Saturday, December 20, 2014

Building Tension on "The Missing"

Scott D. Parker

My wife and I started watching “The Missing” on Starz this week. We’re two episodes in and it’s a splendid example of a story that builds tension in a slow-burn fashion.

Pretty sure it’s not a spoiler to reveal that the thing missing in the show is an English couple’s young boy. They are on vacation in France and you know, going in, that the child will disappear. But you don’t know how or where.

That’s what really gripped me. We’re shown wonderful domestic scenes of a young family on vacation. They’re smiling and laughing, the portrait of bliss. Car trouble prompts an unexpected stop and layover in a small town with only one hotel.  The mom wants to nap and the dad and son go swimming.

Ah, this is when it’ll happen, you think, and you think you know exactly when: the pool. The camera shows scenes from underwater and you’re dead sure the dad’ll dive under and the child will vanish. Nope. But the tension built up is great.

It isn’t until the dad and son walk up to a group of Frenchmen watching a telecast of the World Cup (the flashback scenes are set in 2006) that the vanishing happens. “Just hold the kid’s hand,” I say out loud to the TV. “Better yet, hold him.” But Dad doesn’t do that and literally in the blink of an eye, little Oliver is gone. What follows is heart-wrenching for any parent. That my wife and I lost our boy for about twenty minutes at a nighttime a few days before watching made it even worse.

I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of this season play out. I’m also enjoying how effective the flashback juxtaposed with present day material storytelling style is. Not unique, but certainly a masterly presentation.

A Book Recommendation

I love Christmas story compilations. One of my favorites is Holmes for the Holidays. Last year, however, a new tome landed in my reading collection: The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries, edited by Otto Penzler. This book makes the fourth I own from Penzler's series and it's great. There's a Christmas story for every taste, be it Sherlockian, traditional, pulp, funny, and more. If you are like me and have a few Christmas books that live in Christmas boxes, only to be opened each December and a few stories are read, a book like this will give you years of wonderful enjoyment.

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