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Absentia - Season One - Review - "Stana Katic Makes Award-Worthy Return to Television"

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Thankfully there is a list of kick-ass women gracing television and computer screens today. These women seem to have many things in common. They’re fierce, they’re dedicated, they’re resourceful and above all else they are survivors. When you watch them you know two things, one-they will go to any extremes or lengths to protect their loved ones, and two-woe be to anyone who threatens their loved ones. Today a new name can be added to the list memorable kick-ass women, Emily Byrne. Emily is the lead character in Stana Katic’s (Castle) triumphant return to television, Absentia, developed for Sony Pictures Television Network’s AXN and directed by Oded Ruskin. After an initial run in 2017 on Sony’s International Networks, the series premieres in the United States today on Amazon’s Prime Video. Absentia is a 10-episode, taut, psychological thriller filled with multiple twists and turns that keep you guessing, right up until the very end. The show features an award-worthy, tour-de-force performance from its star and executive producer Stana Katic. Katic has not been on TV screens since her departure from Castle in 2016, and after just the first half-hour of this series, you realize she’s been away far too long.

This is the series I’ve been waiting to see for over a year, and it was well worth the wait. When you sit down to watch, make sure you’ve got plenty of time, because once you start watching you won't be able to turn away and will want to watch the whole series in one sitting. (Binge-watching a series like this is something I haven’t done since the premiere of Stranger Things in July 0f 2016.) The cunningly crafted story and gripping performances grab you from the terrifying opening moments and don’t let go!

The series is the story of Boston FBI agent Emily Byrne, who while hunting a notorious serial killer mysteriously disappears and is declared dead. She’s found, barely alive in a water tank prison, six years later with no memory of who had taken, held and tortured her. She struggles to regain her life and reconnect with her family who had moved on following her “death.” Her fellow FBI agent husband has remarried, her infant son is now nine-years-old and struggles to find a connection to this strange woman who is his mother. As Emily makes slow progress in reclaiming her life, a string of new murders makes her the prime suspect and afraid of being in captivity again and determined to prove her innocence, she goes on the run. The more she investigates the more in danger everyone around her becomes building to a thrilling climax and surprising resolution.

The heavy lifting for the show rests squarely on Katic’s shoulders and she does not disappoint. Absentia is truly her show, and she challenges herself in so many ways in a physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding role. She commands every scene she is in, even the ones where Emily is trying to evade the authorities. Emily is smart, conflicted, resourceful, and determined, but capable of great ruthlessness when fighting for her innocence and survival, and you’re cheering for her the entire time. You feel every nuance of every moment of joy, confusion, anguish and anger Emily feels through one of the most powerful performances we’ve seen from Katic.Thanks though, to the intricate twists and turns in the story, like Emily you never know who you can trust. Your biggest enemy could turn out to be your greatest ally and at times, also like Emily, you have doubts about her innocence. Just when you think you’ve figured out the mystery the story takes a sharp and surprising turn.

Katic is backed in the series by Patrick Heusinger (Quantum Break, Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce) playing Emily’s husband Special Agent Nick Durand. While you understand his grappling with his guilt of giving up the original search for Emily, and trying to be fair to his new wife, his weakness in the series to me was that for being a smart FBI agent he jumped to hasty conclusions and judgments switching back and forth with his loyalty. One could almost grow to dislike him by the end of the series. Angel Bonanni (Shots Fired) is Boston PD Detective Tommy Gibbs, who strangely finds himself learning exactly what kind of cop he is or wants to be during his course of investigating the murders connected to Emily. Neil Jackson, (Grantchester, The Originals) is Emily’s troubled brother who fights through his own demons when his sister returns from the dead.

Patrick McAuley (The Conjuring 2) is Emily’s now nine-year-old son, Flynn. That first reunion scene between him and Katic is a heart-tugging moment and their subsequent scenes as mother and son try to rebuild their relationship are especially effective. But perhaps the other standout of the series is Cara Theobold (Crazyhead, and known to video game fans as the voice of Tracer in the game Overwatch) as Nick’s second wife, Alice Durand. To be honest I really wanted to dislike her at first but her handling of Emily’s return and other actions eventually won me over.

One hopes there is room for a Season 2 of Absentia, although I hope they do address one issue that bothered me following the resolution of the case. Given Emily’s actions throughout the series, I doubt an offer she receives is possible, at least not without extensive psychological testing. But I’m willing to overlook that quibble if it means we get to see more of Stana Katic playing Emily Byrne. Welcome back, Stana! We’ve missed you!

Hit the comments with your thoughts about this first season. Did you enjoy it? Are you hopeful for more seasons? Who was your favorite character? What was your favorite episode?
Please limit the discussion to Stana Katic's work in Absentia and the series itself. Thank You.

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