Screen: Starz

Home Is Where The Horror Is

But which echoes of the past should we listen to on the latest The Missing?

"The Meeting" is simultaneously solid, tense storytelling; and vagueness that seems like vagueness for its own sake. The 2006 investigation progresses, and certain awkward truths surface -- that Tony did give Greg Halperin that beatdown, apparently because he and Emily smooched; then, as a tertiary result of Emily's finding out about the beatdown and about Tony and Emily's father's subsequent payoff of Greg to drop the charges, that Emily blames Tony for losing Ollie; that Mark both over- and underprotects Emily, depending. But as The Missing takes us down that road, other alleys branch off it that may lead nowhere, and the characters sometimes have a stally way of talking about these things that, three episodes in, feels less like compelling ambiguity and more like treading water.

Sometimes, though, it tracks. Sometimes it's believable that people who know each other and their own situations won't use pronouns that might help the audience, like when Mrs. Baptiste comes to the town to surprise Julien -- but actually is obliged to tell him that she's there because "it's" happening "again" and an unspecified "she" came to the house. Mark telling Emily that, "after last time, it can't happen again" makes sense; he wouldn't have to explain what he meant.

The show's added a handful of herrings, though -- the undercover cop, Antoine, whose first bit of intel isn't intel at all and whose second bit dies with him on the platform when his throat is cut -- and it's taking its time dragging others through the dust, like Ian and his old-school blues fandom. I would classify that as attempts to pull the eye away from Mark, but then you have scenes in which he's kind of doing fuck-all besides looking at family snapshots of the Hugheses. Baptiste and the local police all rush out to stake out the abandoned storage warehouse Antoine mentioned; Mark just watches them go, barely curious, and does nothing to aid Tony when Baptiste is questioning him about the assault. Okay, as a liaison, that may exceed the parameters of his job. But as I asked last week, if he's not there to protect the Hugheses and he doesn't speak French in the first place, what exactly is the point of his involvement?

The Missing has settled into familiar rhythms and tropes by now -- Tony's unproductively tipsy; Emily's prickly and fragile and wearing an ugly top -- but it's not dull. I get frustrated, a little, every time a "lead" crops up that's bound to be anything but, or someone meets with Suri and puts up with his attitude when 1) he's burned almost everyone in the past and 2) he's unrepentant about it in the present, but we get just enough forward motion, and tension (that car chase is a corker), that my frustration isn't with the show's quality. The Missing isn't boring, and it isn't lazy. But now that I've gotten into it, I want to know the ending. I want to know which breadcrumbs to follow.

Missing-ish Element Present?
Drunk Tony After witnessing Georges's dressing-down of Baptiste for holding a town meeting about the case and asking for volunteers, Tony stomps off to drown his sorrows. ...Well, I guess there's only the one, really. Maybe not the best state in which to view videotape the long-ago neighbors took of their quarterfinals party that shows Ollie in the background, getting muscled away from the window, but since he'd likely get drunk afterwards, I suppose it saves time.
Annoying Emily I have no problem with her informing Tony that his not paying attention is why Ollie is gone, and I agree that Mark protecting her by lying to her is not okay -- so maybe he could serve her some Tim Gunn realness about those trapeze tops? Something about the colorless, shapeless loungewear she's always in in the flashbacks coupled with the modified Adam Rich hairstyle is highly visually irritating...as is her coming all the way to France, if not in defiance of Mark than at the price of his disapproval, just to clock Tony for getting her hopes up and finding "shapes in the clouds" that don't mean anything. You could have told him not to waste your time by phone, princess.
Smug Suri Again, it's unclear to me why anyone involved in the case even responds to the guy when he's so consistently snotty. "I got you your front page," he snits to Emily, handing her the newspaper that outs Tony's assault of Greg. Okay? I mean, Emily's negative reaction to that isn't on Suri, but he seems to take it really personally that she doesn't want to talk to the him/the press, so maybe investigative journalism isn't for him? I don't understand why Ziane consents to see him in prison, either. Suri claims he knows what happened to Ollie, which is probably horseshit or he wouldn't need to ask Ziane a bunch of questions about whether he and Vincent Bourg hung out in the solitary wing, but why does Ziane give a shit? He's in prison. And since Suri probably put him there on a blackmail bluff call, I don't buy that Ziane could get bored or lonely enough to come when Suri calls -- or stay in the visitors' room once it becomes clear that Suri's acting the same superior ass he always did. I actually enjoy Suri; the way he's portrayed has interesting things to say about the role of the press in a case like this, and whether anyone does have a choice, or feels like they do, about talking to a Suri. But if it's me and it's eight years later, I'm saving my information for someone who remembers they need something from me.
Unsubtitled French reflects Hugheses' alienation A couple of instances, including the present-day convo between Georges and Baptiste. In one case it more reflects Mark's relative uselessness to either wing of the investigation.
Pointed sound design The amped-up room tone during the beatdown confrontation is pretty great, especially the noisy scratching of Mark's pen.
Mark did it The Missing brings up my own issues with Mark via other characters, which seems like an attempt to shoot them down in so doing: Emily wails that he has one job to do, keep them informed, and he's not doing it; she draws specific attention to his having a son exactly Ollie's age, and how he can imagine what it's like for her; in the present, she busts him for knowing Tony had gone to France and found new evidence, but he admits to blowing Tony off on her behalf and explains that her father had just died, so, yeah. That said, something is off about the guy to me, still. The way the camera lingers on him looking inscrutably into the middle distance, or doesn't really resolve the question of what good he is to the Hugheses, makes me think he's more involved than just as a liaison.
Unless this other guy did it instead Ian pays for a lawyer for Tony in case he needs one, and picks him up from the station for a pint and weirdly symbolic discussion of Robert Johnson, which we've heard Ian listening to while he's painting a canvas we don't see and which I suspect of being something disgusting. Bourg is still in the story in the present day, and when Suri tracks him down, he's in his crappy flat, looking at what look like proofs of a woman (of age, so not his thing on two counts) on his laptop (maybe it's Emily? I don't know if we're supposed to know who it is). And the mayor's brother is barely in the episode except to be nudged by his wife to call his brother, Georges, the 2006 magistrate -- but he still gives me a wiggins. (The brother/husband, not Georges.) I suppose we can't eliminate Ziane, either, though if Suri is telling the truth about knowing what happened to Ollie, and Ziane is involved, that visit doesn't quite work.
How con-veeeeen-ient The neighbors holding onto the videotape of that party would usually get dinged here, but having just cleaned out a box of mementos and found my own videotapes from my 1996 public-access show: allowing it.
One step forward The videotape proves Ollie was in that house and didn't go there of his own free will.
Two steps back Though the lack of forensic evidence in the basement suggests to Baptiste that something did happen there -- it's "TOO clean" -- it's still a lack of forensic evidence. The show also confirmed Greg as having a motive for revenge, added whatever mysterious foolishness is happening to Baptiste's wife, and added the ambiguous UC source Antoine, who may or may not have had good intel to follow his bad but got his throat cut in the space of about five seconds -- and now whoever did the cutting and touched off the car chase is also in play.
Odds Ollie is still alive Based on what we currently (don't) know: 5-1

9 / 10
Final Score
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The Missing
10%
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