An utterly preposterous, continent-hopping espionage thriller, ABC’s Missing stars Ashley Judd, and serves as another mile-marker on the road started down by new network president, Paul Lee, in pursuit of entirely un-ironic genre fare, liberally sprinkled with shameless soap opera conventions. Judd plays the sensible sweater-wearing retired-CIA-operative-turned-widowed-soccer-mom, Rebecca ‘Becca’ Winstone, who traded in the black-ops briefings for PTA meetings and who hightails it to Rome in pursuit of her teenage son, seemingly kidnapped by persons unknown.
If you imagine eurotrash thriller Taken as re-imagined by the Lifetime Network then you’ve some idea what to expect. But asking Judd to play this concept straight up – without the knowing irony that mitigates the likes of Revenge on the same network – is like nailing someone shut inside a coffin and then asking them to breakdance.
Utterly devoid of anything approaching a sense of humor, yet clearly costing an awful lot of money (they look like they really did go to Europe), Missing simply takes itself far too seriously to expect an audience to. Purportedly a serial mystery the series does itself and the viewer the most appalling disservice by essentially letting the cat out of the bag in the very first scene. Unless they seriously expect us to believe that they paid for Sean Bean only to blow him up, off camera, inside of three minutes?
From a starting point like that there really are very few places the series can go, painfully pushing Judd through the motions are she tracks her son’s last known whereabouts with grim determination, unwavering righteousness, and practical footwear. At times though it is difficult to discern when the show is running and when it has broken for commercial, such is the relentless enthusiasm with which they seem to be trying to sell you smartphones. Literally every other scene involves some utilization of the handy features of a Samsung; be it video, contacts, call history, or pictures. It’s shameless. There is also running – lots and lots of running. They might be trying to flog Becca’s sandals with that. We’re not sure.
Of course, thanks to the legacy of Jack Bauer and Jason Bourne, no spy caper is complete without an agency guy in a suit screaming at a room of terrified analysts to “FIND…(whoever)” and in that capacity we have Cliff Curtis as Paris Station Chief, Dax. Only, Curtis is no Brian Cox or Chris Cooper. Heck, he’s not even David Strathairn and the only thing creakier than Judd’s Krav Maga is the dialogue spouted off between her and Dax. “We cannot have CIA operatives running their own agenda,” he barks. “I am not CIA,” Becca snarls back, “I am a mother looking for her son.” And that’s one of the better exchanges.