Screen: Starz

The Bigger Picture

As The Missing expands its suspect pool, Sarah D. Bunting tries to guess whodunnit.

The second episode of The Missing is slightly worrisome for veterans of high-concept crime dramas like myself. Once or twice or seven hundred times burnt by the stalling tactics of U.S. television in its attempts to fit round narrative pegs into 22 episodes of 40-minute hole, we get very shy indeed when new characters turn up in the flashbacks, or portentous "you know what you did"-type lines are muttered at the retreating backs of other characters we'd assumed to be blameless. A limited run should prevent a solution from arriving out of left field, but we can't count on it.

"Pray For Me" introduces a few new faces: the mayor of the little town, Georges Deloix, whom Baptiste has to more or less blackmail into overruling the police on reopening the case by using Malik Suri as embarrassment leverage; a British developer working locally, Ian Garrett, who offers a 100K-euro reward because, he says, he has more money than he can spend; Greg Halpern, whom we allegedly met in the first episode but whom I have no memory of, and given how blatantly awkward he is around Emily (and how careful the show is to make sure we see the faint scars he bears from some sort of dust-up with Tony in or before 2006), you'd think I'd remember him; and the red herring -- literally; he's ginger-haired -- Vincent Bourg, the sort of maybe-maybe-not suspect who's very true to real life. But he's more of a probably-not by the end, thanks to the revelation that Garrett paid the most credible couple in town to alibi him for Ollie's disappearance -- and point the police away from Bourg before his prior connection with Garrett comes to light.

The baroque motivation and set-up Garrett's sketchy insertion of himself into the case implies isn't promising either; now and then you want a killer who's just straight-ahead bad and not a Goren-esque genius with a manifesto. But The Missing still has me, not least because of the portrayals of Baptiste, gentle and polite with a flinty core and all the less afraid to twit the politicians now that he's "retired"; and Suri, who's written and acted as a smug opportunist who's also smart and pragmatic. The case does get reopened in "Pray For Me"; the plot does thicken, and it doesn't seem like that's entirely for the sake of using the flour on hand.

But I don't feel like I've got any better of a handle on who's guilty or what happened. (NB: While I do have screeners of the first five episodes, as I write this I have only seen the first two and have no information past the second. This is speculation only.) I've got theories, though, and I've listed them in order of least to most likely.

Ollie just wandered off

I suppose the show could go back to that as an inciting incident later; I really hope it doesn't, as right now it's painting that scenario as the longest of shots. It's also asking us to agree with Tony that Ollie did make the drawing in that cellar, which he may not have, though any other explanation is going to feel like cheap rug-pulling.

Emily's father did it

Emily's mother isn't in play, at least so far; Emily's father, Robert, did mention the possibility last week that Ollie got snatched in retaliation for something he and Tony had done -- possibly the beatdown of Greg (and we don't even know for sure that that's related yet -- but the lead-up there is quite vague, and Robert is dying in hospice in the present day. Okay, it's a hospice Greg works at, and got Robert into. Okay, it deepens the mystery of a person of interest has died in the interim. I don't think he's directly involved, though.

Malik Suri did it

To gin up a good story for himself, I guess is his motive; he does get blown off as not a "real" journalist at one point. I really doubt it, though. He's depicted as ruthless in his pursuit of angles, and has no problem threatening sources if they source inadequately -- he does it to Ziane in 2006 and to Emily in the present. But there's ambitious, and then there's "kidnapped a kid to create a story." It doesn't play for me.

Laurence or Ziane did it

I'd put this about even with Suri. Laurence comes off like a well-meaning but unimaginative cop; Ziane is compromised, of course, but whatever Suri has on him, it's not this, and I don't think he'd do this to shake Suri off.

Greg did it

Not sure what Greg's story is here. Emily mentions she hasn't seen him since...and trails off. I guess we're to substitute "...my ex-husband turned your face into a mince pie," but again, we don't know just what happened there. My sense is that he's into her: was she cheating on Tony with Greg and that's why he got pounded? Is Ollie actually his, and he snatched the kid? We have about as much good information to suggest my involvement as we do Greg's, but the way he's shot is not casual.

Tony and/or Emily did it

I would have ranked this much farther down if it weren't for Suri's ominous "I know what you did, Emily -- you and Tony." And that could really mean anything -- that they lied to him and he fell for it and put bad intel in his book; that they had Ollie declared dead prematurely or something -- but I think we're supposed to see Emily as somewhat fragile, and the repeated references to Tony the "drunk" in the present could mean that, also a drunk in the past, he lost track of Ollie and is at fault for that reason. Or it's something with his father-in-law and/or Greg. It's not my favorite theory and Suri's probably referring to something relatively innocuous, but it did make me think.

Ian Garrett and/or Vincent Bourg did it

I don't think The Bourg (heh) is involved, despite a vile predilection for little-boy kiddie porn. He seems sincere in his denials in 2006, and in the present he seeks chemical-castration treatment for his illness and is fine with telling the doctor that it's partly because of Ollie's disappearance. It's a little weird that he's now living in England, and I don't know what that scene at his chicken-joint job is supposed to prove -- except that that little boy's dad needs to get a little freer with the time-outs; nobody wants your brat's little shoes on the counter, ass -- but: it's the second episode. Of course it's not him.

It's probably not Garrett, either (see above re: second episode), and we don't know exactly what his association with Bourg is, but I'm guessing it's not an Ultimate Frisbee league. The guy has access to abandoned houses in the region, and owns a boat. He inserted himself into the case, something serial criminals often do, via the reward; he paid alibi witnesses to point the cops away from Bourg. As John Douglas says about Bruno Hauptmann, I think he did something.

The hotel proprietor's husband did it

Dude's just weird. And is he now dead, in the present-day scenes? The proprietor says something about the booze "getting" Alain, and then I couldn't recall seeing him. And I wouldn't have figured this out without the IMDb entry for the ep, but he's evidently the mayor's brother.

Mark did it

Granted, Emily's father is dying, and you could understand how the new guy would want to protect her from getting upset about the case by the ex, so his shielding Emily from Tony's phone calls isn't that dodgy on its own. It's taken together with everything else -- that he's the British liaison officer, and got involved with her after they met this way? Which, not for nothing, but he just happened to be on holiday in the region, with a son the same age? And he gets headquarters (or whatever) to assign him to this case...why? When he doesn't speak French? I thought Mark was a skeeze from the jump; my money's on him.

Likelihood Ollie is still alive

I'd put that at 10% right now.

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