Billed as this year’s Broadchurch, The Missing has been a somewhat brutal affair. I don’t know if it’s because James Nesbitt plays a father’s agony so well, if the subject matter was too hard to digest or if it’s just because the young actor who plays Oliver has the most adorable and innocent cherub face, but the outcome of last night’s finale has left my stomach in utter knots.
I was never expecting a cheerful ending to the year’s most grim series; how could it possibly have ended happily when Oliver disappeared from sight so many years back? As the lead officer Julien Baptiste pointed out to gutted Tony last night, better that he died back then than lived all of these years at the mercy of a paedophile or holed up in someone’s cellar. For the programme to have maintained its realism and integrity, there could only be one outcome for poor Oliver. But the question over what happened to him from the moment Tony tragically lost sight of him in that heartbreaking opening episode has plagued us for eight long weeks.
With theories ranging from intricate revenge plots, transsexual sex offenders and child swapping, the plight of Tony Hughes has captured a gripped nation’s imagination. So, how were we feeling as the final episode drew to a close? If Twitter is anything to go by (and it invariably is), we were at the very least conflicted and at the most, downright enraged by the solution to the saga.
Put bluntly, after all of the twists, clues and red herrings, Oliver Hughes was led astray by a fox of all things. But there was more to the tale than that. Run down by the B & B owner Alain, the accident was covered up but in the cruellest of twists, there was a point where Oliver could very well have been saved. He had actually survived the road accident and even tried to escape, but in television’s most heartbreaking of awful plot developments, the man tasked with disposing of the dead body actually created one. And in one fell swoop, Tony et al realised that Oliver needn’t have died at all if Alain had checked the body more thoroughly or the ruthless man they hired to clear up had some kind of conscience.
James Nesbitt’s reaction at the crushing deathbed confessions of Alain were agonising to watch; throughout the series, Nesbitt has fired on all cylinders, delivering arguably the best performances of his career. Tony has faced every parent’s worst nightmare over and over again and, even after the mystery was resolved, the ambiguity of where Oliver’s body ended up pushed Tony over the brink into insanity. He never was able to move on from the tragedy which tore his family apart and he never found the closure he needed to be able to recover even a little bit. We saw him in the not too distant future travelling to countries far and wide, unknown clues leading him even to Russia where he pursued children he became convinced were Oliver to the point where he was dragged away by police.
The writers left things somewhat vague, allowing viewers the freedom (or frustration) to decide whether Tony actually HAD found Oliver or whether the loss of his son had simply destroyed him completely. My perception, for all realistic purposes, can only be the latter for a number of reasons including the boy being found was a little too young to be Oliver after those years and the fact that the real Oliver would undoubtedly recall what happened to him and remember his father.
As any desperate parent would do without the closure of their child’s body, Tony refused to accept the reality that his son really was gone and, as the credits rolled, we were left to try and accept that he was doomed to spend the rest of his life manically chasing a resolution that he would never find.
Meanwhile, Emily tried to move on by marrying Mark, but her heart did not seem to be in it. I never took to Emily and, even at the end as she opened her heart, I still failed to warm to someone who, in comparison to Tony, seemed so detached from everything that was going on. I can’t quite tell if this was a deliberate journey for Emily to take but I am disappointed that I did not feel much in the way of redemption for the character. I felt more sympathy for tortured paedophile Vincent Bourg, who spent the entire series being accused and effectively wanting to cure himself of an affliction he could not rid himself of; rather grimly, his only way out was suicide.
It was a very harrowing ending and one that I had come to expect would pack an emotional punch for days to come after it aired. I see the points of view that some are a little let down by the ambiguous ending and yet, I can only feel agreement for the way in which The Missing concluded the sorry tale. It has been honest and up front about the agony such a trauma causes from the very beginning. It is only fitting that it ended in an equally true and devastating way. Quite often, those experiencing a scale of tragedy like this will never find closure and it would have been offensive of the show to have concluded in any way that suggested otherwise.
We are a nation that likes to see loose ends tied up and everyone live happily ever after. But this is not reality. One thing The Missing never pretended to be was a detached work of fiction. It was consistently close to the knuckle from beginning to end and that it why it will linger in the memories of viewers for a long time to come.
As far as I am concerned, this was a series where, in terms of quality, nothing was missing.
Written By Our Man In The North TWITTER: https://twitter.com/Our_manPLA