every preconception I already had about the show: It is Taken with a woman (in all sorts of ways), it is set primarily in Europe… and it is actually kind of awesome. The Taken comparisons are unavoidable, but there is a long history of television series that took their inspiration from popular movies and did just fine with that, eventually becoming very much their own things. Would we have had The Man From U.N.C.L.E. without the success of the early Bond movies? Battlestar Galactica without Star Wars? Tales of the Gold Monkey without Raiders of the Lost Ark? No, but those are all good shows (if not all successful ones). Missing owes more to Taken than simply its title and premise, in which a mother who’s a former CIA agent jets off to Europe to use her spy skills to find her kidnapped teenager (in this case a son instead of a daughter) at all costs. Missing also replicates Taken’s structure—and its flaws. Luckily (well, as long as you’re still watching, anyway), all of those flaws are up front, and once you get past them, there’s too much exciting action to really dwell on them. Assuming audiences can get past them, that is, because the first act is pretty wretched.
The Taken similarities don’t end with Act 1. Once in Europe, Becca basically follows the same game plan as Bryan Mills, following a trail of fairly clever clues, chasing down and fighting mysterious bad guys (and then regrettably killing them before they can provide any useful information), and hooking up with old contacts from her intelligence days. Some of these contacts are merely glimpsed in flashbacks in the pilot, but seem likely to turn up in person down the line. One who does materialize in the present, an Italian Interpol agent named Giancarlo, is a great role ably filled by the son of a famous Giancarlo—Adriano Giannini, who inherited his father’s charm (on ample display in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace) and puts it to good use. I hope we see more of his character. The always reliable Cliff Curtis (Colombiana) turns in an equally engaging performance as a Paris-based CIA official who’s under orders to bring in the rogue former agent creating chaos all over Europe.
As in Taken, by the pilot’s final act Becca’s quest has brought her to upscale Parisian apartments on the Seine and even into the shadow of the very Eiffel Tower Neeson threatened to tear down if he had to. But this is just the pilot, of course, and there’s a lot of room for Missing as a series to stretch well beyond its derivative set up. (For one thing, Becca ends the episode being pursued by the CIA and Italian intelligence as well as the mysterious bad guys she’s after. Bryan Mills never had to put up with that!) Until it does, though, most of the derivations are likely to please fans of the Pierre Morel film. Shill’s action sequences are fairly spectacular for network television, and the actual European locations are even more spectacular. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen an American network spy show actually filmed overseas on a regular basis (maybe even since I Spy in the Sixties!), and for me the Rome and Paris settings were a highlight of the show.
Read my review of Taken here.