My Thoughts on the Finale of BBC’s THE MISSING (SPOILERS!)

The Missing - James Nesbitt

Like so many others, the last eight weeks have all been about THE MISSING, BBC One’s brilliant but harrowing drama series about the disappearance of Oliver Hughes, a young boy who is taken from his parents in a small French town in 2006, and the effect that his vanishing has on his parents, who deal with his unsolved disappearance in completely different ways.

James Nesbitt and Frances O’Connor were incredible as the unluckiest parents in the world, and their performances are even better when you consider that the series jumps back and forth in time from 2006 (before and after the abduction) to 2009 and then the present day. They both deserve BAFTA’s at the very least. Golden Globes wouldn’t be a surprise either.

The huge twist – spoiler alert, obviously – of the drama was that poor Olly Hughes was the victim of horrendous misfortune and the panicking nature of others, not at the hands of a paedophile ring or at the hands of a dodgy hotel owner. As it happened, Olly was mowed down by a car, and the drunk driver at the wheel panicked and put into motion a chain of events that was painful to watch because it felt so real.

That has been the best part of the show. The writers have focused more on what guilt, remorse, anger and sorrow does to people – and parents in particular – than creating a murder-mystery with a satisfying conclusion.

Ah, that conclusion. Incredible. It’s going to rub people up the wrong way – and great endings always should – but it was perfect. James Nesbitt’s character was never going to accept the truth, he’s too far gone. Look at what he’s done to get to where he is now: He’s killed Ian Garrett, beaten suspects half to death, broke several laws, and it was all topped off by watching the love of his life move on – accepting Olly’s death – and marry somebody else.

The Missing - Frances O'Connor

The final scenes, with Tony (Nesbitt) following a half-lead all the way to Russia and finding himself arrested for harassing a child that looks like Olly as he would look now (a masterstroke of sleight of hand by the writers/director), are as heartbreaking as you would expect. The scenario reminded me of Guy Pearce in Memento: chasing leads that don’t exist and going round and round in circles.

The Missing - James Nesbitt

The ending has split people right down the middle, and after reading the #TheMissing Twitter feed, I applauded the series creators for pulling off a brave and realistic conclusion that was never going to have easy answers for everybody. You’re either in the Tony Hughes camp – desperately searching for a comforting end – or you’ve accepted the painful truth, as Emily has.

It’ll be a long time before any series punches you as hard in the gut again.

What did you think of the ending? Let me know in the comments below, or Tweet me at @FreelancePunch.

6 Comments on “My Thoughts on the Finale of BBC’s THE MISSING (SPOILERS!)

  1. Totally agree with this assessment. I suppose by this point I should know better, but what is it with the naysayers and their disappointment? This was masterpiece of writing, direction, cinematography, and of course acting, from start to end. Simple minds seeking simple plots really ought to stick with CSI: Midsomer.

    However, one unanswered question, and one curiously without discussion online: What were the Russian lines spoken by the boy at the end? There were two lines, the first as he opens the apartment door, the second as we see the police arrive in the distance. These were deliberately not subtitled, clearly intended to leave the audience rattled. Mission accomplished and bravo. But still, what did the boy say?

    Reply
    • The naysayers are like Tony: They wanted a clean resolution. But this was a truthful and tragic drama. I was so impressed, I was worried that the writers (or the BBC themselves) might cock it up, but they broke all of our hearts.

      Who knows what the boy said? You can guarantee that Tony will be back to find out!

      Reply
      • Daveduck

        From elsewhere on the webs:

        My Russian adviser says:

        The boy says “Hello! How can I help you?” – a bit artificial in Russian for a boy of this age, and too formal.

        And then he says “Listen, I don’t understand”.

        Et voila.

    • He said “Excuse me sir, can I help you” and then he said “I don’t understand what you are saying”

      Reply
  2. Daveduck

    Totally agree with this assessment. I suppose by this point I should know better, but what is it with the naysayers and their disappointment? This was masterpiece of writing, direction, cinematography, and of course acting, from start to end. Simple minds seeking simple plots really ought to stick with CSI: Midsomer.

    However, one unanswered question, and one curiously without discussion online: What were the Russian lines spoken by the boy at the end? There were two lines, the first as he opens the apartment door, the second as we see the police arrive in the distance. These were deliberately not subtitled, clearly intended to leave the audience rattled. Mission accomplished and bravo. But still, what did the boy say?

    Reply

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