The abduction of a child is a parent’s worst nightmare. ABC’s “Missing” speaks to this hellish ordeal with a straightforward, action-packed plot, featuring Ashley Judd’s first appearance on a network television series.
After ex-CIA agent Rebecca Winstone’s (Ashley Judd, “Double Jeopardy”) son goes missing while abroad in Rome, she travels there in search of him, willing to use any means necessary to bring him back.
Rebecca’s history with the CIA is murky: She deactivated after her husband was killed by a car bomb and now dedicates her time to raising their son Michael (Nick Eversman, “Vampires Suck”). Michael doesn’t know of his parents’ past lives, even though he witnessed his father’s car go up in flames. Rebecca and Michael now have a very close relationship, evidenced by Rebecca’s annoyingly consistent phone calls and texts.
Michael’s kidnapping is not random — Rebecca finds pictures of him along the trail that date back prior to his arrival in Europe. Was Michael involved in something illegal that is now coming back to haunt him? Or does someone have an agenda against Rebecca, using Michael as a mere pawn? These questions aren’t answered in the first hour, but leave us eager to find out.
“Missing” is reminiscent of the 2008 film “Taken,” in which Liam Neeson’s character travels to Europe in order to save his daughter after she is abducted in France. In the two works, both children are abducted while abroad and both parents have connections to the CIA, which play a large role in tracking down their children. “Missing” is one of the first series to take the premise of a movie and adapt it to the small-screen, a feat that seems doomed to fail. Drawing out the plot for an entire season seems unnecessary when the same thing can be watched in an hour-and-a-half movie.
Rebecca’s experience as an ex-CIA agent feels entirely too convenient. Through this, she has unprecedented access to materials and aid, knowledge of multiple European languages and the ability to literally kick ass and take names. While this provides action and entertainment, it’s another reason the show is a carbon copy of “Taken.” It would be much more intriguing to see a regular parent going to extreme lengths to save their child instead of watching yet another trained professional act exactly how we already expect them to.
However, given these reservations, Judd’s acting is a bright light in the series. She portrays parental anguish with sincerity and also looks natural in the CIA getup. But even given this stellar performance, Judd is operating a one-woman show. Very few peripheral characters are introduced, and we aren’t given much information about Michael in order to latch onto and care about his predicament. “Missing” would be better served by more characters, instead of forcing Judd to carry its weight on her shoulders.
On the surface, the show is entertaining, full of action, violence and suspense. At every new development, Rebecca finds herself fighting for her life against the ruthless gangsters who kidnapped her son and CIA agents suspicious of her motives. But that’s all there is to it. “Missing” feels like something we’ve already seen before because we’ve already seen it. And without a novel premise, “Missing” isn’t worth getting wrapped up in.