There can be almost no stronger heartbreak than when someone you know goes missing. Such an unresolved trauma lingers on desperately in search of resolution or acceptance.
Few countries produce drama that delve into the intersection between the traumatised living and the lingering afterlife than South Korea, and Missing (The Other Side) is no exception.
What Is Missing (The Other Side) About?
After an attempt on his life when he witnesses a kidnapping, cocky scammer of other scammers Kim Wook (Go Soo) ends up injured near the outskirts of a remote village. Except he doesn’t.
Only he and his gruff saviour Jang Pan-seok (Huh Joon-ho) can see the village and its ghostly inhabitants.
They know they are dead, but don’t know that Mr Jang and Wook are alive, something Mr Jang advises Wook to keep to himself lest they pester him with tasks.
What tasks? Well, these dead are only hear because their bodies are missing. Once someone’s body is discovered, the ghostly version of them dissipates.
Many of the inhabitants have been ‘living’ in the village for decades, never aging. Mr Jang, in combination with searching for his missing daughter (who isn’t in the village), works tirelessly to secretly solve their cases and find their bodies so that they can have peace.
Missing (The Other Side) Trailer
Is Missing (The Other Side) Worth Watching?
Missing (The Other Side) slides around in search of a tone to start. Wook’s swagger and casual speech marks out the comedic elements, along with his sibling-like relationship with cohorts Jong-ah and Dae-seong.
After initial ‘pilot episode’ hiccups, we settle into a broadly dramatic show with flashes of comedic character moments, which is thankful.
And by golly you might want to have the tissues handy. No-one does melodrama like the Koreans and it was only two episodes in before this reviewer was unsuccessfully choking back tears.
In order to successfully pull on heartstrings you need to have well written and acted characters, which is certainly the strong point of Missing.
Go Soo is fantastic as Kim Wook. “My name means sunshine,” he gleefully tells everyone he meets. True to form, he is pitched the ride side of cheeky but sincere.
Like a mixture of David Tennant and Chow Yun-fat, Go Soo delivers multitudes of emotion from behind the eyes. His own personal past tragedy gives him dramatic heft which is staggered out nicely over the 12 episodes.
The central plot is tied up with newly arrived village resident Choi Yeo-na (Seo Eun-soo) and her fiancé police officer boyfriend desperately searching for her. That Wook is burdened with the knowledge that she is already dead carries an innate sadness through the run time.
Special mention must also go to Huh Joon-ho as Mr Jang. His surliness warms over the course of the show and he is tasked with keeping things light when bantering with Wook but also being the focus of devastating trauma in his own investigations. Joon-ho’s battered features and performance tie everything together.
That said, Missing overall is top and bottom heavy; the middle is filled with busy work.
It may have stuffed a village full of ghosts with bodies to be found but the show is reluctant to let go of its menagerie of engaging characters, perhaps for obvious reasons. It also struggles to fill antagonistic roles.
The presence of a potential serial killer is barely given room to breathe, and a central financial (and murderous) conspiracy is rounded off extremely quickly with a whiplash shift from tight lipped denials to blurting confessions.
Missing (The Other Side) creates many moving scenarios throughout its first season (the second is yet to air on Netflix UK) but backends the resolutions to make a never-ending wail of emotional peaks in the last episode.
Sadly, this has the side-effect of numbing you as yet another character breaks down for a tear drenched scene.
Pacing problems and pat resolutions aside, Missing is buoyed by superb central performances and a great concept with plenty of scope for more stories to tell.
People are only lost if forgotten. Together, anything can be found again.
Words by Mike Record