Review : The Missing Finale – Disappointing

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In case you missed it the finale of BBC drama ‘The Missing’ wrapped up last night and it was a huge ratings hit bringing in 6.6 million viewers or 28.5% of the UK’s TV audience. It was such a hit that already season two is on the way. Was it actually any good though? Not really

When you are writing a missing person story like ‘The Missing’ there are two ways to go at things. Either you write a character piece where you focus on the trauma and pain of the crime. Solving the actual mystery isn’t the point. Alternatively, you write a puzzle piece, a true mystery story where each detail of the plot slots together with a clever intricate beauty.

Both stories can be great. Donna Tartt’s ‘The Little Friend’ does the character piece brilliantly and you don’t have to look further than Agatha Christie to see how great a pure mystery can be. Mismatches of the two however tend to end up falling between two horses. Unfortunately, ‘The Missing’ did just this and ends up getting trampled under the weight of its own ambition.

The Character Piece

Anchored by brilliant acting from James Nesbit ‘The Missing’s’ strength has been showing how characters can get trapped in the past and struggle to move on with their lives.

Understandably, Nesbit’s character Tony Hughes is unwilling to move on from the kidnapping of his son. His ex-wife tries to move on but she is also trapped by the past. The detective Baptiste is trapped by previous trauma also not only from his injured leg but also from his drug addict daughter. The pedophile Vincent Bourg is similarly trapped by his past/character and ultimate hangs himself.

You could go through pretty much every character in ‘The Missing’ and find how they are held hostage by demons that trace back in one way or another to the disappearance of Oliver Hunt.

As the series wraps up some of the characters move on from the past and others don’t. The character arks of almost every character are done well. Every character that is except the protagonist Tony Hughes.

The problem with Tony Hughes is that he is the driving force of the story the protagonist. It is Tony whose refusal to let go of the past that begins and continues the story.

Tying up the solution to the disappearance and Tony’s character are interlinked and the writers never seem to decide whether they are telling a mystery or a character piece. The end result is that they do neither and it is unsatisfying.

As the finale enters it’s third act Tony’s character starts to unravel. At first Tony seems to accept Baptiste’s maxim that he will never know the whole truth and it is time to move on. We see real personal growth for Tony.

After much soul searching, brilliantly acted soul searching, Tony Hughes decides not to tell the wife that her dying husband killed Olly he decides not to take some measure of petty vengeance. Similarly, at the wedding when the detective calls lets it go to voicemail. He is no longer chasing after every impossible clue.

The Plot

That all seems okay. What could be the problem? The problem comes with how this intersects with the plot i.e. it doesn’t. To hook the viewer into watching the episode the writers opened the finale with a cryptic scene is Russia where a lone figure is trooping through the snow and staring at children. After a minute or so the camera zooms in and we see a picture of a stick kid with big ears traced onto snowy glass. In other words it was drawn by Olly.

This scene deliberately draws you in. Doubly so since we are very deliberately not shown the face of the lone figure. WTF?

Ultimately, though it turns out that the writers have played a trick on us. After seeming to have let go of the past Tony is still hunting his son. All his character development has been tossed away in order to deliver a cheap hook to keep us watching.

If the writers want to leave Tony trapped in the past then they should never had this opening scene. They should never had given us any answers to Oliver’s disappearance.

Or even better if they want to give answers about Oliver’s disappearance then Tony should have ended up in prison for the murder of Ian Garret. Just imagine he goes to chase down a final lead that will lead him towards his son but then the police turn up to arrest him. Tony’s past, the understandable sins he committed, have caught up with him and for a kicker the police don’t believe his lead.

In the end though the writers attempt to split the difference. As a result the mystery of disappearance isn’t satisfyingly told and neither is the character journey of Tony Hughes.

‘The Missing’ then fails to deliver the ending that it promised.

Review of Fleming (2013) Episode 1

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The names Bon… er Fleming, Ian Fleming

Who knew that to make a James Bond TV show without paying royalties to the Broccoli estate all you had to do was repackage your show as a biography of Ian Fleming’s life. I can guarantee you that the pitch for the new show “Fleming” went something along the line of Bond with Nazi’s and the studio executives went “sold”

Anyway, I’m not sure just how accurate the show ‘Fleming’ is to the titular character’s real life war experiences but I’m not going to focus on it because to do so would miss the point. As Fleming himself says in the pilot “call me when you need a first class fantasist” and that is how I treated the show as complete tremendously enjoyable fantasy.

The directors and scene dressers were certainly treating it in the same way because, large sections of the show are shot like perfume commercials. Fleming gets away with this and doesn’t become insufferable however, due to the panache of Dominic Cooper who is fantastic.

Cooper pulls off the role of Fleming brilliantly. Perfect for the role and show. The camera loves him and as the audience you don’t want to take your eye off him.

Overall then ‘Fleming’ was tremendously enjoyable. I’d recommend it and will be watching the next episode. If a man with a golden gun shows up however, someone is getting sued.

Review Fake or Fortune

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One of the TV best programs currently being made its return this Sunday. I’m not talking about Sherlock or the rather dull looking reboot of The Three Musketeeers. I’m talking about BBC’s ‘Fake or Fortune’ presented by Fiona Bruce with art expert Phillip Mould. In this show the presenters try to prove the provenience of a piece of art.

In the past they have tackled paintings by Monet and other great artists. In this episode they are trying to prove the authenticity of an oval painting by artist Edouard Vuillard whose work ‘Le Grande Teddy’ is the image for this post and features heavily in the episode.

Now I know nothing about art. I couldn’t tell a Matisse from a Van Gogh. This show is great though. Watching it is like watching a real-life murder mystery (minus the bodies of course) unfold as the show chases the history of a work down through the rabbit hole of rumour and intrigue.

Is the alleged Vuillard be authentic and worth a fortune or is it a fake? I won’t ruin the surprise.

I can’t recommend this show enough. If you’ve missed it or are from outside the UK it is worth tracking down.

Review Archer Season 5 Episode 1 – White Elephant (Literally many plot and joke spoilers)

Change can be a very good thing

I am a huge Archer fan. It is the most consistently funny and clever show knocking around at the moment. It’s like Family Guy on speed back when Family Guy was great. Archer also tends to use literally and figuratively correctly which I am ashamed to say is something the pedant in me really appreciates.

Anyway coming back off the saddo tangent. The launch of the new series of Archer was always going to a must watch TV event. I am not going to lie though I was somewhat worried by the cryptic/teasing statements of the cast and crew at (i think) comiccon that they were going to change things.

Within the first thirty seconds of the episode though I knew that ‘we’ the audience were in good hands (Spoilers about to start). The tone of the opening as Archer comes into the ISIS office set to classic music followed by, wait for it, an FBI raid was a fantastic development. Yes ladies and gentlemen Archer is about to become an ‘official’ criminal.

I say ‘official’ because the arrest of everyone by the FBI reveals an hilarious twist. One that in retrospect makes a whole lot of sense. ISIS has never had any authority or permission to conduct espionage operations so Archer has always been a criminal. This brings the first of a number of great lines (I’m paraphrasing slightly)

Lana “I asked you like 50 times if we had permission”

Mallory “and like fifty times I lied”

as usual the voice actors delivery for this was perfect.

From the arrest the episode moves onto interrogation and everyone (surprise!) tries to save their own skin only for Mallory to  swing immunity for everyone through some unknown means.

Bonus points go to Archer continuing to using the word “figuratively” correctly because back at the now defunct ISIS HQ that line sets him up to ask “What are we going to do with literally, not figuratively, a ton of cocaine?”

Que the reveal of literally a mountain of cocaine (and I just used literally wrong, curse the modern idiom!) and the soon to be immortal lines in response to lets become a cartel

Mallory “Well if Mexicans can do it”

We then get treated to an extended trailer to the rest of the series. In which I spotted movie references to The Fugitive, Life of Pi and Miami Vice and I’m pretty sure there were many many more.

Anyway time for a review 4.5/5. It literally (damn!) misses out on a 5 because it was too short (that’s what she said. Boom!).

Sherlock ‘The Empty Hearse’ Review (Spoiler Freeish!)

As I said I am attempting to keep this spoiler free but it is possible that certain things might be given away. So I would just like to stress in the incredibly unlikely possibility you are reading (or about to read) a review of a show that you haven’t yet watched then you should STOP!

Okay with that out of the way let us begin.

Considering the build up for this show I had high expectations. I can happily say they were met. I loved the way they dealt with the ‘mystery’ of how Sherlock survived his fall in the last episode. Thinking about this beforehand I thought that the writers has backed themselves into a corner where they could not possibly hope to satisfy the fans. By playing the crazy fan theory side of things up however what I thought would be a weakness in the story became a massive strength.

The biggest strength of this episode however were the relationships between Sherlock and others; mainly John though of course. The interactions between Sherlock and the other characters were heartwarmingly funny throughout and really carried the episode along. So much so that the main plot of a massive terrorist attack in London was almost incidental. Still the mystery element more than held its own and looking back on the episode I kicked myself for not picking up on some of the subtle clues. But this is how it should be with a good detective story

Overall 4.5 stars out of five