The Missing

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
The Missing TV Poster Image
Subtle, twisty drama centers on a missing-child case.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Motives are often murky in this twisty series, but there are intrepid officers of the law at work. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Grieving parents manage to soldier on; a realistic portrait of grief's devastation. 


The show centers on a missing young child. Violence is mostly offscreen and mentioned only in passing and subtly. Guns are drawn and brandished. Parents suffer from grief in dramatic ways.


Some heavy petting, making out between married couple.


Very infrequently "s--t" and "bastard."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A main character is an alcoholic. We see him drinking frequently on-screen, weaving, and becoming aggressive. Other characters discuss his drinking disparagingly. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Missing is a drama series about an abducted young boy and the devastation his kidnapping causes. A missing young child is a disturbing topic for young or sensitive viewers, but the violence is mostly offscreen and references to the abduction and possible killing are veiled. Viewers will see parents crying, screaming, running desperately, and otherwise showing terror, distress, and agony. Infrequent language includes "s--t" and "bastard." One character is an alcoholic; we see him drinking and sodden drunk. Some of the dialogue is in French and often not subtitled. Expect some direct but non-graphic references to child molestation and child pornography. 

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What's the story?

In the limited series THE MISSING, Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) and his wife, Emily (Frances O'Connor), are living out a parent's worst nightmare. On a family vacation, Tony and Emily's son Oliver has gone missing, spirited away when Tony lost sight of him for only a moment in a crowd celebrating France's World Cup team of 2006. The action starts just as the Hughes are separated and picks up eight years later, when Emily has remarried and a beaten-down, drunken Tony has returned to the town where his son disappeared. All is not right in the town of Châlons Du Bois, but Tony and dogged detective Julien Baptiste (Tcheky Karyo) just won't stop -- even if what they find may not be Oliver.

Is it any good?

Trodding a timeworn path for television drama, this series is nonetheless exquisitely affecting and positively addictive. Perhaps it's not surprising that The Missing is both more grim and more subtle than American-made productions on the same theme, as is often the case with European-made series. Rather than bludgeoning the viewer with detail, this series makes its points quietly with images: a woman sliding down a wall, silently crying as a shower runs, and a waiter's eyes sliding away from a couple who have just experienced something unspeakably awful.  

The Missing distinguishes itself with imaginative writing and sharp acting. It also makes the fascinating choice to start with a contained tragedy and then widen the focus of the drama. Viewers spend a great deal of time not only with Nesbitt's lurching Hughes and O'Connor's brittle Emily but also with the detectives on the case, the suspects, and the extended families. We follow them home, we see their doctors' appointments, we hear their phone calls. It's spooky and wonderful. The decision to move the drama back and forth in time from 2006 to 2014 is another smart move. The fresh agony of the Hugheses in 2006, contrasted with Tony's efforts to unravel what happened to his son and Emily's attempt to move on with her life in 2014, make the viewer eager to know what happened in between.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why dramas about missing or murdered children like The Missing are a staple on television. Why is this such a popular theme? What type of person does this story resonate with? Why are these types of dramas made so frequently? 

  • Oliver Hughes and his family are in a foreign country when Oliver goes missing. Does this add to the confusion and disorientation of his family? How do the filmmakers show how the surroundings affect the Hughes family? 

  • Are the Hughes rich, poor, or middle class? How can you tell? What clues does the show give you to their finances? Do they change during the time span covered by the series?

TV details

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