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Flawed but fascinating: How The Missing kept us gripped

Our man on the BBC drama that had viewers glued to their screens

By Jonathan Bell

Published 01/12/2016

The Missing's Alice Webster
The Missing's Alice Webster
missing

And so it came. After weeks of revelations, high drama, tension and frustration, The Missing surprisingly answered the questions it posed and gave the explanation and the ending - to a degree - craved by us all.

The twists and turns of James Nesbitt's 2014 The Missing kept us glued to our seats - and at times hiding behind them.

Where it left off appeared conclusive, so when a second series was announced, it came as a surprise to most.

Series two began with a long lost child emerging from the woods - albeit to the relief of a different family and in a different setting.

Alice Webster, after years in her captor's basement, came home and with her a ray of hope to her torn family.

In place of Nesbitt's character - the tortured and haunted Tony Hughes left searching far off desolate places, seeing missing Oliver in any child - we have Julien Baptiste.

The French detective from series one is now ravaged by cancer and determined to go out with 'case solved' stamped on one of his most notorious files.

Like Hughes, implored by all to let it go for the sake of his health and the sake of his family, he can't, always believing to be "so close" to the truth.

Alice's reappearance brings the renowned missing child investigator onto the trail of abducted Sophie, her disappearance having echoes of the Webster case.

And soon questions surround Alice and if she is indeed who she says she is - something her 'mother' Gemma has strong suspicions about.

But Alice doesn't hang around long enough for an interrogation.

Her death in a fire in the shed leads to DNA proof it was definitely her.

In contrast to series one, mother Gemma refuses to accept her daughter's death, while father Sam willingly believes all in front of him as the family slowly tears itself apart and as the episodes progressed, so the plot thickened.

Such was the craftsmanship of the writing by Harry and Jack Williams and the acting by Nesbitt, the original season propelled itself into one of 2014's 'must watch' dramas.

Series two was not without its faults, plot holes were aplenty - Baptiste's detective skills were superhuman - and it did stray off the beaten track in more ways than one.

But the quality of the writing was there. With breadcrumbs of clues scattered throughout, the viewer was allowed in to play a part in piecing together the case.

Crossing three time lines allowed the audience to fill in the gaps but added confusion.

There was a preposterous trip to Iraq and the front line of opposing fighting forces.

But the slow plodding nature helped build the suspense while the bombshells were earth-shattering.

The butcher's wife's possible involvement and the shocking drill moment that unmasked the killer helped build to the penultimate cliffhanger, posing questions every thriller should - the what and the why.

And soon all the faults were forgotten.

Last night we were given a glimpse into how it all began to unravel for our culprit before the show reached its gripping climax in

the woods in Switzerland. Maybe it hadn't the same drama we had come to expect, but there was emotion and the closure not afforded us in the original.

The writers, however, would appear to have a grim tendency for not allowing a completely happy ending.

Given the standalone element of series one, it was hard to see where or how they could emulate its achievements in series two.

But it gripped and it has redefined crime thrillers by making you, the viewer, a silent partner to Baptiste's lone crusade to get to the truth. At times unsettling, it drilled into your head - in more ways than one.

While delivering the ending we so very much wanted for series one, it did not live up to the consistently high standard laid out by Nesbitt, the original cast and script.

But no matter, the breadcrumbs have been laid for another series and whatever the journey it takes one thing will be for sure, there'll be no missing it.

Belfast Telegraph

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