Starz has itself a gripping new series. The Missing, a disconsolate show with a time-shifting narrative structure, unveils the mystery of a British boy who vanishes while vacationing with his parents in France. In the debut episode of the series, Tony Hughes returns to France eight years after his five-year-old son, Oliver, disappeared. Commanded powerfully by James Nesbitt, Tony stumbles through his days while clinging to any shred of hope that his son is somewhere, somehow, alive.
A bar and hotel area crazed with World Cup fever is where Oliver went out of his father’s sight for a mere moment. Riddled with grief, Tony ventures to that fateful spot and proceeds to roam the streets with a picture of his son in hand. After making enough noise to rattle locals, Julien Baptiste is alerted, a retired French detective responsible for the lost boy’s original case. Tony and Julien are forever sealed together by the power of unresolved trauma. Julien is initially apprehensive to become involved, but the desperation of the emotionally crushed father inevitably draws him in.
This pair sets forth most of the crucial groundwork in the debut episode. Through investigative digging, they uncover clues and wrinkles that push the ball of potential answers into motion. As they open old wounds, Tony’s ex-wife deals with her pain in a completely different manner. Through relative detachment and involvement in a new family, Emily hides her scars from the ordeal. She prefers to bury them in her psyche instead of letting them consume her life. This coping difference is implied to be the reason for Tony and Emily’s failed marriage.
Trapped under all this psychological weight is, of course, the burning unknown of what happened to Oliver. The episode indicates that a human trafficking or kidnapping scenario is possible. Whether he’s dead or alive, the proposition of not knowing his fate is presented as a black hole of horror. Additionally, the presence of an inquisitive journalist, Malik, and an unreadable detective, Khalid, ante up the intrigue of the show. Mark, Emily’s post-Tony lover, is an odd character with a subdued level of creepiness. These three individuals could have meaningful implications throughout the season.
For a debut episode, tremendous promise of a thoroughly suspenseful series is put forward. Seamlessly shifting between the initial aftermath of Oliver’s disappearance and the parental emptiness that Tony and Emily feel years down the road, the structure keenly suits the premise. The subject matter may sound familiar or overdone, but the raw intensity of this show feels different than the others. Oliver’s surrounded by brightness and laughter when he’s around. Eight years later, the backdrop is dreary and unforgivably depressing.
The Missing didn’t seem to garner widespread publicity, plus Starz isn’t regarded as a premier network for engrossing television. These snafus would doom a lesser show. For The Missing, nothing about it feels lesser. The opening episode is touching, supremely acted, and mysterious enough to make the audience feel profoundly attached to the case of Oliver’s disappearance. With Tony and Julien diving into the darkness together, we’re prepared to accompany them on a journey with no clear destination. For Tony in particular, this journey signifies hope that Oliver is still out there.