‘Missing’ Review: “Tell Me No Lies”
This week's episode of 'Missing' continues the hit and miss pattern, but this time around we get a welcome -- albeit predictable -- twist in an episode-long game of cat-and-mouse interspersed with (mostly) weak flashbacks.
What is now formally the B-plot involving Michael in captivity has gone from an interesting approach to achingly dull within one episode. Maybe it's the writing, or perhaps it's Nick Eversman's acting, but the scenes with Michael this week are weak and bland. Oksana's involvement remains interesting, at least, and when Michael taunts a guard and does not get hurt, he comes to the conclusion that his kidnappers wish to keep him unharmed; later, Oksana is brought to Michael's room beat up and bloody, which means that she will be the one taking the punishment when Michael misbehaves.
Becca notices a man with a burn scar in some of the photos from the fated Vienna trip that left her husband dead. Miller tells Becca that this assassin would not have worked for Russia because his parents were killed in the Gulag. In a flashback, Martin Newman (Keith Carradine) tells Becca that her husband Paul was killed by Russian forces and that it was Martin's fault for sending him on a mission during his vacation with their son. This flashback coincides with the resurfacing of Newman, who is now a celebrated author and retired agent. He comes to Becca to tell her that the CIA knew, or at least suspected, that Paul was working for the other side.
This brings in a whole mess of cloying, formulaic flashbacks tracing Paul and Becca's pregnancy, engagement, and subsequent wedding. The issue with the flashbacks isn't just the maudlin nature, but the tired and familiar plot: Becca is mad because Paul left his toothbrush in her apartment, and they aren't "that couple," but two minutes later she tells him she's pregnant. It seems as though they've clearly been deeply involved for a long period of time, making the absurd toothbrush angle even sillier. So basically he can leave his sperm inside her, effectively knocking her up, but leaving a toothbrush on the counter signifies a commitment she's just not ready for. Babies are okay; dental hygiene is crossing the line.
The other big issue with the flashbacks is the way they condense Paul and Becca's relationship down and show us the most basic, elementary progression of pregnancy, engagement, and marriage. It's stuff we really don't need to see to understand that Becca loved and trusted her husband (but obviously not enough to let his toothbrush occupy shared counter space with her own), and instead seems like the showrunners were getting their money's worth out of Sean Bean.
In the most interesting parts of the episode, Becca and Miller, with help from Newman, are engaged in a game of cat and mouse with the man with the burn scar. When Becca confronts him, he says he'll tell her who has her son if she gets him immunity and a new identity. Ready to work out a deal, Becca goes to meet the man with the scar, but finds him dead and a mysterious man fleeing the scene. She chases the man down only to discover that it's her husband Paul.
It's the most predictable, classic Ashley Judd thriller twist that you could see coming from the first episode, but the reveal is still rather well done, if not earlier than expected. It's only episode four and already we've figured out that Paul is responsible for kidnapping Michael and is a traitor working for the other side.
'Missing' has strange pacing - each episode ends with a thrilling reveal, but the next episode works to undo that suspense and exhilaration with cumbersome plotting in the first act. The second act starts to untangle itself and brings in some decent action, and again, the third act ends on a thrilling high note. The cyclical nature of each episode is troublesome.
Still, with the reveal that Paul isn't dead after all, 'Missing' might still have some fun tricks up its sleeve. Bonus: It looks like Sean Bean doesn't always have to die.