The Missing Season Finale Review: What's Truly Lost Can Never Be Found

The Missing S01E08: "Till Death"

It's not like any of us were expecting a happy ending from Starz's emotionally butchering The Missing. It's not like all the heartbreak and anguish of the first seven episodes were ever going to give way to good-time jamboree in the season finale. It's not like young Oliver Hughes was going to emerge from the brush with a cure for cancer and a contract to play for Manchester United. But "Till Death" was darker than I ever could've imagined, constantly toying with its audience by utilizing one of the most powerful manipulators of the human condition: hope. Damn you, hope! The conclusion to Season 1's haunting, riveting investigation may not have delivered the outcome that the most optimistic of us wanted, but it stayed true to The Missing's characters and reminded us that some people like to keep picking scabs and reopening old wounds if that's all they know. It was devastating from start to finish, but I don't think I'd have wanted it to go any other way.

In my initial review of The Missing, one of the elements that I felt set this show apart from some of its peers (The Killing,Broadchurch) was the concept of hope. As far as we knew, Oliver was simply missing. There was no body, therefore he could still be alive. Even as Julien Baptiste warned Tony Hughes early on that missing children cases become murder cases as time passes, the entire season was driven by the hope that Oliver was still alive. And The Missing used that sense of promise to motivate its primary characters and keep its audience around. But the real sticker—and the thing that viewers who didn't like the finale will have a problem with—is that the series cruelly fed this sense of hope all the way through to the bitter end. Brutal, yes. But that's why it worked.

If you're just reading this to figure out what happened to Ollie, here it is: Following the reveal in "Return to Eden" that Khalid had been hiding a sober coin found at the crime scene, Tony put it together that the coin belonged to Alain Deloix, the pudgy proprietor of Hotel L'Eden, which had housed Tony and Emily throughout these difficult times. With Alain laid up in the hospital (from karmic cancer, it turned out), Tony, Emily, Julien, and Laurence didn't have to do much to wring a deathbed confession out of him: The night that Ollie went missing, Alain had accidentally hit the boy with his car while driving drunk, and we saw the horrific events unfold via flashbacks that were extremely troubling to watch.

But for as tragic as this revelation was, a glimmer of hope still lurked around the corner because of evidence we'd previously seen. The footage of Ollie in a house and the drawing he'd scribbled on the wall of the basement indicated that he was still alive. And indeed, he was. Though Alain believed Ollie had perished and called in a favor from the mayor of Chalons De Bois—his brother George—to help him take care of the the body, Ollie was only banged up, not dead. As Alain was telling the story and keeping us on the edge of our seats, we witnessed a full spectrum of emotions on the faces of Tony and Emily as hope once again rose to the surfaced. That is, until Alain dropped the hammer and told us that the man George called in to dispose of Ollie's body found him alive and was forced to kill him. Ouch. It's like The Missing got off on putting us through repeated misery.

From there, the finale moved toward Tony and Emily's post-truth life. Ollie was dead, and his parents would have to move on. And even though they had to come to terms with the fact that their son was never coming back, it seemed like knowing the truth was better than not having any closure (Emily even admitted feeling a sense of relief). There was a tense, healing moment when Tony could've told Alain's wife what Alain had done despite the man's pleas to not punish his wife for his sins. The old Tony would have relished the chance to relay what a horrible person Alain was and then burned the hotel to the ground with a whiskey bottle in hand, but this new Tony swallowed his rage—a first—and said nothing. It was a huge step for Tony, as knowing the truth erased his desire to damage everything else around him. As Tony left France, Julien told him to go home. Tony didn't know where that was, and Julien replied that it was wherever he wasn't alone. That's a sweet sentiment, except that Tony was now a man who would always feel alone.

Yep, that should have raised a red flag for everyone, because Tony would not recover from the death of his son.

For Emily, moving on was easier. Even while the investigation was still in progress, Tony had clawed and scratched his way to answers while Emily put all her energy into starting over. After learning the truth about Ollie, she finally felt as though she was allowed to continue her life, and married Mark. Heck, she even smiled, marking the first time we'd seen her do so since the opening moments of The Missing's first episode. She and Tony even had a great heart-to-heart at Emily and Mark's wedding, and all signs pointed toward a relatively meditative and—given the circumstances—happy ending. Closure seemed to be what Tony and Emily needed the most of all.

But let's go back to Julien's advice to Tony. He told Tony to go home, where he didn't feel alone. But as soon as Emily married Mark and the case was closed, everything Tony had been living for was gone. Finding his son had become his identity. And without Emily or an ongoing investigation to focus on, Tony regressed and twisted the idea of hope into something worse. In that final scene, which flashed forward to who knows when, we saw that it was Tony—bearded and haggard-looking—who was harassing children in Russia. He found a child he believed was his Ollie, and scared the boy with wild-man ramblings before the police carted him away. It was something he'd done before, and he'd almost certainly do it again.

The more I think about the ending and the series as a whole, the more I realize what a bold and terribly depressing choice it was to throw Tony back into his self-destructive cycle. But it makes all the sense in the world. The Missing has always been about the impact of a missing child case on the child's parents and other involved parties, and throughout Tony and Emily's eight-year search for Oliver, the couple splintered off on their own unique paths. Emily was always ready to move on, but Tony was dogged in his pursuit of his idea of the truth. The signs that Tony would never let this go were on display all along. If he'd accepted the idea of Oliver being dead without ever seeing a body, it would've been a betrayal of his character. "Don't ever give up, no matter what," he advised Julien. And Tony tragically took his own advice to heart.

After watching just a handful of episodes, I named The Missing one of my top series of 2014 without knowing how it would end. I knew the risk I was taking, but I also knew that so much of what I loved about the show wouldn't change. The acting was superb, the cinematography felt like something out of an artsy travel brochure, and the dual-timeline framing device was expertly employed. Ultimately, the season sagged a bit in the middle, but I don't regret my high praise. After that ending, The Missing will stick with me a bit longer than other shows. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go squeeze my daughter tight and inform her that she will never be allowed to leave the house again.


MISSING NOTES

– Sorry for this sad picture!

– Despite there being no body and Tony's insistence that Oliver is still out there, there should be no doubt that Oliver is dead. If you have other ideas, let's hear them.

– The way Oliver was killed and the investigation itself weren't totally flawless, but I think The Missing made itself great with what it had to say about Tony and the idea of closure. Emily got what she needed and was able to carry on, while Tony always needed more.

– Doesn't a bearded and hatted James Nesbitt look a little like George Clooney?

– Obviously Nesbitt is the star of The Missing, but I'd also like to call out a few other tremendous performances: Arsher Ali was magnificent as the devious Malik Suri; he played the part of dirty journalist perfectly. And Frances O'Connor turned in an unheralded performance as Emily. Her quiet composure and bottled-up doubt provided a stark contrast to Nebitt's fire.

The Missing has been renewed for a second "sequel" season, with an all-new case at its center.

– I can almost see a parallel between Tony Hughes and Leonard Shelby from Memento. Both men needed to create their own belief system in order to keep moving forward. Who knows what Tony would have become if he'd accepted the truth that Oliver was dead.

– The advanced screener I watched did not open in Russia with a hooded man harassing children in the snow, as the broadcast version did. Instead, the first scene depicted Vincent Bourg leaving a support group. It's an important omission; the sight of Ollie's drawing on a car window (which we'd later learn was drawn by Tony) and the mystery of the man's identity (we'd later learn it was Tony) may have been an unnecessary and obvious attempt at misdirection that tried too hard to make us believe Ollie was still alive. I think the finale's ending was powerful enough on its own, without tricking us into wondering who the strange man was, but without seeing that first scene in context, I'll never know.


What did you think of The Missing's first season?


Comments (29)
Submit
Sort: Latest | Popular
Mar 19, 2017
I think he is alive and in Russia. The ending spells it clearly with two clues. The stick figure with big ears drawn in a window in russia and Tony being in Russia at the end. I don't know how you could not think it is completely obvious.
Reply
Flag
Feb 27, 2017
So did anyone see the comments by Nesbitt? He was told that yes he did find Ollie and that was him in the apartment. His father had found him alive. Blows my mind.
1
Reply
Flag
Mar 19, 2017
YES, I believe he is 100% still alive and didn't Russia. Why else would they show that stick figure with big ears halfway through the season in Russia and then show Tony getting arrested there at the end.
Reply
Flag
Jul 23, 2015
I want Tony, to find Ollie, alive, and go home with him forever...I Love the series and cried my eyes out, too sad and depressing, find Ollie, give us a happy ending please!!!!
Reply
Flag
Jun 16, 2015
I thoroughly enjoyed it even though it was so sad. I am looking forward to a season 2 but a continuation. I will love to see Tony find his son. It just shows us to never give up. It makes me realised the length and depth a person can go if they believe. Ollie is still out there so let's write a favorable ending. It probably will never be a happy ending because so many years of pain have been endured but let him find Ollie.
I appreciated this story because I have not seen anything like this before. I love it.
1
Reply
Flag
Apr 23, 2015
Yes, that first seen was unnecesary. It gaves us a false hope since the beginning. All I could think was "he is alive" throughout the entire episode. They should have started the episode with the Vincent scene instead.
Reply
Flag
Feb 24, 2015
You are crazy. The ending was horrible. It was stupid and made no sense. Clearly the Innkeeper was a liar and full of shit. For Tony not to confront his wife was totally out of character. Tony would move heaven and earth to find out about his son. To not question was disappointing. To not pick up Julian's phone call at the wedding, again out of character, sloppy stupid writing. For Julian to give up without a body is again, stupid and out of character. Any investigator knows you need to question, to probe. How do you know he was chasing a fox, how can you be stupid not to know if a child is alive. No one can tell the boy is breathing? Why would Malik hang out to evidence for so long without telling anyone, etc? WOW. I shouted rip off when I saw the ending. If the writers were here I would spit on them. Anyone who liked the ending should go to jail for being stupid.
Reply
Flag
Jun 16, 2015
Well I am will and proud to go to jail with my red lipstick for loving no liking the ending. I think a story line should have twist and turn to make it interest. Why should the plot be written with obvious outcome?. A case in court get thrown out for simple omissions on the investigators part. There is never a perfect investigation so as there is not a perfect logical practice. I am happy to go to jail for this one. Lol yikes!!
Reply
Flag
Feb 09, 2015
It was Ollie, remember the picture at the station aging him of 8 years we see at some point in the finale or episode 7? It's the exact same boy. Tony can not do anything else with his life, I am sure he found him.
Reply
Flag
Feb 27, 2017
The director revealed that was Oliver. They left it weird. It might get settled more later but that was Oliver.
Reply
Flag
Jan 21, 2015
For some reason I felt that the boy at the end was Olly. Just the way they looked at each other plus Right before he reached the apartments where the boy answered the door, it showed a quick shot of a car covered in snow in that parking lot and on the window was the big eared stick figure picture that Olly always drew. Did anyone else notice that?
Reply
Flag
Jan 12, 2015
Why so sure that Olly is dead? The Romanian who held Olly at the house didn't even say he killed the boy, just that he "got rid" of him because he'd seen his face. It's not inconceivable that he sold the boy to the child-trafficing ring, in order to "get rid" of him and also get cash.
2
Reply
Flag
Jan 11, 2015
We were expecting a body. We weren't expecting the shyte ending we got.

The finale sucked.
1
Reply
Flag
Jan 12, 2015
It might feel depressing, but the writers have no obligation to give us he ending that we want. In real life, parents of missing children usually never get any closure and a body oftentimes not found. They had to go on the word of someone else, and how the characters responded to this I felt was the most authentic ending for the show. It was sure heart-breaking to see Tony basically go mad with grief, but it seemed in line with the rest of the series.
Reply
Flag
Jan 11, 2015
Hope breeds eternal misery
Reply
Flag
Jan 11, 2015
It ended the only way it could end. When Julien told Tony to go home, the place where he wasn't alone, Tony's look said it all. He has worked so hard to find Olly, he didn't have a home or a life to return to. He had nothing. It was sad, but it made sense.
On another note, I found Emily's toast at her wedding to be totally inappropriate
2
Reply
Flag
Jan 12, 2015
Well, she did have too much wine.
1
Reply
Flag
Jan 11, 2015
To me the ending seem more based on not knowing how to end, rather than anything particularly creative. Shows are supposed to be story arcs, not some artsy experiment. Breaking the rules is fine if it is done with complete purpose. This felt like it was not at all.
Reply
Flag
Jan 12, 2015
On the contrary, I thought it ended on the perfect note. I felt the driving force behind the show was hope and uncertainty. In many missing person cases a body is never found. So was Alain's story enough? For Tony, it clearly was not, which I thought stayed true to his character.
1
Reply
Flag
Jan 11, 2015
What was the boy from the last scene saying?
1
Reply
Flag
Jan 11, 2015
If you want the whole dialogue, you'd better get subtitles and watch with them. They all say a bunch of stuff in Russian - boy, Tony and policeman. But nothing special, actually. As far a s I remember, it was just some common shit like "You're mistaken", "There're a lot of bums out there, be careful, boyo", etc.
Reply
Flag
Jan 11, 2015
The policeman piece was subtitled but not the kid. Tony was speaking english. I thought maybe someone around understood the other language.
Reply
Flag
Jan 11, 2015
I think it's actually Romanian and not Russian
Reply
Flag
Jan 11, 2015
Initially i thought thatTony had gone to Romania, but the language sounded more slavic than latin to my ears.
Reply
Flag
Jan 12, 2015
It's Russian and I do speak it, so you may trust me :-)
Flag
Jan 11, 2015
Great review. Excellent show..
1
Reply
Flag
Jan 11, 2015
Incredible show - I fully agree with the concept of hope playing a huge factor in setting the show apart from The Killing (which was incredibly depressing and ultimately, for me, pointless).

It's important and rather shocking that you didn't mention Tcheky Karyo's subtle and perfectly executed character of Julien Baptiste. Although Nesbitt was incredible, for me Karyo was the real shiner in the show.

All in all this was a great finish to 2014 which was the year where incredible mini-series television started to become an awesome trend (i.e. True Detective and Fargo) and I hope we see more in 2015.
3
Reply
Flag
Jan 11, 2015
Tcheky Karyo was so good! I'd gladly watch a spin-off show starring his Julien Baptiste character :)
2
Reply
Flag