“The Missing” switches gears somewhat and begins churning through plot at an alarming rate as Grace is forced to grapple with all of her husband’s lies – and the reality that he may indeed be a murderer.
This recap of The Undoing season 1, episode 2, “The Missing”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
In its second episode, titled “The Missing”, HBO’s new Big Little Lies-alike The Undoing seems to change its focus a little. For at least the duration of the premiere, it looked to hone in on the interiority of a moneyed upper-class woman with a seemingly perfect life and family. Here, while still putting Nicole Kidman’s Grace front and centre, it becomes much more of a whodunit, or perhaps more appropriately hedidit, as Grace’s missing husband Jonathan becomes, in her mind and everyone else’s, the prime suspect in the murder of Elena Alves.
Thus, “The Missing” rockets through plot at an alarming rate, dropping one revelation after another about Jonathan’s employment and behaviour and letting Kidman react to each bit of news. There’s no time, really, to explore what any of this means to her on any level deeper than surface-level surprise, confusion, anger, terror, etc. The early portions, which find Grace trying to retrace Jonathan’s steps and interrogate Henry about the final moments before he left, feel the least urgent, the most nuanced. Henry is so keen to defend his father and insist nothing is worth worrying about that he seems less a kid in denial and more a co-conspirator. I’m not keen on Henry, in other words.
One mystery leads to another, one revelation of deceit and misdeeds plugs into the next, like a big, shady mosaic of long-term, large-scale deception. Jonathan hasn’t worked at Prince-Norbury Memorial Hospital in ages, having been fired after three disciplinary actions for improper contact with the parent of a patient. The patient: Miguel, Elena’s son. You can put the rest together from there, and I hope you spare the time to ponder about the parentage of Elena’s daughter.
The scene in which a lot of this information is dispensed, a sit-down meeting with Detective Mendoza that shifts throughout into something of an interrogation, is great stuff. Kidman is brilliant at quietly trying to process everything she’s hearing without falling to pieces, while Edgar Ramírez is utterly aghast at the idea she wasn’t privy to any of this. You have to remember than Grace is rich, privileged, and that this makes her worthy of a degree of suspicion in a neat reversal of the way that cliquey upper-class people tend to judge their perceived lessers. The sense of a dramatic snowball gathering momentum is felt rather deeply, especially as even more damning evidence and connections are turned up that paint Jonathan in an even less favourable light, and Grace’s social circle as much less watertight than previously imagined. Jonathan had even hired Sylvia to represent him in his disciplinary hearing and then lied about the investigation being dropped, safe – or so he thought – under the confines of attorney-client privilege.
Apparently, Jonathan insisted on this arrangement, despite knowing Sylvia’s expertise weren’t in employment law, which raises more questions than it provides answers. It’s part of “The Missing” pivoting into a more immediate dramatic question, which is this: Does Jonathan’s infidelity make him a murderer, or a perfect patsy? Would Hugh Grant, the king of self-effacing performative toff charm, kill a woman to protect his reputation? Would he be stupid enough to do so given the clear trail of breadcrumbs that links him to that very same woman and gives him a perfect motive?
It’s hard to believe this, but difficult for Grace to accept either way, especially once she and Henry decamp to their beach house and find Jonathan there. Naturally, Jonathan and Grace argue, quite nastily, and with great actorly flourish. But nothing that gets said on either side amounts to a concrete answer either way. There’s still plenty left to unpack, and “The Missing” does a fine job of filling the suitcase full of very dirty laundry.
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