Who would you like to see win the Radio Times Audience Award at this year’s television Baftas? Each of the RadioTimes.com team has their favourite. Here, James Gill explains why BBC1 drama The Missing needs your vote.
Good television comes and goes with the seasons – the oven glow of Bake Off in summer, the twinkling lights of Strictly in winter. But great television is never that reassuringly predictable. Great telly – the kind that deserves your Bafta vote – lures you on to your sofa and then unseats you, and nothing did that better last year than The Missing.
We expected another Broadchurch, a satisfying, complicated whodunit arching out from the harrowing loss of a son. What we got was something much more strange.
From the very first scene we should have known this series would give no closure, at least in the usual sense. James Nesbitt’s Tony lurched through the streets of Chalons Du Bois like a poltergeist; his every haggard expression warned you what this story might be capable of. There was no sense of an ending for Tony, a father un-manned by the loss of his son. Should we really have expected one ourselves?
God, it was cruel. When The Missing jumped us back to 2006, with the family still united and every frame of their French holiday seeping with sunlight, the sense of loss became too much. You didn’t have to be a parent to feel the pain.
Nesbitt’s superb performance was only half of the equation. If Tony raves like a phantom no one can see, his wife Emily hides her grief in plain sight. Frances O’Connor was crushing in the role, depicting the maternal honesty of a woman who has to move on – or collapse.
The series grudgingly settled down into the familiar patterns of a thriller. French detective Julien Baptiste followed Tony with weary dedication, like a priest waiting to administer the last rites. Suspicion and depravity only led to frustration and dead ends – literally in the case of wealthy benefactor Ian Garrett played by Ken Stott.
Tony’s mad perseverance turned everyone into a suspect. Every new lead blurred the lines of investigation and took us further from the particulars of the case. Boy. Pool. Road. House.
And we blindly followed, criss-crossing Europe in search of – what exactly? A child grown up? A body? A paedophile to confirm our worst imaginings? There was no end game here, no moment where Baptiste could lay a hand on Tony’s shoulder and say, ‘Enough is enough’. The hole is never going to be filled.
Was The Missing missing an ending? Of course not. As I said, we should never have expected reassuring closure, and the final frosted grief-bitten scene left us dangling. Yes, it alienated some, but the audacity of it – on BBC1, watched by millions – was like nothing else last year. Hard to love perhaps, but when it comes to voting for the Bafta Audience Award, it’s an easy decision. Don’t let The Missing miss out.
Vote for The Missing to win the Bafta Radio Times Audience Award here