot points presented as cast iron facts in 2014 are completely contradictory to how characters behave in the present. What keeps the audience guessing and coming back for more despite the grim subject matter are the blind spots in-between.
Just when the fog seems to be lifting a final twist blows the whole series wide open. Something happens in the present that events and information from two years previously should make impossible. With four more episodes to run, The Missing is a long way from giving up all its secrets.
Did you tune in for The Missing series 2 episode 4? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Spoilers for The Missing series 2 episode 5 below. Still catching up? Read Stuart’s review of episode 4 here.
Episode 4 of The Missing’s second series ended with a revelation casting doubt on everything we figured we knew. Alice Webster died in 2014, killing herself by fire in a shed locked from the outside. DNA evidence confirms the charred remains are Gemma and Sam Webster’s daughter. Then, in present day Switzerland, someone looking exactly like the Alice who returned appears. She’s squatting in a spartan forest cabin. How can this be the same girl? If it is, who really died in the shed?
The Missing series 2 episode 5 began by picking up this story thread. Remember the red camper van from episode three? The girl in the cabin has the keys, and takes a pair of glasses with feminine frames from the vehicle. She then burns them. Why? Frustratingly this is only the pre-credits sequence and we do not come back to her this episode. But never fear – there were shattering twists to compensate.
The Missing deals with dark material; child abduction is an uncomfortable theme for a work of entertainment. The many twists and reversals of plot and the richness of the characters sweeten the bitterness making it palatable, but writers Harry and Jack Williams are unafraid to confront the audience with the horror of the situation.
Several scenes in this episode served to foreground the pain and grief caused by a child’s abduction. In the most affecting exchange, Eve Stone was sat in a wheelchair outside a hospital after a difficult birth. She is joined by Sam Webster, discharged after suffering burns trying to save his daughter from self-immolation. Eve has been a surrogate for her sister and talks about how she developed an attachment to the child gestating in her womb. Sam’s silent pain as these words remind him of all that he has lost was a masterclass in acting from David Morrissey.
Another moment was more subtle. Baptiste is interviewing a transsexual prostitute with a connection to Henry Reed – a dead soldier who he believes is connected to the abductions. When he suggests she felt something for this man, she denies it. She has no more an emotional connection to her ‘johns’ than he would as a policeman to the victims he investigates. To be emotionally attached would too difficult in both examples. Baptiste responds that his job is looking for missing children so he respectfully disagrees.
These moments ground the drama and continue to give The Missing an emotive impact often missing from procedural crime dramas.
In Iraq, Baptiste discovered that Henry Reed and Adrian Stone (Eve’s father) had murdered a child during the Gulf War. Further investigations reveal a third person involved. With Stone now suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s disease, their identity may be critical to the mystery.
The episode concluded with a genuinely shocking twist that may have revealed the true identity of Alice Webster’s abductor – someone hiding in plain sight all along. Many questions still remain, but for the first time, the vast The Missing jigsaw puzzle is starting to become a picture.
Did you tune in for The Missing series 2 episode 5? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Spoilers for The Missing series 2 episode 6 below. Still catching up? Read Stuart’s review of episode 5 here.
For most of this series of The Missing, we have been lagging behind the characters’ knowledge of events. By shifting between several time frames, series director Ben Chanan and writers Harry and Jack Williams have created dead zones in the story by showing us characters at point A and point B. But not revealing their full journey. As the gaps in the story are filled in, so the dead zones are shrinking.
Switching between time frames has always threatened to become confusing – this is not a show where it is wise to go and make a cup of tea without hitting the pause button – and I must confess to becoming bewildered in this episode when I missed a jump from the present back to 2015. With the time periods being only a year apart, it is becoming harder to distinguish the difference. A momentary slip, but evidence that you really have to pay attention to follow The Missing.
It was a brave move to end episode 5 by apparently revealing Alice Webster’s abductor to be British Army press officer Adam Gettrick, a minor character suddenly stepping into centre stage. The final twist was shocking. German police officer Jorg Lenhart found Gettrick has a connection to the third missing girl seen in a photograph with Alice Webster and Sophie Giroux. Lenhart only wished to question Gettrick but received some DIY cranial surgery from a hammer drill for his efforts. The moral being never give a woman a CD of a self-penned love song in a crime drama – it’s like pulling out a picture of your kids in a war movie.
The Missing series 2 episode 6 moved the earlier timeline forward from 2014 to 2015 a year after Alice Webster’s suicide. French detective Jean Baptiste’s conviction that it was not Alice Webster who died in the fire is suddenly looking more credible. The investigation was conducted by the British Army rather than German Police. And the man we now know abducted Alice is an Army Officer. There is also a conspiracy going back to Iraq in 1991 involving the cover up of a child murder by Adrian Stone, Henry Reed and an unknown third soldier. Stone was Brigadier of the Army base in Eckhausen in 2014. If he was involved, successful a cover up is easier to imagine.
Baptiste’s investigation is hindered by his failing health. By the present his malignant brain tumour is causing him to be subjected to hallucinations, reducing his credibility in the eyes of both German police and Stone’s daughter Eve, a British Army police officer. Tchéky Karyo remains excellent as Baptiste, movingly showing the progression of his illness in this episode.
Despite tying up many loose plot threads in episode 6, there are still questions to be answered. What really took place in Iraq in 1991? Is Gettrick the third man? How involved was Brigadier Stone in a conspiracy over Alice Webster’s abduction, and why? What is the relationship of butcher’s wife and former British Army officer Nadia Herz to all of this?
Baptiste is moving closer to uncovering Gettrick as the abductor, but is he getting closer to finding Alice Webster?
Did you tune in for The Missing series 2 episode 6? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Spoilers for The Missing series 2 episode 7 below. Still catching up? Read Stuart’s review of episode 6 here.
“What benefit is wisdom when it brings no profit to the wise?” The words of Sophocles paraphrased in the film Angel Heart by the devil himself, and germane to this penultimate episode of The Missing series 2.
We have known Army public relations officer Adam Gettrick abducted Alice Webster and Sophie Giroux since the bloody ending of episode 5 – poor Jorn, two episodes later and still no one has noticed he’s missing – but questions remained. Was Gettrick acting alone, or is he part of a conspiracy? The Missing series 2 episode 7 episode was full of revelations; the series has now moved away from being a whodunit with the narrative almost entirely set in the present.
First there was the truth about 1991 events in Iraq to reveal. Episode 6 ended with Nadia Herz preparing to tell Baptiste her story. Before marrying Kristian Herz, she had been an Army Officer. Suffering from Gulf War syndrome she had become a drunk, allowing men under her command to run wild. When Stone came to her asking permission to seek a missing soldier, she refused, believing him to be with a woman off base. The absent soldier was Adam Gettrick.
The story that followed was not one to which Nadia was an eye witness. Baptiste was able to put a different spin on events based on what he had been told on his visit to Iraq. She believed Gettrick, after being discovered in bed with the 13-year-old daughter of a former Republican Guard, was being held captive in his basement. Stone and Reed rescued him, killed his captor, then set his house ablaze to destroy evidence of their actions. Baptise ratifies the story but reveals a crucial missing detail. There was a 9-year-old girl still in the burning building and she perished.
To add to Nadia’s guilt, Baptiste tells her he believes her husband was framed for Alice’s abduction. A camera with images of the girl had been planted by Gettrick. It was Nadia herself who had found the camera and turned it over to the police. The revelation leaves her a wreck.
Baptiste has put the pieces together and knows he has found his man. Unfortunately, his brain tumour is causing him to hallucinate and to others he is acting erratically. A confrontation with former Brigadier Stone ended with a scuffle and Baptiste is thrown out of his care home. When Stone is brutally beaten, Baptiste is the prime suspect. Rather than take his story about Gettrick seriously, the police arrest Baptiste allowing the abductor to slip away with Lucy, the girl he has fathered with Sophie Giroux. It was Sophie who had returned, posing as Alice Webster. Quite exactly why, and how much this was planned with Gettrick, remains unclear.
Despite apparently laying all its cards on the table, The Missing still had an ace hidden up its sleeve. The episode ended on perhaps the most shocking cliffhanger yet – though its touch and go between this and the hammer drill. Without official support, and with Gettrick having fled to Switzerland, will Baptiste, now aided by Gemma Webster, be able to get his man before succumbing to the cancer in his brain?
Did you tune in for The Missing series 2 episode 7? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Spoilers for The Missing series 2 episode 8 below. Still catching up? Read Stuart’s review of episode 7 here.
This series of The Missing began with a girl walking barefoot out of a snowy forest, and ended with detective Baptiste and Sam and Gemma Webster venturing into another forest in search of their lost Alice. Dark woods and the name ‘Alice’ conjure thoughts tales of lost children. But The Missing is no fairy tale.
The penultimate episode explored events in Iraq in 1991 which had suggested that there may have been some conspiracy in 2014 when Alice ‘returned’, perverting the Army and German police investigation of her return and subsequent suicide. The persistent impression that Adrian Stone had been involved appeared to have been passed off as a red herring.
Alice’s abductor was Adam Gettrick, an Army press liaison officer. A press officer faking a DNA test? This appeared to be a plot development too far. However, the The Missing series 2 episode 8 revealed that Gettrick had used events from 1991 to blackmail Stone into helping him. The commanding officer of an Army garrison, one who had been able to take over the lead on the investigation? Stone’s ability to tamper with DNA evidence was a lot more plausible.
How complicit was Sophie Giroux in aiding Gettrick in his scheme? Assuming the identity of another kidnapped girl, fooling her family, then faking her death. These actions had devastating impact on the Webster family. There was a risk that our sympathies would harden towards a character subjected to abuse and psychological trauma. However, the finale supplied credible motivation for her actions: Gettrick had their daughter. We saw how dangerous and physically abusive he could be in graphic detail.
This final episode was not anything if not thorough in crossing the t and dotting the i in ‘resolution’. No mystery was unanswered. Except one – Gettrick himself.
When first introduced, Gettrick appeared to be an extremely incidental character; actor Derek Riddell had to fade into the background making little impression. It is surely difficult for an actor to shy away from the spotlight, but Riddell did it so well that the revelation in episode 5 was genuinely shocking. In the finale, he came into his own, imbuing the character with the dissociative blankness of a true psychopath.
When questioned by Baptiste, Gettrick tries to explain his actions, remarking blithely “You’d do anything for the ones you love”. This is pure dissembling, everything he says intended to conceal his true nature. Gettrick has been lurking in the shadows for so long that it is doubtful even he really knows what he is. The most chilling moment came when Baptiste asked him how many other girls there had been. “What makes you think there were other girls?” Baptiste replies that he has a “feeling” and that he wishes he did not. The question remains unresolved.
This was a superb thriller that fully sustained its story over eight gripping episodes. The ending managed the impressive feat of delivering a lot of explanatory material but still being almost unbearably tense. This may be ‘feel bad TV’ but writers Harry and Jack Williams baited their storyline with meaty twists that cruelly hooked and reeled us in.
Did you tune in for The Missing series 2 episode 8? Let us know your thoughts on the series in the comments below – and if you’re not sure where to turn next, try one of these must-read books.