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For some, television is only a means of escaping the day's corporeal problems via mental vicariism through sitcom characters or reality show contestants. For others, TV exists for the delicate arts of storytelling, of performance, and of drama. The insanely impressive British drama The Missing squarely fits in the latter group, though everyone from the former should feel zero hesitation before diving into the long-awaited second season when it debuts this month in the U.S. But be warned: The Missing Season 2 is a twist-driven masterpiece that is impossible to stop watching once you start. And tissues are welcomed.
The Missing almost works as an anthology series, in the sense that one need not have any real knowledge of the slightly less magnificent Season 1 to get floored and levitated by everything that happens in this new (to viewers) missing persons case. (But seriously, go watch the James Nesbitt-starring season ASAP.) The biggest connections here are the obsession-driven Detective Julian Baptiste (Tchéky Karyo) and the multi-timeline approach to how the narrative trickles out to viewers. Otherwise, it's a new set of tragedy-worn characters and an additional set of personal issues for Julian to deal with in his valiant toils.
Kicking off this endlessly enrapturing tale is the striking image of a malnourished and barefoot young woman (Abigail Hardingham) walking from the woods near a British army garrison in the German town of Eckhausen; this is the 2014 timeline. The woman is soon identified as Alice Webster, who had gone missing in 2003 and was largely presumed dead. Understandably, it is a life-changing event for the rest of the family - Captain Sam Webster (David Morrissey), Gemma (Keeley Hawes), and their son Matthew (Jake Davies) - as well as the surrounding community.
When the name Sophie Giroux gets mentioned early on, the story quickly opens up, even as it seems like things are heading for conclusion. Sophie was a French girl who went missing around the same time as Alice, and the case has haunted Julian Baptiste ever since. Now retired form the agonizing life of a detective, Julian nonetheless gets reattached to the case thanks to new developments that Alice provides. The decision is one that sits well with neither his overall health nor his wife (Anastasia Hille) in France.
From the first episode onward, The Missing ping-pongs back and forth from 2014 to the present day (with some jaunts to other points), and it gives nothing away to say that there are many aspects of Alice's case that are still covered in question marks in the years after that mysterious return. One by one, though, those questions marks get crossed out by episodes that embrace both the jarring twists of modern TV and the harrowing pathos of European dramas, with each installment a balanced and satisfying piece of the puzzle. Perhaps most surprising is how genuine and believable each new development feels.
Truthfully, The Missing's second season could feature just those five actors while retaining much of its emotional impact, and Tchéky Karyo is even more effective this season, thanks to his own story arcs. Keeley Hawes is the standout as a monolith of compartmentalized agony, a mother who never loses hope in the face of constant adversity. David Morrissey's Sam is ever torn between the no-nonsense virility of his military career and the sensitivity inherent to being a husband and father, while Jake Davies' Matthew is a broken young man who evolves into something far less innocent as the story unfolds. And Abigail Hardingham... well, it's better to say little about her, so I'll just mention that her all-encompassing eyes give a performance all on their own.
Created by Jack and Harry Williams, The Missing also bounces between locations in Season 2, and many other characters enter and exit the story, with some playing more important roles in the Websters' lives than others. Most notable is Sam's close colleague Sergeant Eve Stone (Laura Fraser), who leads the investigation into Alice's disappearance following her return. Eve's stress over the case is compounded by the declining mental health of her father Adrian (Roger Allam), who can no longer remain the leader of the Eckhausen military base. We meet other military personnel such as young Trooper Daniel Reed (Daniel Ezra) and the smooth-talking Major Adam Gettrick (Derek Riddell), as well as butcher Kristian Herz (Filip Peeters) and his wife Nadia (Lia Williams). Florian Bartholomäi plays a German officer who assists Julian in his efforts.
As it usually goes with mysteries, a viewer's knowledge is best kept minimal before heading into The Missing Season 2, but know that these episodes will leave you with your jaw on the floor at every turn. And even though you'll put yourself in each of the Websters' shoes, knowing that digging deeper will only make things hurt that much harder, The Missing will get under your skin until you are consumed by the need for the truth. Starz has definitely delivered a lot of stellar series over the years in all genres and sizes, but when it comes to heart-pounding, white-knuckle drama that inspires a index card-covered wall of theories, The Missing is the only show you need to find.
The Missing is set to take audiences' minds captive when Season 2 hits Starz on Sunday, February 12, at 8:00 p.m. ET. You won't have to wait that long to check it out, though, as the first episode is already available on Starz's mobile apps and On Demand, and eager viewers will be happy to hear that all eight episodes from Season 2 will be available on the app and On Demand services starting on February 12. It's almost harder to not watch it, so make sure you do.