The Missing series 2: the writers on episode 5’s revelation

Hear what The Missing’s writers and producer have to say after the events of episode five. Major spoilers…

The Missing Season 2
Photo: BBC

This article comes from Den of Geek UK.

Warning: contains spoilers. Avoid until you’ve seen The Missing episode 5.

The Missing series two has chosen to show its hand early. At the end of episode five, it revealed its culprit with three hours of story remaining. There are still plenty of questions to be answered as it ties up the dangling plot threads, and much to explain about how series two’s plot strands are connected, but we know who took the girls. And it’s someone nobody had their eye on.

Following a special episode five screening,The Missing’s writers Harry and Jack Williams, producer Willow Grylls, and actor Tchéky Karyo, took part in a post-mortem Q&A. Here’s what we learned…

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Writers Harry and Jack Williams revealed the culprit in episode five to play “a different game narratively”

Harry Williams: Traditionally, ep 8 would be the one where you go okay, ‘here’s the suspect, we’re finally going to hone in on who it is’, so for us we were like, well if in this season we can do that slightly early, we can play a different game narratively and that can be the surprising thing and there’s a whole other story to tell there with the antagonist.

Jack Williams: We always try to think about expectation and what people watching the show might expect to see. In series one people are very much speculating on who did it and who will it be and taking bets on who it will be that it just felt interesting to us to go ‘what if that’s not what it’s all about. What if it’s a bit bigger than that?’ Who it is isn’t always a question that’s particularly thrilling to answer because it’s like pointing a finger and going ‘that guy’, but why they did it or who they are, and the fact we now have three more hours to explore that side of it.

You weren’t supposed to guess who the culprit was before episode 5

Jack Williams: I don’t think there’s any way you could know that at all. And that’s a good thing. Because we do it so early, there’s time in the next three episodes to really explore how and why he’s connected to everything else that is going on. I mean, if you play the game enough and you go ‘I vaguely recognise him and he hasn’t had that much to do… which I did see some people going ‘he’s quite a good actor, he hasn’t done very much’ but you can’t avoid that. You have to cast someone really good. I think we tried to use him as much as the story required. There are army press liaison officers, we met one when we did the research for this show and thought that’s quite a weird, specific job and he’s got quite a good reason to sit with the family, he’s organically involved at least, but no, I don’t think you could really guess.

Harry Williams: We just felt that establishing his presence was enough, given that we were going to unpack him in the second half of the show.

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The first draft of the finale was 100 minutes

Jack Williams: It’s hard because you want to answer things but you also want it to be a good story, you want it to be enjoyable in and of itself, you don’t want it to be twenty minutes of people saying what happened.

Willow Grylls: “That’s precisely why [the writers] wanted to reveal what [they] did at the end of episode 5, so that [they] could do justice to that story properly over three episodes as opposed to just having to tie it up.”

Jack Williams: There’s a lot to get through. Understanding how this came to be is a lot.

Harry Williams: You want people to keep talking afterwards as well, you don’t want to go ‘they did it, oh. What’s on next?’ You want it to be an idea you’ve explored and a thing you keep talking about.

Why they used a drill in that final episode five scene:

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Harry Williams: You want to do something that is memorable. Sometimes being shocking is a really helpful thing and tells you a lot about a character and makes you sit up in the moment, but sometimes the story’s doing the work you need it to and you don’t need to be excessive with it.

Jack Williams: The difference between knocking someone in the head and getting a drill is that one is potentially accidental or in the moment and this is very intentional and speaks to a big lack of humanity. It’s quite important that instead of just going it’s a tussle and it went wrong, it’s quite a different thing from going ‘I’ve pinned you down and now I’m going to get the drill’. It says a lot about someone! And it’s more memorable.

The writers and producers keep a close eye on online theories

Jack Williams: Yeah, I do it quite a lot

Willow Grylls: It’s great, reading those theories

But none of them have been entirely correct so far  

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Jack Williams: There’s lots of elements I’ve seen but I wouldn’t say anyone cracked the whole thing […] You see some and think ‘ooh, that would have been good’ Sometimes you’re like ‘shit! Why didn’t we think of that?’” We’ve tried to be as fair as possible. We haven’t hidden anything so it’s not impossible to get a sense.

It’s satisfying, rather than annoying, when fans guess the right answers

Jack Williams: No, God it’s brilliant! It’s great because that means we’ve laid it out… You can always surprise people by just not playing fair and holding things back. You can surprise people by going ‘David Morrissey’s an alien’ but it’s not fair to do it. So when people get it right, you feel quite pleased. I think they’ll enjoy it too, I hope.

Harry Williams: We try and play fair so people are going to get there sometimes. It’s satisfying to get something right.

By the series two finale, all your questions will have been answered:

Willow Grylls: Everyone should be reassured by the fact that all the questions that have come up and all the questions that are coming up, they will be answered over the course of the show.

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Jack Williams: I think you can’t ask so many questions and not attempt to have some satisfactory way for it all to make sense.

Viewers should be happy with series 2’s ending

Willow Grylls: Endings always divide people but will the ending answer all the questions that people have? Yes. I think it will.

Jack Williams: Yeah, it’s very different

Tchéky Karyo: It will be a question mark anyway. Some hope, maybe?

The actors were given a chronological timeline of events for reference, but even the writers found the timeline shifts tricky to follow.

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Jack Williams: Even when you’re writing it, you get a bit confused. You pitch an idea, then you go, ‘oh no they’re dead’, oh right!

Harry Williams: We have lots of different documents that we kept losing. When you have a big chart it feels quite constrictive, like you have to follow the thing, it feels very overwhelming. If you just write bits and pieces down here and there you can feel it more.

Willow Grylls: We film it in two sections, so we film the whole of one time period in a block and then we feel the whole of the other time period in a block, which kind of allows you to stay within the continuity.

Episode six features an iconic Julien moment

Willow Grylls: Episode six is really all about Julien.

Harry Williams: It’s really good. In the next episode, there’s a five-minute… It’s the most iconic Julien moment!

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Series two wasn’t based on any particular real-life abduction story:

Jack Williams: No but I think we read every real-life story like this. What’s depressing is just how similar a lot of them are, the pathology of these cases. From Natascha Kampusch to the Cleveland abductions, the Fritzl stuff. There are five or six quite key, specific ones. We read all of it and absorbed all of it in some capacity. It’s amazing how many similarities there are.

They wrote series 2 because they didn’t want to say goodbye to Julien Baptiste

Jack Williams: Mid-way through season one we realised we couldn’t say goodbye to Julien. When we were doing the sad ending to series one we thought, what happened if an Oliver type was found? What does that look like? What’s the story when the abducted person comes home? Is that the happy ending that everyone assumes it would be?

Tchéky Karyo [Julien Baptiste] wants to do a third series

Tchéky Karyo: “I hope there are still some skeletons in the closet for 1, 2, 3 you know… 4, 5, 6, 7!”

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[…] We had Hercules Poirot, and today we have Julien Baptiste!

The writers haven’t had an idea for series three yet

Harry Williams: Like with the second one, we didn’t want to do it in a cynical way, it was only when we had that story to tell. We’d done the story about losing someone and we’ve done a story about finding someone so it would have to be very different and not cynical and saying something new. Never say never.

Willow Grylls: I think the one thing we can say for certain is like series two, it would be very different from series one and two.

Jack Williams: We haven’t had the idea yet, to be honest. We’re still doing this.

The Missing series 2 continues next Wednesday the 16th of November at 9pm on BBC One.

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