Absentia – Episode 2: Reset
Starring: Stana Katic, Patrick Heusinger, Cara Theobold
Director: Oded Ruskin
Writers: Matthew Cirulnik, Gaia Violo
Review by: Sidney Morgan
This review contains minor spoilers.
Predictably, this second episode of Absentia begins with Harlow released from prison. Remember that during the first episode, Emily Byrne (Stana Katic), who Harlow was supposed to have abducted and murdered, was found again, essentially negating his conviction. Consequently, the Boston office of the FBI (Byrne’s old stomping grounds) begins or rather continues the investigation into her abduction. This is one of their own after all. Meanwhile, the Boston PD is investigating the murder of Semerov (someone who was connected to Byrne). Due to the connection, the FBI and the Boston PD begin to work together.
Two storylines are playing out in Absentia (at least so far). The first is the mystery/thriller surrounding Emily Byrne’s abduction. And the second is the drama of Byrne’s personal life, one where she tries to reclaim her life, to reconnect with her friends and family, especially her son. Not an easy feat when everyone believed she was dead. And it is in this latter story where Katic’s performance really shines.
The interactions between Emily and various characters allow Katic to exhibit various emotional states convincingly. With her father, we see and feel her vulnerability, resulting from being the victim of a terrible crime. With Nic, she’s thinking about what could have been and what is. She hasn’t moved on and is clearly torn between her love for him and her anger for seeing him with another woman. The struggle is evident. Similarly, with her son Flynn (Patrick McAuley), the lost years and non-existent relationship are clearly visible. Her first visit with him is awkward and sad, and the viewer can’t help but sympathize with the pain she feels.
In the abduction story, her reactions are more typical of these types of shows, but I do question some of her actions (presumably attributable to the writing). Of everyone involved, she is the most driven to solve her case (understandably so). However, in taking matters into her own hands, she doesn’t get the best of results and even crosses the line at times. There are a few moments that made me wonder what she was thinking. But to be fair, she hasn’t worked in six years and may be a little rusty, and from the torture, she endured, her ability to think rationally might have been compromised. A bit.
Another great performance is given by Cara Theobold. As Alice, Nic’s new wife, she’s been thrust in an uncomfortable situation, but fully supports Nic no matter how difficult it would be to see her husband invest himself fully in helping his ex-wife, even if it is the right thing to do. Compounding the difficulty is that Nic is conflicted, admitting he can’t be with either her or Emily, as he feels he’s letting both down. That elephant in the room is growing. It’s only a matter of time before it will need to be addressed.
I am a little weary about how quickly the FBI begins to suspect Emily’s story. Admittedly, finding her DNA was suspicious, but to quickly assume she may be a criminal is ridiculous. To blindly believe a witness is ridiculous. And when it’s suggested that Emily could have orchestrated her own abduction, her own torture, well, I nearly choked. Yep. You guessed it. Ridiculous. These are her friends and colleagues, not strangers? Ok, I took a deep breath. Counted to ten. I’m good. Let’s hope they come to their sense in the next episode.
There’s an odd creative direction the producers took with the Boston PD and Tommy. The BPD office is small, dark, almost smoky, like some 1950’s illegal prohibition casino. Meanwhile, the FBI office is big, open, clean and sharp looking. Tommy’s desk looks disorganized, unlike those at the FBI office. While Tommy dresses casually and looks disheveled, FBI agents are clean cut and dress professionally. Even his abilities seem inferior as the FBI easily uncovers information about a witness being unreliable, something that Tommy never even considered. Perhaps it’s a social commentary from the producers, or maybe it simply reflects how non-US markets perceive the two levels of law enforcement.
Verdict: Watch it! Questions arose in the first episode, and more still in this one. It’s a great mystery, and it’s only getting deeper. There’s rage bottled up inside of Emily. As events unfold, her involvement and even her sanity are thrown in doubt. The director has edited the show to make sure we question what we see an believe. Maybe they’re red herrings, maybe not. Either way, the suspense is building, leaving you at the edge of your seat, waiting, wanting to watch the next episode, asking the question: What happened to Emily? And that is good storytelling.