FBI Special Agent Emily Byrne was abducted six years ago by a serial killer and declared dead in absentia.
Whoever held her all of that time obviously provided fantastic hair conditioner because whose locks look that good after being trapped in a basement for six years?
But seriously, Absentia Season 1 Episode 1 is the beginning of an intriguing mystery.
Within the first five minutes, I found my heart both breaking for and pounding with Emily Byrne as she was repeatedly beaten and then almost drown in that custom made, human-sized fish tank.
My only complaint is that the serial killer has an eyelid fetish. I can barely write those works with shaking. (Picture me as Rachel on Friends when they have to hold her down to get the eye drops in, and you’ll understand why.)
One of the most compelling things about the series was that I felt sympathy for pretty much all of the characters, even when I didn’t always like them very much.
How do you not feel sorry for Emily? She had six years of her life stolen and endured what appears to be a hellish existence during that time. But it was those old home movies that made me want to cry.
Emily looked so darn happy with Nick, their baby boy, and even their adorable dog. When little Flynn looked at strands of his mother’s hair, seemingly fascinated, and then hugged her, it was a heart-wrenching reminder of all that they’d lost.
The most interesting thing about Absentia was that each character is complex. Take Nick Durand.
When he got that mysterious phone call in the middle of the night, he tore out of the house without hesitation. He never questioned that it could have been a hoax, he just jumped into action.
He also didn’t give Alice a word of explanation. Of course, what could he say? Oh, my dead wife might still be alive and in danger. Sorry, honey, but I’ve got to run?
But once Emily was found, Nick was oddly standoffish. He even runs to the office while Emily is still unconscious at the hospital. Is it because he feels guilty for moving on? Was heading back to the investigation the only practical way he could think to help?
The distance made me question his feelings because I kept expecting that the man who loved Emily would want to be at her side when she woke up. Or at least at home trying to break the news to their son.
I know Nick had a lot to deal with at that moment, but he had to know that if the press had swooped in at the hospital that they’d also be swarming his home. He and Alice let poor Flynn get blindsided.
I’m left with so many questions about Alice. How long after Emily “died” did she and Nick meet? How long have they been married? How long has she been Flynn’s “Mom.”
When they took Flynn to Emily’s grave site, it was clear that Flynn didn’t want to be there. He’s a kid, and that’s understandable, but it felt as though he was angry at Emily, perhaps for leaving him.
And there was something about Alice’s response to him that bothered me.
Alice: I know she would have loved to be at your race, every race, but she wanted to make your life safer, and mine. We kind of owe her, don't you think?
Flynn: You're my Mom.
Her words seemed to subtly imply that Emily chose her job over Flynn. Then when Flynn’s only reply was that Alice was his Mom, the look on her face was one of pride…which would have been fine, if only she’d said something about it being okay to mourn and love Emily too.
But that didn’t happen, and it bugged me, and yet it's impossible not to have sympathy for Alice. Having Emily come back from the dead to possibly usurp her place in her own family must be a nightmare.
The fact that Nick didn’t feel the need to comfort Emily, and even her brother was quick to let her take the sofa after she’d barely gotten out of the hospital, tells me that the people in Emily’s life expect her to be strong, resilient, and to take care of herself.
As a matter of fact, the only being who seemed truly happy at Emily’s return was the dog!
Emily response to Nick in this Absentia quote left me wondering if the two were having problems before she disappeared, or if she’s simply furious about how he’s moved on from her.
Nick: I'm trying to help you, Emily. We're in this together.
Emily: Don't say that. You're not the one who was taken. You're the one who was fucking somebody else.
Emily’s drive to find the person who held her for six years, and who was still out there, made perfect sense.
She’s lost her husband. She’s lost her son. Hell, she’s even lost her dog. Finding the bastard who did this to her is the one thing driving her forward. The one thing she feels she can fight for and win.
So when she damn near beat the man in the car to a pulp to find out where Semarov was, I didn’t find that odd at all, other than perhaps how long it took someone to pull her off the guy.
But Semarov is dead. He’s the body from the river, and he’s got Emily’s DNA under his fingernails.
That’s certainly a twist no one saw coming, but I’m confused as to why everyone is jumping to the conclusion that Emily killed him.
Maybe he was her captor and they fought? Even if he was her captor, then there’s an accomplice out there who could have just as easily killed Semarov.
Or maybe Emily killed Semarov and the accomplice put her in the tank and then dumped Semarov’s body.
Who’s the good guy? Who are the bad guys…or are there just a lot of shades of gray to this story?
There are so many possibilities that I can’t wait to go jump into Absentia Season 1 Episode 2 next!
Don’t forget, you can catch up and watch Absentia online here at TV Fanatic.
C. Orlando is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow her on Twitter.