After the recent political earthquake and the ongoing aftershocks it’s a relief to get back to some fictional drama.
The Missing (BBC One Wednesday nights) is the second season of this mystery series about people going missing in the most criminal of ways.
The plot is complex and there’s lots of time shifting between the time of a missing girl’s return and later investigations. You couldn’t afford to miss any of it –hard enough to keep up when you are fully focused.
The best thing about it is the fine acting, the emotional intensity and the very human characters. Tchéky Karyo is superb as Baptiste, the French detective investigating the disappearances of young girls. It’s an international affair as the action takes place in France, Germany, Switzerland and even Iraq where Baptiste comes under fire from ISIS fighters.
All in all it’s the humanity of the characters that impresses – Baptiste is troubled, ill, and passionately committed to finding the truth, way above and beyond the call of duty.
Keely Hawes delivers an award-potential performance as Gemma, the mother of the missing girl, traumatised by her daughter going missing and her husband’s adultery. There’s some ‘adult content’, especially in the first episode – I suspect such scenes get into first episodes to get a higher rating or to ensure broadcast after the watershed.
An abortion was discouraged in last week’s episode yet the pro-choice perspective was driven home as well. Surrogacy surfaced as a minor theme, but as dark secrets are revealed, sometimes to devastating effect, things can go from minor to major in a hurry.
Meanwhile, a more gentle drama, My Mother and Other Strangers, continues on RTÉ 1 Tuesday nights and BBC One Sunday nights.
The setting is Northern Ireland during World War II when the arrival of US soldiers to a rural air base causes predictable conflicts with the locals.
In the first episode a young airman is physically warned off dating a young local girl, Emma Coyne, while in the latest episode there’s a slowly growing chemistry between an older army officer and Emma’s mother, a local married teacher, Rose – a strong performance from Hattie Morahan, better known as the neurotic Jane in the comedy series Outnumbered.
So far it’s all very principled, touching and innocent but if the cliché route is taken the outcome is predictable. The events are narrated from the adult perspective of her son Francis, a young boy at the time of the war and it’s all very human and credible, though being set in Northern Ireland it’s unusual that the sectarian divide doesn’t figure, at least not in the first two episodes.
Religion or church going hasn’t featured yet, which is hardly a fair representation of the place and time, whichever community is involved.
You might have read the details in last week’s The Irish Catholic news pages about the Papal Nuncio’s interview on last Sunday’s Meaning of Life With Gay Byrne. Always personable and approachable Archbishop Charles Brown came across as a reflective, engaging individual.
I liked the personal stories from his youth, for example how his father became disillusioned with American society in the late 1960s and moved the family to the Catskill Mountains. Asked about his prayer life he said he preferred reading scripture in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament as his starting point.
He came to the Rosary late and believes it was important in his vocation story. Anticipating a coming shortage of priests in Ireland he reckoned part of the solution lay in non-Irish priests ministering here, particularly as the number of priests worldwide has been rising since the turn of the millennium. He defended the Church’s teaching on celibacy for priests and on the nature of marriage.
The Church’s teaching wouldn’t change despite the same-sex marriage referendum (Gay Byrne called it the ‘equality referendum’), and he didn’t expect any huge change in the secular approach, rather a “parallel situation of respect going forward”.
Finally, another clerical interview worth listening back to was with former army chaplain Fr Robert McCabe on last weekend’s Sunday Sequence (BBC Radio Ulster). Fr McCabe, also in last week’s pages, spoke of his work with Irish soldiers overseas, how he ministered to them, prayed with them and for them. Now in his work in Navan parish he has a much wider range of people to attend to but he seems quite enthusiastic about his new role.
Pick of the Week