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!