Tag Archive: The Missing


Review by C.J. Bunce

We’re always on the lookout for the next great British/Irish/Scottish/UK police procedural or mystery series like Life on Mars or Ashes to Ashes, Hinterland or Shetland, Marchlands or Lightfields, Zen or Quirke, or, of course, Sherlock.  The 2019 British series A Confession is streaming on BritBox in the U.S. via Amazon, and it may not be as good as any of these, but it does eclipse recent series like Dublin Murders, The Silence, The Five, The Missing, Thirteen, Broadchurch, and CollateralIt is based on the real-life story of the murders of two women in 2003 and 2011, so the drama is dark and real.  And it offers up a cast of familiar genre actors that will make you want to take a look.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

We’re always on the lookout for the next great British/Irish/Scottish/UK police procedural or mystery, after the next Life on Mars or Ashes to Ashes, Hinterland or Shetland, Marchlands or Lightfields, Zen or Quirke, or, of course, Sherlock.  So the pay-channel Starz releasing a late-year mystery series called Dublin Murders was going to get our attention.  Filmed in Belfast and Dublin, with a noir sensibility–dark places, mysterious characters, and murder–the series has the potential to be a good detective series.  Billed as an “eight-part mystery series with a taproot that drops deep down into Ireland’s past, foreshadows the present and brings insight to its future,” the story follows Sarah Greene as Cassie Maddox and Killian Scott as Rob Reilly, homicide detectives on the trail of the murderer of a school girl.  The murder was similar–too similar–to a murder in the city’s past.

Maddox and Reilly appear appealing enough at first.  They share a secret of the past that would get them fired had anyone found out: Reilly isn’t really Reilly, but the alter ego of the sole survivor of the crime years ago that resulted in two missing friends, never to be found.  Unfortunately he’s a witness who can’t remember, and by all accounts he shouldn’t be involved with this investigation because of his clear conflict of interest.  Merged with his pursuit of the person behind the missing kids and the recent murder is a story of Maddox’s history catching up with her.  As a child her parents were killed in an auto accident, and to deal with it mentally she invented an imaginary friend she named Lexie.  As an undercover cop, she took on the name Lexie as her alter ego.  Now she and one of her former colleagues stumble upon another murder, a woman who looks just like Cassie.  And surprise: her name is Lexie.  Always waiting for the possibility that we’ve stumbled into an unreliable narrator series, ultimately that’s not the case, the woman was real and not something we’re seeing through Maddox’s imagination.  But the series stumbles for other reasons.

Based on the first two novels of Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad novels, In the Woods and The Likeness, a key problem is combining the stories from two books to make into one season of television–stories that have little to do with each other.  Both cops have these common stories involving dual personas so it’s easy to see how someone thought it might work.  But it doesn’t.  The first three episodes develop the characters, but suddenly they lose their personalities.  The quiet, likeable, and sympathetic Reilly becomes a jerk, a supremely angry and mean protagonist pushing away Maddox and everyone else and leaving the audience with little to care about from his plot thread.  Maddox has the same collision of character–once admirable and mostly by-the-book, she turns into a nasty character, bitter and horrible to those who care about her.  As Reilly becomes trapped in a development of his own making, Maddox agrees to a job with her former colleague, a preposterous undercover operation impersonating the deceased Lexie in order to discover her murderer.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

An exciting new Gothic suspense thriller has arrived in the new Netflix series Requiem.  Like any great mystery–and it seems even more so in this sub-genre–you never can tell what kind of story you’re in until the very end.  Clues are everywhere if you only look at what is right in front of you.  Call it a psychological thriller, call it a ghost story, call it a police procedural, call it another X-Files entry, call it outright horror, Requiem is a British production that, unlike so many past British series, it’s arrived for American audiences as quickly as it premiered in England.  And one of the great things about Netflix is it’s now bridging that gap of time that has so often taken British television series years to arrive in the States.  We don’t know their trick but we love it.  Requiem is as creepy, as atmospheric, and as chilling as anything you’re going to see this year.

Fans of the original The Watcher in the Woods will appreciate Requiem for many reasons, including getting that obligatory British estate nestled in the far-off woods so very right.  Viewers familiar with the Gothic genre will find themselves transfixed, scrabbling to follow clues and guess before the final episode the true nature of the darkness in the story.  The beauty of the script, acting, and setting is that you probably won’t be able to figure it all out.  It’s that good.  Expect a few “I didn’t see that coming” utterances and a satisfying ending.  Is this just another procedural crime drama about a missing child?  Something like The Missing, Thirteen, Broadchurch, Hinterlands, Shetland, or this year’s Netflix release, Collateral Or something with a more supernatural twist like British series Marchlands, Lightfields, The Secret of Crickley Hall, or a litany of creepy ghosts, haunts, and other fears from the big screen across the decades, like Otto Preminger’s Bunny Lake is Missing, Gaslight, The Lady Vanishes, or The Woman in Black, like the film adaptations of the Daphne du Maurier novels My Cousin Rachel, The Birds, and Rebecca, or adaptations of Gothic classics Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Turn of the Screw, or Great Expectations?  Maybe this is a modern horror tale wrapped in Gothic dress, like The Boy, The Ring, The Sixth Sense, The Shining, The Others, The Fog (and other John Carpenter classics), Skeleton Key, the Oscar winner Get Out, this year’s film Winchester, or Guillermo del Toro’s modern creation inspired by the classic Gothic thriller, Crimson Peak Or maybe it only has the atmosphere of the above productions.  

Virtuoso cellist Matilda Grey (Star Trek Beyond, Black Mirror, and Never Let Me Go’s Lydia Wilson) is readying a London premiere with her musical partner Hal (Game of Thrones’ Joel Fry).  But her world falls apart when her mother Janice (Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams and Spaced’s Joanna Scanlan) commits suicide.  At her mother’s home she finds a hidden box of secrets that reveals her own past may not be what it seems, and she and Hal find themselves trying to come to terms with Matilda’s loss in the seemingly unpronounceable Welsh town of Penllynith.  Something wicked this way comes, or does it?  Is everyone just caught up in an old missing persons case from years ago and the quirky lore of an old village?

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jodie-comer-thirteen

Review by C.J. Bunce

Thirteen–a moody and creepy new suspense mystery series is now airing on BBC America. It’s become a strangely familiar, recurring trope among the modern mystery tale–especially among British television: The lost girl, and more to the point, the lost girl found. Think The Revenants (and the English version The Returned) but without the supernatural. But flip the gender of the victim and it’s another take on the Starz Brit import The Missing, BBC’s less than stellar Broadchurch, or BBC’s brilliant Marchlands.

Like Elizabeth Smart, Johnny Gosch (and all of those missing milk carton kids of the 1980s), Ivy Moxam (played hauntingly by Jodie Comer) was snatched from her neighborhood at age 13.  She now finds herself walking out of the house she has been held hostage in, 13 years later at age 26.  In her own neighborhood all these years.  And the detective story begins as we meet Ivy and sympathize with her struggle to return to a world outside the walls of her captivity, an enormous gap of time lost.  In episode one she tries–and fails–to take up life where she left off, calling her old boyfriend (now married thirteen years later) and doing anything to avoid what has happened to her.  The series, which already aired in the UK, is only five episodes, so we learn the kidnapper midway through episode one and a manhunt begins.

13-series-bbc

Because of the serious nature of the subject matter these series are usually gut-wrenching. The closer you get to the truth, the closer the stories seem to mirror real-life crime horrors.

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The Missing Starz

Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s difficult to pinpoint the fine line between a run-of-the-mill, contemporary real-life drama and a good thriller.  If it’s dry and boring, we give it the label of “drama” and are happy to skip over it.  But if it has a mystery or action component and something special, then we sometimes take a closer look.  Case in point: The Starz British-produced mini-series The Missing, which was just renewed for a second season.  The “something special” is a handful of actors we’ve seen in great genre film and TV.

If you can get past the dreary sounding plot–a real-life drama about the kidnapping of a British boy vacationing with his parents in France–you’re in for a compelling suspense-thriller on par with the best police procedurals, like the BBC’s Zen or the original Law and Order.

Hobbits dwarves Nesbitt and Stott in The Missing

Another British mini-series, Broadchurch, repackaged for U.S. audiences as Gracepoint, had much in common with The Missing, at least on paper.  Broadchurch starred Doctor Who’s David Tennant and Arthur Darvill, and Attack the Block and Marchlands’ Jodie Whitaker and also followed a crime about a little boy in a small community.  The Missing features two actors who starred as dwarves in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit series, James Nesbitt, who played Bofur, and Ken Stott, who played Balin.  Mr. Selfridge and Timeline’s versatile actress Frances O’Connor plays the mother of the missing son, wife to Nesbitt’s determined and grim father.  A similar crime and genre actors are where the similarities end.  Where Broadchurch settled in as a passable melodrama, The Missing becomes a rich, engrossing, addictive tour of a place no one would want to go in real life.

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