Review: Absentia

Stana Katic in Absentia

Absentia, from Amazon Prime, is one of those superlative series. Superlatives like spellbinding, spine tingling, suspense-filled, thrilling! It deserves all the superlatives you’ve got.

When FBI Agent Emily Byrne (Stana Katic) reappears after an absence of 6 years, nobody knows where she’s been. Even she doesn’t know where she’s been. A man is in jail for murdering her, even though they never found a body. She was declared dead in absentia, get it? Yeah.

Stana Katic and Cara Theobold in Absentia
Flynn’s two moms both love him

Her husband, FBI Agent Nick (Patrick Heusinger), is now married to Alice (Cara Theobold). They are raising Emily’s son Flynn (Patrick McAuley). Nick only waited a year before marrying again, which I personally hold against him.

Another murdered body is found floating in the Charles River with the signature of the serial killer who is in jail for murdering Emily. And Emily’s DNA is under his fingernails.

Emily wants to find out who the real killer is and what happened to her for the last six years. She was tortured and almost drowned repeatedly. But the FBI and the Boston Police Department all like Emily for this new murder. As the series moves forward, several new murders pop up that have evidence pointing to her. Every time she makes a bit of progress on her case, someone else dies and it looks like she did it.

Emily’s ex, Nick, believes she’s innocent about half the time. Other people who stick beside her are her brother Jack (Neil Jackson) and her dad (Paul Freeman).

Angel Bonanni and Patrick Heusinger in Absentia
Nick and Tommy search for Emily

Emily finally takes off on her own to find answers and prove her innocence. She’s following leads and dodging both the FBI and the Boston PD. She stays one step ahead of them. In fact she phones in clues to the morons chasing her because she finds them before they do.

A disheveled BPD detective named Tommy (Angel Bonanni) teams up with Nick to hunt her down. At first Nick tries to protect her and help her, but he finally joins the hunt and believes she’s guilty of all sorts of horrible things.

It’s tense and exciting. Every episode has new clues, new leads. People who looked guilty are checked out and discarded. More and more leads take Emily and the cops on a chase through time and space. Much of what the story is about relates to Emily’s time in an orphanage and to a crazy scientist who put the children in his care through some terrifying and insane experiments.

Several times I was convinced I knew who was responsible for all the murders and for Emily’s torture. Several times I was wrong. There are a few improbable or illogical things that happen in service of the story, but they didn’t detract.

Absentia offers some of the most compelling television I’ve seen in ages. Wonderful performances, especially from Stana Katic, a fear-inducing score, excellent direction, perfectly chosen locations – it all compels attention.

The characters are all flawed in various ways. Nick is a putz most of the time. Emily’s brother Jack is a disbarred surgeon with an alcohol problem. Emily herself doesn’t know exactly what she’s capable of doing or may have done in the past. Even the supporting characters were well-written, especially Alice.

Absentia was created by Matthew Cirulnick and Gaia Violo, with several more female writers working on the series. Every episode was directed by Oded Ruskin. If you watch it, don’t forget to breathe!

Have you seen Absentia? What did you think?

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