“Missing” begins with Sarah’s arrival at the casino. The casino owners are all but helpful in aiding the investigation, forcing Sarah to leave. Sarah’s pissed off (understandably), as the casino is on Native American land, so the laws apply differently. “Missing” takes a wonderful turn when Jack’s school calls, explaining that Jack hasn’t shown up to class.
From the moment Sarah takes that call, we as viewers get to witness her slow deterioration, as she tries to come to grips with what’s happened to her son. It’s a really effective episode because Sarah hasn’t been the greatest mom this season, and seeing her maternal instincts kick in was a change in character that really worked.
I wonder if this was a bottle episode, used to save money. It’s hard to tell, primarily because there are so many locations. Bottle episodes occur when the writers use as few characters as possible and few sets (generally ones on a soundstage). This episode is pretty much just Sarah and Holder in a car driving from location to location. That sounds fairly boring but when the acting is stellar, bottle episodes work wonders. Breaking Bad’s “Fly” is a prime example.
Sarah’s unwinding is effective because her son’s disappearance forces her to come to grips with her neglect. There were some great moments all around, from her phone call with another mother to her confrontation with Holder. The scenes with Holder are great and “Missing” finally brings these partners together emotionally. We also find out that both characters come from broken-households. It’s revealed that Sarah grew up in foster homes.
The story really hits its emotional peak in the second-half of the episode, when Sarah and Holder wait at that park in the dark. Sarah’s nostalgic story was well-acted, and the broadcast of a found body only added to the sense of dread. Sarah’s breakdown at the body was heart-breaking, as so many emotions were brought to the screen. The realization that this boy wasn’t her son only added another layer to her already complex emotions. Seriously, Mirelle Enos better submit this episode for Emmy consideration.
What sets ”Missing” apart from any other episode of The Killing is its willingness to dismiss all other characters and let Sarah and Holder have their moment. We’ve seen a shift in both characters and it’ll be interesting to see how their relationship changes going forward. On a side note, I really liked the cigarette dynamic at play. That was a nice touch.
“Missing” is also important for putting Sarah in the same position as Mitch and Stan. She knows what it’s like to lose a child (though with a happy-resolution here). Still, it’s a key moment in The Killing, and was much more effective because we’ve invested so much time in Sarah. Her breakdown is more powerful and resonant than Mitch’s because Sarah is a stronger character; we know her more intimately.
With only two episodes left, I’m excited to see how this season ends. It was a brilliant move to tell this personal, intimate story before the Rosie Larsen case takes another complex turn. I mentioned in my review of last week’s episode that the Rosie Larsen case was again getting overly complex. “Missing” allowed for a nice break from the plot twists and in turn provided an effective character-based drama.
What did you think?