The Missing: Did hit BBC1 drama lose the plot?

Spoiler alert: Don't read this if you haven't seen the finale

Click to follow

Was it a brilliant yet bleak conclusion to a mystery which had gripped seven million viewers or a manipulative let-down that failed to deliver? The climax of BBC 1’s abduction drama The Missing divided an audience which had followed every twist and turn over two months.

Starring James Nesbitt and Frances O’Connor, the serial followed the harrowing mystery of five-year-old Oliver Hughes’ disappearance on a family holiday to France.

Its writers, brothers Harry and Jack Williams, promised that Tuesday night’s conclusion would provide a satisfying ending to a storyline which followed the obsessive search for the truth by a grief-stricken father – played by Nesbitt – over eight episodes.

The finale was watched by 6.6 million viewers. But the revelation – spoiler alert here – that Olly had simply chased a fox into the road and been run over by a drunk hotel owner, and that the injured child had apparently been disposed of in a conspiracy involving the town’s mayor, proved a twist too far for some viewers, who had been led to suspect the involvement of paedophile rings and kidnap gangs.

The immediate announcement that The Missing, already Golden Globes-nominated, would return for a second series, like ITV’s “whodunit” hit Broadchurch, fuelled scepticism on social media, since no body was recovered to confirm Olly’s fate and Nesbitt’s character continued to search for his son.

“I’m still frustrated by the ending of The Missing! Is it him or not? Just wanted closure,” tweeted one viewer. “Characters that had answers all died. Convenient,” wrote another.

Others praise a “perfect”, “mesmerising” and “chilling” conclusion, or joked that they suspected all along that “the fox did it”.

The finale split critics. The Times praised a “truly moving ending”. The Daily Telegraph identified “a manipulation too far. An otherwise excellent series failed to deliver the one thing this viewer wanted most from the ending – a heartfelt, convincing sense of closure.”

The writers allayed fears that the storyline would be dragged out for a second series. The Missing 2 will feature a new case and different cast. Set in Germany over two time frames, it will follow the story of an adult woman who returns after going missing.

In a post-credits teaser, Tcheky Karyo, who plays the French detective Julien Baptiste, said: “To lose somebody can destroy a person. But to find them again, when so much has passed. Well, sometimes, that can be worse.”

Starz, the US cable network which is airing the series to widespread acclaim, had already confirmed a second series with the BBC.

Jack Williams told The Independent: “All we can say is that this series has closure. We don’t want people to be left feeling frustrated. I hope they enjoyed the ending.

“We always knew that the story of Oliver Hughes would have an ending. But in writing the first series we found there were many themes and issues we didn’t have the chance to explore. The response to the show has been fantastic.

“We’re thrilled to be telling a brand new story which we hope will surprise and intrigue and tell an even bigger tale on an even more ambitious canvas.”