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‘Missing’ Recap: “Pilot”

 

Missing
ABC

For fans of 90s mystery thrillers starring Ashley Judd, ‘Missing‘ seems like it should be magically nostalgic. Unfortunately, the plot — like much of the action — is thin and generic.

Rebecca Winstone is a florist and former CIA operative whose husband (Sean Bean) was killed by car bomb in Vienna when he and their son Michael were visiting. And obviously Sean Bean is contractually obligated to die in every movie or television show. It’s ten years later, Michael is grown up and has accepted an architecture scholarship for a school in Rome. Rebecca is naturally cautious about the prospect of letting her son leave the nest, both as a mother and as a former agent.

The show does heavy-handed work making us understand that Michael and Rebecca are very close, establishing that they call and text each other every day, and Michael has even developed a special code to send his mom, “235@W,” which she at first mistakes for some sort of tacky internet shorthand for dirty language.

Speaking of dirty language, ‘Missing’ throws the viewers a dirty joke, when Becca’s co-worker at the florist shop is trying to assure her after not hearing from Michael for several days that everything is okay by saying, “He is probably up to his neck in Italian p… people.” ABC wants you guys to know this show is edgy because they almost used the P word that means “vagina.”

But Becca was right to worry because she receives a call saying Michael moved out of his dorm two weeks ago and he was kicked out of school for missing class. Immediately Becca knows something is wrong and kicks into classic Judd thriller gear, hopping a plane to Rome to find out what happened.

It’s typical procedural stuff, painting our heroine as near-perfect. Every clue takes her where she needs to go and enemies pose little threat.

Rebecca finds Michael’s dorm apartment and as she snoops a mysterious man with a gun enters; she disarms him with a coat hanger, symbolic of her gender role.

I wonder: How long can this plot go on? It makes sense as a one-off series, but she will inevitably find her son, in this season or the next, and then what? Each season brings a new adventure with the CIA/florist supermom?

Rebecca gets in touch with Giancarlo, an old Italian contact. He identifies the intruder as a former Italian intelligence officer, meaning that Rebecca has killed her only lead. What’s more, she’ll now have every intelligence agency in Europe on her ass, which makes little to no sense, since the man she killed was a criminal.

Enter Agent Miller (Cliff Curtis) and his team, who are working to figure out why Rebecca has killed an ex-agent assassin. Meanwhile, Rebecca is talking to Michael’s girlfriend and searching for clues while more baddies are on her trail. And like a good mother, Becca is concerned about the health and appearance of young ladies; when Michael’s girlfriend takes out a cigarette, Becca makes her put it away because she’s too pretty to smoke. ABC wants you to know that this is a family network. They’ll push the envelope with vagina jokes, but cigarettes are no laughing matter.

Some baddies pursue Becca from the club, so she hops a Vespa and gets in a gunfight. This show is like one of the night clubs Stefon describes on ‘SNL’: It has everything! Ashley Judd on a Vespa, gunfights, espionage, floral arrangements, code words, and vagina jokes.

Becca returns to Giancarlo’s house, and cue the sappy soft romance jams as Giancarlo helps an injured Becca undress and bathe. So you see, the fierce mother and former CIA agent needs help sometimes, too, but this moment also clues us in on their romantic history, which means we’ll be seeing a lot more of the boring and bland Giancarlo.

Becca cries in the bathtub while a man bathes her because she’s bruised and vulnerable, and this sappy music is playing, and earlier she disarmed a guy with a friggin’ coat hanger. Memo to ‘Missing’ showrunners: This is some freshman year, armchair feminist posturing. I’d be insulted if I weren’t laughing so hard. It might work on your mothers after they’ve watched Nightline and are all settled in with their glass of bagged wine, tuckered out from a day of Swiffering the floors in their khakis and shopping for clearance sale window treatments at Macy’s.

Becca discovers security cameras in a photo Michael sent her, so she visits the security area of his apartment complex to check it out. There she finds footage of the moment when Michael was abducted. The license plate on the van points her to France, but aboard the train she’s taken down and brought in to see Agent Miller. After screaming at him, “I am not CIA! I am a mother looking for her son!” she seems to have convinced Miller that she’s a loose cannon and doesn’t play by the rules. Miller acquiesces and gives her three hours to track down her missing boy.

And naturally, she gets pretty darn close. Rebecca finds the warehouse connected to the van the criminals used to abduct Michael. Inside she finds a bed and handcuffs attached to the bed, with “235@W” scrawled on the wall.

During a shootout Becca uncovers piles of drugs hidden in sculptures. A hidden compartment in a drawer  reveals photos of Michael dating back to his childhood, indicating these men have been after him for some time.

And so my theory is this: the husband faked his death to join or run this criminal organization and now he wants to be reunited with his son, possibly to turn him.

Becca contacts Miller and leaves the phone off the hook so he can run a trace and find the warehouse and the episode ends with Becca getting shot and landing in the river.

Overall, ‘Missing’ isn’t nearly as engaging or exciting as Judd’s film work in the 90s, like ‘Double Jeopardy’ and ‘Eye of the Beholder,’ but longtime fans of hers will undoubtedly continue to tune in. Judd is a talented actress with a bumpy film history; at her best she’s given us fine, unnerving performances in ‘Norma Jean and Marilyn’ and William Friedkin’s ‘Bug,’ and even in the worst — like ‘Missing’ — she continues to prove she’s the white female Samuel L. Jackson; she’s the best part of a bad thing, and she’s damn good at it.

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