If you have any important plans or things to do this weekend, don’t start watching The Disappearance TV series. It’s an addictive, binge-worthy, French mystery that is among the top TV shows available on AcornTV. That being said, if you have a teenage daughter and are a nervous parent, find another show to watch!
The title gives you an idea of what’s in store. The Disappearance opens with scenes of Lea, on the eve of her 17th birthday, getting ready for a night out with friends. We already know it’s a prelude to her disappearance. What happens to her and, of course, “whodunit” is what we are waiting to find out.
Part of the appeal is the extent to which The Disappearance stays with the family while remaining true to the police procedural genre. While those first few minutes feel like a crime series cliche, the rest of the first episode slowly pulls us in. The family’s anxiety and unease ramps up to full fledged panic and fear. The initial lack of concern on the part of the police becomes total dedication.
The story moves quickly without feeling rushed. There is hardly a wasted moment in the narrative. It’s hard to maintain that momentum for an entire TV series. After about four episodes, the intensity lessens, and the story meanders a bit. At the same time, though you may have suspicions, the perpetrator’s identity is still a mystery.
Lea’s disappearance is investigated by the focused detective Bertrand Molina and his partner, Camille Guerin. Molina is humanized by his own teenage daughter (undoubtably, part of the reason he is so dedicated to solving this case) and a past that is hinted at, but not explained.
Lea’s parents, Florence and Julien, are played by Alix Poisson and Pierre-Francois Martin-Laval. A large part of The Disappearance has to do with the unraveling of their relationship – and attempts by each to repair it – as they try to cope with loss and grief. It leads the story into soapy, overly dramatic territory at times, but the characters feel realistic – even if they are all unreasonably attractive and stylish.
The closest comparison to The Disappearance might be the first two seasons of The Killing (available on Netflix). Both dwell on parents’ anguish over a missing daughter while also following the procedural side of the case. Both investigations follow some promising looking false leads that, upon closer examination – or hindsight – don’t hold together very well. The Disappearance is the much tighter story of the two. It’s like The Killing’s two seasons compressed into one.
The Disappearance TV series is a woman-led effort. It was written by Natalie Alquier, directed by Charlotte Brandstrom, and produced by Iris Bucher. It first aired on France 2 TV in spring 2015, followed by a UK showing on BBC4 in May, 2016. There are eight episodes clocking in at around 45 – 50 minutes each. They are all available on AcornTV.
Though it has a few faults, The Disappearance is the kind of big-budget, foreign TV series that we would expect to see on Netflix. It’s surprising they didn’t pick it up. Clear your schedule before you start watching.