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© Rakhesh Sasidharan

Thoughts on BBC One’s “The Missing”

The Missing is an interesting show. It’s one of those things that pull you in while watching, and while the ending may not make sense or might even let you down, you still keep thinking over the show and its characters. 

I started watching The Missing because of James Nesbitt. I stayed on because I liked the plot. It was slow, but every now and then the writers would drop something to feed your interest and keep you hooked for the next episode (where again the plot would slowly meander along). I suppose I could say I am a fan of slow shows, but that won’t be correct either, I think. Many a times I had a good mind to quit The Missing and just go over to Wikipedia to read what happens. But I held on because something attracted me to it. Maybe it’s Nesbitt’s performance, maybe it’s the writing. The plot is slow, but not painfully slow. The characters are sad, but not painfully sad (as one might say of Sarah Lunden of The Killing, which is similarly slow but I gave up after three seasons and was glad when they cancelled it). 

Yes, I think it’s the writing on The Missing that definitely had me hooked. The way the episodes were written and directed, it pulled you in to the plot so that while it was slow you were still hooked on to the plot and curious about what’s happening. And each episode was an exercise in slowly inching towards the truth. In each episode the characters (mainly James Nesbitt and Tchéky Karyo) uncovering a clue, come across roadblocks, and just when all hope seems to be lost there’s a glimmer of hope which leads them to the next clue/ episode. And these aren’t just random clues. They are sensible and well placed, so you stick on with the show. 

Interestingly it was the father of the missing boy who is more worried and “crazy” in this show, while the mother though sad manages to cope with it and make an effort to move ahead with her life. I didn’t expect that. In the first episode when the boy wen’t missing, I assumed it would be the mother who’d have difficulty and hence break up the marriage. Again, good writing. Sensible stuff. 

The ending is what put me off and also dragged me into the show. Not the ending of the mystery where they discover what “supposedly” happened to the boy, but the mystery surrounding that ending. That was superbly taken. For one, when the boy’s dead body was shown to the mayor, we the audience too never see it. So we are trapped in the mind of the parents – inquisitive just like them to know what happened to the boy – but unable to verify for themselves/ ourselves on whether the dead body was really of the boy. And therein the writers are kind of treating us like the father and mother I think. Some of us will be like the mother and find peace with the ending, telling ourselves that it was indeed the boy so we now have some sort of closure. But the rest of us will be like the father, unsure about the ending – and tearing ourselves apart in the process – because we haven’t seen the body! And to top it up there’s the final ending where the father is now in Russia and there’s a picture of the stick figure the boy draws, and we are left with no closure as to whether the boy drawing it was the son or just some random kid. We are trapped in the father’s mind-frame with no closure for ourselves, haunted with the thought that perhaps the boy is still alive! I love that.

The Missing really isn’t about a boy missing. It’s about the things missing in everyone’s life (including the viewers) after the experience. Missing closure. Missing life because of being trapped in the prison. Missing peace. 

If I remember correctly ever since the boy went missing, every year his father had been on some clue hunt or the other. Most of them ended up in a false alarm, but this latest one led to an end. The question now – and rightly so – is whether he should just leave it at that, or keep digging to answer all his questions? After all if he had just left things as they were, he would have never discovered what really happened to his son. So isn’t he justified in digging further and ignoring everyone else in his pursuit to satisfy any other doubts he may have? And especially since that stick figure drawing was on that window in Russia – surely it must mean something?

See how I am trapped in the father’s mind now. That’s what I said – excellent writing! “It’s the slow knife that cuts the deepest” (via Dark Knight Rises) – so apt here! It’s the slow episodes that have actually cut deepest into my mind. 

Anyone else noticed that James Nesbitt and Jason Flemyng have both played characters of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde? The former in the TV show Jekyll, the latter in the movie The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. And in this show one’s the ex-husband, the other’s the new husband. Heh!

If you ask me whether I’d watch The Missing again, I’d probably not. Do I love the show a lot? Sure, yes! I think it’s a great show. Many viewers seem to compare it to Broadchurch and prefer this over the latter. I don’t know if I’d choose one over the other – in my mind you can’t compare the two. Broadchurch was faster paced, but still a slow show and about something else altogether – how a murder ripples through a small community and nearly everyone seems to be a suspect (again, smart writing!). If I were given a choice between watching one over the other I’d take Broadchurch – mainly because it was more murder mystery, less other stuff, and also because it was slightly faster. But that’s not to say The Missing is better than Broadchurch, or vice versa. 

But I’d take Fargo over all these shows! Again, a different beast altogether, but boy do I love Fargo! I loved the writing, and I loved all the characters – esp. the really evil Billy Bob Thornton character, and the deeply evil Martin Freeman character. Nice!!

Sherlock Season 3 – Episode 3

Of course, as expected Episode 3 was brilliant. Couldn’t have it any other way, the writers are on a roll this season!

I think the best thing about this season is that it these episodes aren’t Sherlock stories, rather they are stories about Sherlock. The focus isn’t on mysteries – the mysteries are there (and sometimes not), but what really matters is the character of Sherlock. For instance there’s this amazing sequence in Episode 3 when Sherlock gets shot – and there’s a whirlwind of events happening in a span of few minutes which go deeper into Sherlock the person. His childhood, his friendship with Watson, his dog, his brother … and so on. Even the events unfolding after the shooting aren’t treated like a mystery. There’s a touch of humanness to them. Mary is not really Mary, and on surface it looks like she shot Sherlock – but did she really? That part is written beautifully with Sherlock correctly deducing how she saved him and why she couldn’t kill Magnusson as that would only incriminate her husband.

There’s no mystery in this episode either. It is simply about Sherlock, Watson, Mary and the threat they face from Magnusson. The latter doesn’t have much screen presence until the end, where his strength (and weakness too!) of having a mind palace is revealed and quickly dealt with.

I don’t think Moriarty will be making a return. The “missed me?” commercials hint that Moriarty could return, but I don’t think so. I think they are a ploy by Sherlock or his brother to give England a reason to pardon Sherlock and acquit him of the murder. Again, excellent stuff! The writers simultaneously play with the viewers and also find a way to absolve Sherlock. Brilliant!

And now the long wait for Season 4 starts. Hope it continues well like this.

p.s. Also, since Anderson seems to be normal and not a crazy as hinted towards the end of Episode 1 when Sherlock supposedly explained how he escaped, I think this adds to my hypothesis that that explanation too was just a theory.

Sherlock Season 3 – Episodes 1 & 2

Sherlock’s Season 3 is turning out to be a treat to watch.

The first episode was great as expected. Which is natural because everyone’s curious on how Sherlock survived and the creators better come up with a good explanation. But the beauty of the episode, in my opinion, was how they toyed with the theories. The episode showed enactments of multiple fan theories teasing us that this might be the answer and then pulling the covers off to show that it’s only a theory. In fact I am still not sure whether the final theory shown (to Anderson, with the squash ball) is the real explanation or just another theory.

Anyways, as Watson put it well it doesn’t really matter how he survived – umm, though it does to us curious viewers! – what really matters is that Sherlock is alive.

I found the case in the first episode weak. It was interesting in terms of the wordplay – “underground” network really meaning the “Underground” railway network, and “empty hearse” referring to not just Sherlock’s hearse (as in the book) but also the missing carriage which had the bomb in it. Good one!

Speaking of bombs though do they come with kill switches? I thought that was a bit cheeky and convenient – placing an off/on switch in the bomb. I would have understood putting an off switch which requires you to enter a code, but something as plain and simple as the switch in the story seemed a bit like the writers we’re pulling a fast one on us. Anyways, I wasn’t paying much interest to the case in this episode. Sherlock’s return was the big thing, along with Watson’s reaction and the introduction of Mary and the general effect upon everyone on seeing Sherlock again. The scenes were Sherlock meets Watson for the first time again were well taken – from the French waiter impersonation to the tussles the two had, as well as the ongoing theme that nearly everyone “important” to Sherlock (such as his brother and parents) seemed to know he was alive but Watson didn’t.

Overall, a good episode though perhaps a bit cheeky in not letting us on with regards to how Sherlock really survived! And the episode ends with a hint of the new villain – ooh, yummy!

The second episode, aired yesterday, was simply brilliant. I saw it today, a few moments ago, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was well written – genius in fact, the dialogues and plot and the disparate cases that all tie together in the end – and was amazingly captured with the camera and special effects sprinkled through out the episode. Lots of excellent wordplay and smart dialogues that say one thing but mean another and in the end lead to something else altogether. Sherlock’s wedding toast speech was beautifully written – along with his non-human way of delivering something that was absolutely touching and yet he not realising how wonderful it was or why everyone was in tears! The speech also interweaves the multiple murder mysteries into it and twines them all together to produce the grand mystery which Sherlock obviously uncovers and in the process solves the other mysteries as well.

I am not sure how the “invisible knife” murder would work in practice – I can see the victims won’t bleed until the belt is removed, but won’t they feel any pain and thus be aware of being stabbed? – but that’s just a small thing compared to the amazement I had with everything else.

And just when you think that everything’s done and that the title “sign of three” possibly refers to the three cases, we are told that nope it in fact refers to Mary being pregnant and so alludes to the signs that the family is going to be three. Bravo!

Can’t wait for the next episode. It’s going to be sad though, when that episode ends on a cliffhanger like in the past two seasons and we have to wait another year just to see Sherlock and Watson again!

Speaking of Watson, that’s another brilliant thing about this episode. It puts a focus on Watson and how he too is an important member of the team – not just someone to contrast Sherlock with (which quite smartly Sherlock himself says and then turns around to deliver the real message), but someone who complements Sherlock and balances him. You need both Sherlock and Watson for the team to be like it is. The show might be called “Sherlock” and be all about Sherlock, but Watson is equally important and can’t be replaced with anyone else.

Speaking of replacing Watson, last episode gave a glimpse of how things would be if Sherlock were working with Molly instead. It isn’t quite the same…

Molly seems to have more screen presence these two episodes. Not too much, but she is there and the camera focuses on her now and then to show she still cares for Sherlock and while she may have moved on she nevertheless has an eye on Sherlock. Which is good. We don’t know how things will unfold so it’s good to know Sherlock has someone if need be.