Many people have been talking about The Missing ever since it started 7 weeks ago and with the final episode airing tomorrow night and the mystery of who really took Oliver Hughes looming large in every fans mind, I thought I’d take a minute to discuss the true genius of the series and why, unlike many of the mystery series of recent years, The Missing is truly special. While some might say its a fearless performance by James Nesbitt or the fact the story doesn’t revolve around a murder that separates it from other shows I believe it is the way it handles its themes that differentiates it. The key theme? Guilt.
Almost every single character over the course of the series has been racked with guilt for one reason or another, be it Tony Hughes’ (Nesbitt) guilt over letting go of his sons hand for even a second so that he could be taken or Detective Baptiste’s (Tchéky Karyo) regrets about forcing his own daughter down a dark, drug infused path, guilt infects every aspect of the show and while you might expect this to ruin the mystery, the fun in trying to decipher who had a hand in this 6 year olds disappearance, it actually enriches it with actual consequences and the idea that this corrupting emotion can create the person you are going to be.
I must warn you that what comes next should be preceded by a giant SPOILER ALERT banner but this sentence will have to do because trawling google for one seems unnecessary and my drawing sucks.
The dual timeline method of storytelling the series employs (one thread is set in 2006 when Oliver is first taken, the other in 2014 as Tony finally makes headway in the now very cold case) shows the way guilt has destroyed or enhanced the lives of everyone involved in the Hughes case. Oliver’s mother Emily (Frances O’Connor) is about to remarry and is trying to move on but only because the guilt of letting her son go swimming would eat at her if she did not quash the feelings in her new, seemingly perfect new life. Her fiancee Mark (Jason Flemyng), a detective working the case back in 2006 (a plot contrivance you will have to just go with, if only for some great scenes towards the end of the series) is consumed by the idea that he has taken advantage of the grief of a susceptible woman, a thought that has seeped into his career which has stalled because of it.
The whole show embraces the idea that guilt guides us all to do the horrific (Tony impulsive murder of suspect and child molester Ian Garrett (Ken Stott)), the honourable (career criminal Karl Sieg (Johan Leysen) leaving the first clue for Tony to find) and the things inbetween (Baptiste removing evidence from a crime scene to protect Tony). The fact that tomorrow night the mystery will all be over may still concern some (and it may sway me slightly) but more important I can’t wait to discover the ultimate fate of our central characters and how their guilt will influence their final fate. I of course have predictions like everyone and I have giddily shared them with anyone who will listen but in the end my desires for how these people leave the series is more wrapped up in how it affects the thematic elements of the show than the overall mystery.
Be it Tony finally facing the things he has done in the name of his son or Mark finding his relationship with Emily crumble due to his own guilty insecurities I cannot wait to see what happens in the end and before the show ends I encourage people to hop onto iPlayer to take in every last second of this rich, well written series and be sure to come back here on Wednesday for my post mortem of the shows 8 episode run.