Starring: James Nesbitt, Frances O’Connor, Tchéky Karyo
Summary: Young British boy Oliver Hughes goes missing during a family holiday in France, leading to one of the biggest manhunts the country has ever seen.
Genre(s): Crime, Drama, Mystery
British dramas are extremely hit-and-miss, but when The Missing hit the small screens last year, it turned out to be one of the most impressive shows to ever come from UK shores. Here we look at the story of Oliver Hughes and give our opinion on the creation and delivery of a series that pulled at the heartstrings and had viewers reaching for a box of tissues.
To watch The Missing on BBC Australia, check out recent Foxtel packages.
The Missing was one of the UK’s most-talked about shows in 2014, causing the nation to become embroiled in an abduction story that truly hit home. James Nesbitt stepped into the role of Tony Hughes, a man devastated by the loss of his young son in France, whilst the family is on vacation. Slowly becoming obsessed, he’s unable to accept the inevitable and spends years trying to piece together the loose strands of the investigation.
Playing ‘happy family’, Tony and Emily Hughes take their young son Oliver on vacation to France. Initially, they’re having a great time and seem to be closer than ever. Unfortunately though, everything changes when Oliver suddenly disappears into the night, while being under Tony’s care. Instantly panicking but being ignored by the crowds who are all entranced by the World Cup match on television, Tony screams for his son, but to no avail. He’s gone, likely abducted – and so begins the devastating and traumatic search for the little child.
Told using a narrative puzzle which switches between the present day and the time at which Oliver went missing, we discover that the investigation conducted by French authorities into the youngster’s disappearance was not without its own drama. Evidence was withheld from certain parties, officers were playing dirty and records were not being kept up with properly. Despite all that, some of the investigators did their best, but it turned out not to be good enough. Now, in the present day, Tony thinks he’s found a new lead.
Returning to France, he seeks out the help of Detective Julien Baptiste and convinces him to help him with one final search for the truth. Soon, we realise that Tony and Emily’s relationship broke down following Oliver’s disappearance and though he’s not been able to move on with his life at all, Emily is doing well and living with a police officer who worked on her son’s case.
Throughout Tony’s journey we discover that not everybody is who they’re claiming to be on the outside, none more so than property developer Ian Garrett. Discovering that he is a paedophile, a mist soon settles in not only for Tony, but also the viewer, as we can’t think of anything but the young boy’s abduction and the molestation that likely followed. This becomes such a weight for Tony to bear that he ends up killing Garrett and covering up the entire thing. Back in the present day we realise that this is something Tony has been able to keep under wraps and hidden from the authorities, preventing him from being incarcerated.
Back in 2006, we discover that shady police officer Khalid Ziane handed over a piece of evidence that he found at the scene the week before to dubious journalist Malik Suri – a piece of evidence that he never logged. Hinting that it was a hugely pivotal clue, the story then shows us just why Detective Baptiste has such a pronounced limp – it was permanently damaged by Khalid when he was making off with the evidence.
Seven episodes in, we discover exactly what that clue was. Cutting a present-day deal with cop-behind-bars Khalid, the evidence he suppressed is to be revealed, but he’s murdered behind bars before he gets the chance to speak up. However, Malik is eventually forced to give up the item he has been holding back from the investigation for the past eight years – a blood stained coin, something that Tony has seen before.
Taking off to the hospital, the group discovers that Alain is currently on his deathbed. Alain – the owner of the hotel where Tony and Emily stayed all those years ago – finally makes his confession. He was drinking on the night Oliver went missing. After consuming a huge amount of alcohol, he got behind the wheel of his car and knocked the little boy over in a tragic accident. Getting his brother onboard – the examining magistrate at the time and current mayor – the pair got a Romanian gangster to get rid of Oliver’s body. Upon leaving what they thought was a corpse with the gangster, however, Oliver wakes up. Since the gansgter was given clear instructions to get rid of the boy, the viewer is left believing that Oliver was killed anyway, his body disposed of.
However, in the closing moments we go to Russia and see Tony madly accosting a young boy with a similar look to Olly. Could he still be alive and well? Or is the viewer simply supposed to feel the longing, emotion and uncertainty that Tony will go through for the rest of his life? Though he’s acting as if he’s moved on, he hasn’t. Will he ever be able to do it?
Our Critic Review
Exploring the huge impact that the abduction and disappearance of a child can have not only on the family directly involved, but an entire nation, The Missing does well when it comes to punching the viewer in the gut and illicit the strongest of emotions. With multiple time frames, it’s a mini-series that’s going to take all of your attention if it’s to be fully understood, but one that’s compelling and rewarding once all is said and done.
James Nesbitt is one of the best actors the UK has produced, and here he gets a chance to truly shine. Couple that with the brilliance of Frances O’Connor and it’s easy to say that The Missing is one of the best British series for quite some time. Characters are free of the stereotypes that we may often associate with a show of this genre and the writing is truly something special. When a creator can get a viewer to feel the gut-clenching terror that a parent experiences when their child goes missing, the creators are doing everything right.
The Missing is must-watch television, and I for one cannot wait to see what’s in store when the title returns for a second series featuring a completely new story to be explored.
VIDEO: Watch The Missing Trailer!
This is one of the year’s very best TV programs, hard as it sometimes is to endure. Read Full ReviewMatt Zoller Seitz, Vulture
An excellent eight-part British mystery reminiscent of The Killing and Broadchurch in its brooding anguish. Read Full ReviewMatt Roush, TV Guide
The Missing is imaginatively written, well cast, chillingly believable and quite addictive. This kind of story has been told this way before, but somehow that doesn’t make this telling any less compelling. Read Full ReviewAlessandra Stanley, The New York Times