A pre-teen British girl (newcomer Madi Linnard) ditches school on the German military base where her family is stationed. As she walks the snow-covered roadside, a yellow van approaches. Years later, a woman (Abigail Hardingham, “Broadchurch”) walks perhaps the same path with the snow melting before reaching a small town and collapses. Simultaneously in the past, the van stops and the girl disappears. We soon learn that the two are one and the same — Alice Webster — sharing the same improvised spider web tattoo. Lying in a hospital bed, the grown Alice mentions another long-missing girl, Sophie Giroux, and a whole new mystery unfolds.
“The Missing” is a series that excels when it’s able to play its two timelines off of each other, letting the past inform us about the present, while changes in the present make us speculate about what happened in the past. Whether it’s a change in a relationship or a scar that wasn’t there before, “The Missing” has a wait as it methodically fills in the blanks. It was this interplay that made the first season so intriguing as it continuously brought forward new questions and revelations, using each timeline to construct an intricate web of connections and deceptions that stretched out over nearly a decade. Meanwhile, the series dove into the lasting effects of trauma that afflicted all the characters involved with the disappearance of the young Oliver Hughes, the missing boy from the first season.
However, instead of focusing on Alice’s initial disappearance and subsequent reappearance, season two takes the reappearance in2014 as a starting point and then flies us forward to 2016, where retired French detective Julien Baptiste (Tchéky Karyo, “The Patriot”) steps out of an airport into the scorching heat of the Middle East.
In addition to common themes and methods, “The Missing” finds its connective thread in the character of Baptiste, the sole returning cast member from the show’s first season. And while the first season tied up its long tale of mystery and grief with very few loose ends, it was clear that the wounds, both physical and emotional, would leave deep scars for all those involved. Still haunted by the disappearance and death of Oliver and the ghosts of so many others he’s lost over the years, Baptiste jumps at the new lead on Sophie Giroux, another case he was unable solve. Desperate to make things right, Baptiste now pursues this case with the same reckless intensity that consumed season one lead Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt, “The Hobbit” trilogy).
The hunt for those long-gone leads Baptiste to Iraq, a sharp contrast to the frigid German forests that dominate the exteriors of the 2014 mission. And while 2014 is captured in the washed out greys of winter, where questions remain to be answered and the truth lies of focus, 2016 is filmed in sharp daylight as Baptiste moves forward, boldly following his instincts, in spite of the horrors that may lie in wait.
As Baptiste searches for answers, the Webster family struggles to deal with their daughter’s return in 2014. Led by patriarch Sam (David Morrissey, “The Walking Dead”), the Websters go through a gauntlet of emotions upon reuniting with their daughter. Disbelief, relief, uncertainty and horror grip the family as Alice recounts her captivity. Morrissey’s strong presence as an actor is tested as the military man Sam tries to bear the brunt of his family’s trials; however, by the time we reunite with the family in 2016, Sam looks tired with a large burn scar covering the right side of his body — a man worn down by years of hardship. The rest of the family, including mother Gemma (Keeley Hawes, “The Casual Vacancy”) and son Matthew (Jack Davies, “Cyberbully”), is equally up to the task in conveying the wear and tear of time.
Ending on two gut punch twists, “The Missing” ’s season premiere forces us to rethink everything we’ve just seen as the truth again slips through the cracks and the characters are left to pick up the pieces.