Why The Missing is too good to miss: It's TV's most compelling (and deliciously complex) drama - a web of murder, sex and lies. Now before tonight's instalment, here's our TV critic's must-read guide for fans and newcomers alike...
Concentrate, please. The most complicated crime drama ever screened on TV will return for another addictively confusing episode tonight, twisting our brains around like a Rubik’s Cube.
The Missing on BBC1 is like televisual Sudoku, yet it is utterly compelling, brilliantly acted and written, and a match for the much-lauded Scandinavian noir of recent years. That’s why it’s attracted around five million viewers, which is impressive for a drama.
Set in parallel timelines, as the same characters wrestle with the same crime in 2014 and 2016, it is made harder still by the sudden plot shifts and mystifying holes in the narrative.
So, after five mind-boggling episodes, what on earth is going on?
The Missing is based around Alice Webster - the 13-year-old daughter of a British officer and his wife stationed in Germany, was abducted in 2003
THE STORY SO FAR
Alice Webster, 13-year-old daughter of a British officer and his wife stationed in Germany, was abducted in 2003. (There really is a village called Eckhausen, but the British military base located there is fictional.) Eleven years later, Alice staggered barefoot into the town square, claiming she had been held captive by her kidnapper for 11 years with another girl named Sophie Giroux.
Retired French investigator Julien Baptiste, who had worked on Sophie’s case years ago, questioned Alice. He quickly began to suspect she was not who she claimed to be.
‘Alice’ identified local butcher Kristian Herz as her abductor. Days later, she ordered her brother to lock her in the garden shed (claiming she could only sleep on a hard floor behind a locked door) and, shockingly, set it ablaze herself. She died, and her body was apparently identified as that of Alice by DNA that matched her father’s. The disused bunker where she had previously been kept captive was discovered — but the other girl, Sophie, was never found.
Week by week, we realise that every character is hiding secrets. And only when we have uncovered what each one knows will we understand what happened to Alice Webster.
Told in two parallel timelines (or three, if you count early scenes of the 2003 kidnap itself), we see the events of 2014, following the reappearance of ‘Alice’, and what is happening now, in 2016, including the gruesome murder with a power drill which ended last week’s episode . . .
‘Alice’ identified local butcher Kristian Herz as her abductor. Days later, she ordered her brother to lock her in the garden shed and, shockingly, set it ablaze herself
Alice Webster (Abigail Hardingham): She’s 24, and medical tests showed she gave birth while a captive, though she initially denied this. Her mannerisms suggested she was really the other captive, Sophie Giroux. Everyone believes ‘Alice’ died in the shed blaze, an apparent suicide — yet viewers have seen an identical girl to her alive and well in Switzerland.
Sam Webster (David Morrissey): Badly burned in the blaze that killed ‘Alice’, Army officer Sam (below with wife Gemma) blamed his son Matthew and Gemma for his daughter’s death. He sought comfort in an affair with a military police officer, Eve, but appears to be burdened by a guilty secret that he cannot confess to anyone.
Gemma Webster (Keeley Hawes): Sam’s wife sensed that the returned ‘Alice’ was not really her daughter, and continued to have doubts, even after her death. Hollowed out by years of stress and grief, she is virtually estranged from both her husband and her son.
Matthew Webster (Jake Davies): Alice’s little brother, nicknamed Titch. In 2014, he did his sister’s bidding and locked her in the shed, to his father’s fury, just before she died. But in 2016, it is Matthew who cannot forgive his father Sam — for what, we don’t know. Now Matthew is keeping bad company, and dabbling in drugs.
Brigadier Stone (Roger Allam): Senior officer on the British base, he threatened ‘Alice’ when she returned and seemed to warn her not to betray him. After her death, he lapsed into senility and now lives in a nursing home. But he may be faking it — and French detective Julien Baptiste believes he was responsible for killing an Iraqi girl in the Nineties. There is no sign of Stone’s wife or the mother of his two adult daughters.
Eve Stone (Laura Fraser): The Brigadier’s daughter (below) was a surrogate mum for her sister, Anna. Unmarried and lonely, she is exhausted by her job as an Army redcap and the pressure of caring for her father. She regrets her affair with Sam Webster, and wants to help Sam’s wife, Gemma, learn the truth about the abduction.
Julien Baptiste, played by Tcheky Karyo, is the French ex-detective, now dying from a brain tumour
Adam Gettrick (Derek Riddell): With three episodes still to go, the Army press liaison officer was revealed as a psychotic killer, and perhaps the real kidnapper. His previously unseen daughter, aged about four, appeared with a drawing of herself and her mother in a dungeon.
Nadia Herz (Lia Williams): The wife of butcher Kristian (jailed for Alice’s abduction) is a former British Army officer, who may have served in Iraq with Brigadier Stone and another officer, Henry Reed (who is also dead, after apparently shooting himself). Nadia was brutally beaten after her husband’s arrest, by masked vigilantes, and lost her front teeth in the attack.
Julien Baptiste (Tcheky Karyo): A French ex-detective, now dying from a brain tumour. Obsessive, fearless and short on tact, he is determined to work out what happened to Sophie Giroux, and follows the trail anywhere, even to an Iraqi battle zone.
Sophie Giroux: We have only glimpsed her as a child. She disappeared before Alice Webster, in 2003 or earlier. When ‘Alice’ returned, she claimed Sophie had been dying from malnutrition and was too weak to attempt an escape. But was ‘Alice’ really Sophie herself?
Lena Garber: A third girl went missing around 2003 — one who looks very like the girl alongside ‘Alice’ and Sophie in a fairground photo that Gemma discovered. Her name was Lena, and it seems possible that it was really Lena’s body found in the burning shed.
Last week’s episode ended on a devastating climax, when likeable German policeman Jorn Lenhart visited Army press officer Adam Gettrick to ask him about Lena Garber, whose mother said Gettrick knew the family. Gettrick’s secret daughter appeared and showed Jorn the incriminating drawing. Before Jorn could react, Gettrick killed him . . . with a power drill.
MISSING PIECES OF THE JIGSAW
Clue 1: The DNA. Adam Gettrick said that DNA from the charred body of ‘Alice’, taken from the garden shed which she doused in petrol and set alight, is a positive match to her alleged father Sam Webster. It seems to prove ‘Alice’ was exactly who she claimed to be.
But that’s not as definitive as it appears. For one thing, Gettrick didn’t say whether the DNA also matched Sam’s wife Gemma’s gene profile. This might be because Sam was the only parent tested — he’s an Army man himself, so the medics would have his DNA on file, but not his wife’s.
There’s a less innocent explanation: the body in the shed was Sam’s daughter, but not Gemma’s. We did hear Gemma snap that, when Alice was small in the early Nineties, Sam ‘wasn’t around’.
That might mean he was away on service. Or it could mean Gemma and Sam were separated at that time. Did he have another child by a different woman? And if so, how did she turn up dead in his garden — if indeed it was her who died in the blaze?
Clue 2: Nadia’s Secret. When masked men broke into Nadia Herz’s butcher’s shop and knocked out her teeth, perhaps they wanted them for a reason. Is it too far-fetched to wonder if those teeth were used in the DNA tests after the fire, that linked the body of ‘Alice’ to Sam? If so, that means Sam and Nadia are related — brother and sister, perhaps? Though what light this sheds on the ever-deepening mystery is anybody’s guess . . .
There’s a much simpler solution, too — there was no DNA match. Gettrick was lying, to cover his crimes and prevent police from identifying him as the real abductor. In this case, perhaps Nadia’s beating was punishment by local thugs for being married to a suspected child abductor? But if Herz was part of a paedophile ring holding the girls captive, why would Nadia shield him?
We know from photographs that she participated in bondage sex games, but it doesn’t automatically follow that she would co-operate with imprisoning three teenage girls for a decade or more.
Gemma, played by Keeley Hawes, and Sam Webster, played by David Morrissey, are Alice's parents hollowed out by years of stress and grief
Clue 3: Gettrick’s Child. If he keeps women in his cellar, Gettrick could easily be the abductor, or at least one of them.
It’s a fair guess that it was Gettrick, as the press co-ordinator, who was tipping off journalists about hidden facts surrounding ‘Alice’ and the Webster family, Sam and Gemma.
But who is that little girl wandering around Gettrick’s house? Before killing Jorn, Gettrick told him this was his daughter, and that he and her mother, who lived in Britain, were separated. Which raises another question — who is her mother?
A medical examination of ‘Alice’ on her return revealed she had given birth at least once, though she initially denied any memory of that. Perhaps she was the child’s parent.
But there were three girls in that fairground photograph of what looked like three abducted girls, and police have two other names of missing girls: Lena Garber, and Sophie Giroux. Any of them might be the mother.
Clue 4: The Swiss Girl. How come a girl who looks just like ‘Alice’ is living near a Swiss town, with a camper van that looks very like the one used by her abductor all those years ago? She took a pair of red plastic spectacles from that van and burned them — we know the missing girl Lena Garber wore red spectacles, so perhaps they were hers.
More than ever, the implication is that the three young women were incarcerated together. Which doesn’t explain how ‘Alice’ escaped from a locked blazing shed and emerged in Switzerland, after leaving a body behind.
One answer could be that Sophie Giroux escaped from captivity too and, for reasons we don’t know, took on Alice’s identity. If Alice was dead, maybe she took her body too, and left it in the burning shed.
That’s not impossible — after all, we know she visited a graveyard just before the shed went up in flames. Did she rob a grave?
Clue 5: Stone’s Slip-ups. Flowers were left on the resting place of Henry Reed, another Army officer. Before he killed himself (if indeed he did), Reed had been paying hush money to a man called Mirza Barzani, after an incident involving a girl in Iraq, Barzani’s sister. That incident also involved Brigadier Adrian Stone. Did the British officers kill the girl — or abduct her?
Now, Stone seems to be in the grip of Alzheimer’s. If he’s faking it, he does it very well — his first bout of forgetfulness came in 2014, while his daughter Eve was in labour. And he has let slip some incriminating hints, during his ramblings.
They include a partial admission to French detective Baptiste that he was present when the Barzani girl was harmed, and that a third man was involved. On the other hand, he seems to be listening shrewdly for any news of ‘Alice’ and her abductor.
While packing her father’s overnight bag, Eve joked about his favourite maxim: ‘If you like something, get two.’ She was talking about corduroy trousers, but might that refer to the abducted girls?
Did Stone arrange the kidnap of Alice, so that Sophie would have company in her cellar? He had two daughters himself, after all . . . Eve and her sister Anna.
Clue 6: Eve’s Baby. We knew Eve had a sister, and it wasn’t a complete surprise to learn she was acting as a surrogate mother for Anna. When Eve was heavily pregnant in 2014, there was no sign of the baby’s father, nor any suggestion of a recent relationship. On the other hand, dark-haired Anna (Laura Pyper) might pass for Middle Eastern. Could she be the tragic Barzani girl?
While Sam Webster was helping to look after Brigadier Stone for the day, he happened across a stack of ultrasound baby scans in a drawer. Stone commented that ‘she’ had longed for a child, and Sam assumed ‘she’ meant Eve. But most mums-to-be only get one print-out picture. Why did Eve have so many? Had she been pregnant several times — or did these scans belong to the abducted girls?
Clue 7: The Twins. Young grief-stricken Matthew Webster is hanging round with some unsavoury German twins who supply him with drugs. That alone doesn’t explain why he is so pally with these coarse bullies.
Nor does it account for his sudden eruption in a supermarket car park, when he rounded on a dishevelled woman who looked very much like Nadia Herz and screamed at her.
Why he is so angry with her, no one knows — not even the twins, who thought he was simply robbing her.
Eve Stone, played by Laura Fraser, regrets her affair with Sam Webster, and wants to help Sam’s wife, Gemma, learn the truth about the abduction of her daughter
Investigating the actions of dead Army officer Henry Reed led Baptiste to another discovery last week, with the introduction of a new character — a transsexual German prostitute named Ilsa.
She had something of a special relationship with Reed and, according to her, she saw Reed’s body in his house just after he blew his own brains out. She also claimed someone moved Reed’s car later. That implies Reed was murdered. But is Ilsa telling the truth?
Clue 8: Baptiste's Pursuers. There’s one more loose end. While investigating events in Iraq, detective Julien Baptiste believed he was being pursued by sinister men. The Frenchman is suffering from a brain tumour that can cause hallucinations, so perhaps he didn’t really see anything. But if someone does want him dead, who is it?
Surely a mere press officer like Adam Gettrick, however evil, doesn’t have the power to dispatch Arab assassins. Brigadier Stone has senile dementia. Henry Reed is dead, and Herz the butcher is in jail. So who hired the hit squad?
All will be revealed . . . but not just yet. The Missing is an eight-part series, and tonight’s is only the sixth episode. Prepare to be even more baffled, bemused and bewildered.
The Missing, BBC1, 9pm, tonight.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-3939954/Why-Missing-good-miss-s-TV-s-compelling-deliciously-complex-drama-web-murder-sex-lies-tonight-s-instalment-s-TV-critic-s-read-guide-fans-newcomers-alike.html#ixzz4QCpFPdy5
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