Sean Bean proves yet again that he’s born to wear a red shirt (or is he?), and Ashley Judd is the ubermom you don’t want to piss off. Don’t mess with her because she can arrange your wedding bouquet while trapping you in a headlock. Are her antics worth the watch?
You know the story of that sensitive ex-CIA parent who springs back into action on a European tour of fisticuffs and gunplay when their only child mysteriously disappears?
Yup. That’s Taken. That’s Missing too.
In what is essentially the power-woman version of Liam Neeson, Ashley Judd’s Becca Winstone turns from devoted momma florist to expert investigator to action heroine spy in a cramped 41 minutes. The only real difference is that she’s still an operative within the CIA.
We zip through the introductions – Becca’s husband’s car blows up in Rome while he’s on holiday with their young son Michael, we fast forward to many years later when he tells her he’s all grown up and is going to school in Rome without her permission, and then suddenly he’s abducted during his study there, and Becca immediately turns into super mom and flaunts her CIA capabilities. On her trail is Dax Miller, the rather boring other CIA dude who’s obviously going to help her against his boss’ wishes eventually, albeit reluctantly in the beginning.
Ashley Judd looks amazing and pulls her weight on stunts and fighting. Her emotional delivery is quite impressive. It has a early millennium type of female action quality where the lead snoops around underground and roundhouse kicks a fully armed guard in the face in her espadrilles in an elaborately choreographed sequence, compared to the rough-cut, shaky cam extreme closeups most action flicks turn to nowadays. It’s both fun and a little cheesy, a mixed bag of things. There are also some endearing moments that make it really enjoyable – like when she’s questioning Michael’s possible girlfriend and reprimanding her for smoking. And that’s what I really like about it. It doesn’t focus too much on the empowering woman message, but goes to show that she’s still just an overprotective mom who wants to hug her kid again.
The mysteries are fairly engaging; we don’t know why the French police has kidnapped her son or if the CIA is just “concerned” about her acting out on her own agenda outside of the US. What was her old CIA life like and why is her file super thin? Why was her husband killed so long ago, and why would someone be hunting her now?
These questions present themselves as an afterthought because the show is too intent on showing off Judd’s asskicking abilities. Missing could’ve taken the more subtle route on certain scenes – an out-of-place bathing one, for example – because there are much better ways to imply that someone used to have a relationship with another. Since it’s so in-your-face, you don’t get much time to acknowledge that this can be a deep drama too. To have a widowed woman, who’s fiercely protective of her child, face this brand of adversity is prime for some interesting character exploration, and I hope that they’ll be heading down that road soon.
I know I’m being hard on it because it’s just the pilot, but if this is the kind of routine it’s going to fall back on, viewers are going to tune into something that puts a little more effort into making them care about the characters (and not with an offhanded mention of a broken childhood cliche). If it can focus on being less blatant in its delivery, that energy can be used to fuel the very ambitious Bourne-like storytelling they are intent on achieving. Most importantly, don’t patronize the audience, especially with a female lead.
In the meantime, it may be worth two or three more episodes before it becomes the next Alias or the next network flatline (it’s competing with Vampire Diaries and 30 Rock for viewership anyway).
Bottom line: Not as exciting or intriguing as Awake, but not a tragic failure either. Ashley Judd will keep you going until the writers decide to pull a black sheep out of their ass.