Absentia Episode 2: Reset – Now, There’s a Twist!

 

Absentia episode 2 raises the stakes in a way that’s surprising.  Just when it seems predictable – bam! It’s not!  That’s the way a thriller should be!  This series is proving to be perfect for binging.

After watching Absentia episode 2, you’re going to be happy to not have to wait a week for episode 3.  Now, let’s review Absentia “Reset” and see why this particular episode works so well!

The Setup

Before reading any further, you need to know that going forward there are spoilers through Absentia episode 2.

These four events are shown as happening around the same time.

  • As alluded to in the previous episode, Conrad Harlow (Richard Brake), the man who went to jail for the murder of Special Agent Emily Byrne (Stana Katic) walks because Emily’s been found alive.  Harlow gives a little deadpan speech to the camera telling Emily that they’ve, “both been victimized by the same person.”  Right….
  • A killer blonde in a red trench coat walks into the police station to ask for Detective Tommy Gibbs (Angel Bonanni).  It’s such a classic noir device.  There’s no doubt for the audience that Ms. Kelly Price (Alexandra Weaver) is a liar who’s there to make trouble.  Sure enough, she claims that two weeks earlier she saw Emily arguing with the guy found murdered in the lake – sex trafficker Robert Severov.
  • Gibbs however buys her story – mainly because it fits with his thoughts about Emily’s DNA being found under the dead guy’s nails. While the audience can see through this, the plot point actually isn’t far-fetched.  There’s been many a news story where law enforcement sees what they want to see because it fits their preconceived ideas only to be proven wrong later.
  • Emily is with her brother Jack (Neil Jackson) attempting to get back into driving again.  She wants to get her license reinstated so that she can “take Flynn places.”  Jack makes a joke about her remembering where the brake is, which says that he doesn’t realize that Emily driving again could be difficult.   Likewise, Emily kind of rolls her eyes at him.  After all, it’s not like she’d never driven before.   She’s just a little rusty….
  • It turns out to be a very big deal.  As Emily’s stress level goes up after nearly hitting a car and then a person, she starts to see everyone as wearing the white facemask of her capturor.  It becomes a full on PTSD panic attack.  It’s an indicator scene – just in case anyone bought into Ms. Price’s story.  Yes, Emily really was held captive and tortured for six years. (While Emily isn’t Kate Beckett, I couldn’t help but think of Katic’s work with PTSD in the Castle episode “Kill Shot.”  It impressed me then, as it does now.)
  • Back at the home of Emily’s former husband Nick Durant (Patrick Heusinger) and his current wife Alice (Cara Theobold), Nick flinches at Alice’s touch.  He then admits to feeling guilty when he’s around Alice or Emily, but that he “can’t do this alone.”  Both actors really draw you into this scene. You feel badly for them – and for the third person in the room that’s not physically there – Emily.  What a mess.

The Gist of What Happens

The Case of The Witness

Over at FBI headquarters, there’s some grumbling by Special Agent Ericsson (Amber Aga) during a team meeting on Emily’s case.  She thinks that Emily could be the person who killed Semorof.  Nick says of course not, but once Gibbs informs the team about the witness, they have to question her.

It’s awful timing for Emily, who’s in the middle of a therapy session with Dr. Daniel Vega (Bruno Bichir).  She admits to him what we already knew – she’s  angry at Nick for “choosing” Alice.  At the same time, she’s not sure if she could just step back into her old life – even though she wants to.  That’s when she gets the call from Nick about having to come down to answer some questions for Boston PD.  He’s gotten a lawyer for her, which shows that at least he hasn’t lost faith in her.

Emily gets questioned by Gibbs and her boss Special Agent Adam Radford (Ralph Ineson).  This was a bit much.   Emily’s reaction is perfect under the circumstances.

What, you think I put myself in the tank?

Gibbs is ridiculous in his questioning, but it’s Aaron that’s the real betrayal.  It pushes him up my suspect list.

The Truth About Kelly Price

Later on in the episode it will be Nick and Agent Crown (Christopher Colquhoun) who goes out and investigates Kelly Price.  It doesn’t take much for them to tank Kelly Price as a witness.  They stake her out at a diner and grabs a utensil with her prints on them.  Then they run them through the FBI database and discover Kelly Price is really Reginia Talbot.

Not only is Price not who she says, but she’s got a connection to the dead trackiffer as a money launderer and to a florist with the means to send Emily the flowers.  Now, if Gibbs had done his due diligence, he’d have realized Price isn’t who she said she was, but he’s just a cop.  That the man heading up the FBI office didn’t do some digging on the witness claiming to have seen Emily is suspicious.

Adding to that suspicion about Aaron is what Nick learns from the florist.  Talbot didn’t just launder money for the Russians.  She did it for the murdered sex trafficker – and for someone in the FBI’s Boston office.   Of course aside from Aaron, there’s also that Agent Ericsson….

Emily and Nick – It’s Complicated

This short little scene is one of my favorites of the episode.  It’s right after that questioning by Gibbs and Aaron that there’s a glimpse of  the past relationship between Emily and Nick.  He calls her “Em” not Emily.  She’s furious, but asks him why he let that interrogation happen.  Nick seems desperate for her to understand that he’s on her side,  and then, as Gibbs starts coming down the corridor they both go silent.  It draws them together in an “us against them” dynamic.  By the time Gibbs is gone Emily has calmed her anger at him – but she’s still (naturally) angry.

Who the hell is this witness?

Nick tells her that while he couldn’t stop the questioning, he’s got this under control.  “I just need you to trust me.” he says.  Emily’s reaction says it all….

Absentia episode 2 - Emily Bryne (Stana Katic)

Scenes like this are ones that Katic especially shines in.  There is so much going on with Emily that her actions and expressions clue us in on.  For one, she does trust Nick.  She wouldn’t have asked him why he let that happen otherwise, nor bothered to ask him about the witness.  Then in that moment when he says to trust him…it’s complicated.

This was the man she was madly in love with, and the things that she loved about him are still there.  Of course she trusts him,  but at the same time, he’s not hers anymore.  He’s got a new wife, a new life, and she’s got…nothing, not even the ability to work this case about her life.  It hurts like hell.  Meanwhile,  she still needs him.  He’s her access to her son, and now to prove her innocence.

We know it’s infuriating for Emily to feel this powerless.  It’s one of the many emotions that crosses Emily’s face in Katic’s performance.  With so much running through Emily’s head it’s no wonder that right after this Emily looks down to pull herself together and steel her emotions.  It’s a  bitter surrender.  

 Can I see my son, now?

As for Nick….

Heusinger does a nice job in this interaction.  Nick is startled and hurt that Emily could ever think he wouldn’t want her to see their son.   Over these first two episodes he’s consistently expressed that he wants their son Flynn (Patrick McAuley) to get to know Emily.  Here though is the first time we see something beyond a sense of guilt.  The idea that she would think he’d keep her from their son is clearly painful.  Flynn, is about them.  He’s their son.  A reminder of everything they once were to each other.

Absentia episode 2

“Of course.  Let me drive you.”

Unfortunately, Nick’s reaction actually makes things worse for Emily. Talk about working a nerve! It again heightens for her how powerless she is and what she’s lost.  

Thoughts possibly in Emily’s head when he says that?  Really, Nick, you’re going to drive me to your house, where your wife is, so I can see the child I’ve missed seeing grow up for so many years? Let’s not pretend you care, okay?

Absentia episode 2

No. Just work the case.

 

Emily, Flynn, and Alice

Right after the scene with Nick is the one with Emily, Alice and Flynn.  It’s another loaded one.  Emily can barely look at Alice because she has everything Emily wants.  Yet she has to get along with Alice and be grateful that someone was there for Flynn.

Even worse, the time with Flynn doesn’t go well.  Emily tries, brings him a gift, asks about his swimming.  She even tells him about the first time she gave him yogurt.  Flynn stays polite, but aloof.  It’s a painful scene to watch.  You just want to shake Flynn!

He does have a small moment of breaking out of tweendom mode.  When Emily has a flashback of her time in captivity, he notices that something is wrong and asks if she’s okay.

Emily then takes the yogurt bowls downstairs to Alice, only to hear Alice on the phone complaining to a girlfriend about how hard this is on her and Flynn.

Yeah, it should be about what’s best for Flynn, but what can I do?  She wants to see her son.  Of course I worry, but Nick says the doctor’s cleared her.

Ouch!  Poor Emily!  This is not Alice’s finest moment.   How is it not a good idea for Flynn to get to know his birth mother who was kidnapped and held for six years? As she said – the doctor cleared her.  Also, it’s not like Alice isn’t in the house.

Yes, it is a tough situation, there’s no dismissing that.  However, Alice’s lack of compassion stems from her own insecurities, not a direct threat.  Flynn loves Alice.  That’s not going to change if he also learns to love Emily.  Alice should know that.

Daddy’s Girl

After the fiasco of a day Emily had, the next day she does what any daddy’s girl would – she goes to see her father.  As sweet as this scene is, it serves a larger purpose.   Warren Byrne (Paul Freeman) has been holding on to Emily’s FBI badge for the last six years.  He hands it to Emily as she’s looking at the few remements of her father’s things she remembers.

This little interlude is the last piece of the puzzle explaining why Emily goes and does something that seems completely stupid on the face of it.  After telling her dad, “we’ll get him” in reference to Harlow he responds, “yes, we will.”  It’s very different than Nick’s saying he’s got this.  Being with her father – a former member of law enforcement himself –  let’s Emily feel closer to her old self.  It’s the one place in the world where she’s not seen as a fragile freak or dangerous serial killer.  With Dad, she’s an FBI agent.

Seriously, Emily?

So, later on,  she’s sitting and watching the news when Harlow’s news conference comes on again.  Emily decides to go to Harlow’s mansion and confront him.  This is a move that only makes sense in the context of what’s been happening.   Who in their right mind goes over to the house of the man she thinks is the serial killer that had her kidnapped and tortured for six years? Someone who’s desperate to get her life back, after gaining a bit of confidence after a demoralizing day.

The scene between Emily and Harlow at his pool is, Hannibal Lecter schooling Clarice Silence of the Lambs, creepy!   Emily tells him she just wants to know “how he did it.”

Absentia episode 2

“If you could see that look in your eyes. We both have it.”

Harlow is toying with Emily – but only until detective Gibbs and a couple of cops arrive – to arrest her!  He did tell her he’d seen her enter the house because she’d “missed a camera.”  This was such a well executed edgy and suspenseful scene.  There was really no way to tell where it was going!

The Wrap Up – With One Big Twist

Emily tells Gibbs that she thought if, “she got a look at him” she’d remember.  Don’t buy it.  We saw her questioning him.  She’s just realized how insane the idea was and was covering her butt.

Luckily, despite having Emily in handcuffs chained to his desk, Gibbs has kind of decided that perhaps Emily isn’t the killer.  He tells her after “doing some digging” he discovers they are a lot alike – stubborn and relentless.  They also both have fathers that were in law enforcement.  Emily challenges Gibbs cop instincts.

Are you the kind that closes cases or one that actually solves them?

Gibbs likes this.  The two now have developed a pleasant truce.   Dryly he tells her that Harlow isn’t pressing charges, and then Nick arrives.  Before taking Emily home he angrily throws him the news that his witness Kelly Price is Reginia Talbot.  Gibbs isn’t thrilled, but he follows it up and by that evening he’s found the truth for himself.

Emily & Nick Are On The Case – Sort of

Once in the car, Nick lets Emily have it. Unlike with Gibbs, she tells Nick the truth about why she confronted Harlow.  Upon hearing how angry and helpless she feels, he fills her in on what he knows.  When he tells her about someone in the office has to be the one responsible for creating “Kelly Price” and framing Emily, she has a realization.  Someone from the office had to have been tipping off Severov when she was working that case.  She’d just started digging into that when she disappeared.

Emily: “Whomever did this, they thought their problems were solved when Harlow killed me – but then I came back.”

Nick:     “Listen, first I think we should go after the crooked agent in the office.”

It’s that “us against them” dynamic again – but then Nick catches himself.  Sternly he tells Emily he’s taking her back to her brother’s place and that she’s to stay there.  “No more stunts.” he says.  Emily agrees.

At the end of the ride back to Jack’s, Emily hits Nick with a difficult question – both for her to ask and him to hear.

Emily: We’d still be together if none of this ever happened.  Do you ever think about that?

Nick:    I do.

Emily runs out of the car without looking at him.  Later we see her looking desolate on the couch.

Alice and Nick

Okay, this was the one scene in the entire episode that was a bit too horror movie funny.   Alice and Flynn are home alone with the dog Riggs.  Flynn’s asleep on the couch when Riggs starts going nuts barking.  He clearly senses something outside.  Alice opens the door and goes outside with the dog.  We’re not talking about opening the door and peeking out.  She grabs the dog by the collar, walks out into their front yard, and past the fenced in area to look out in the woods.  Ummm…Alice?  You are the girl that gets killed first, in like, every horror movie ever.  No one does this.

Yes, there’s something glinting out there in the woods, but they didn’t need to have Alice come out of the house to establish this. Anyway, Nick gets home and she’s all rattled.   She’s worried about the dog growling.  Nick’s not.  Then she starts up about how Emily makes Flynn nervous.  Nick’s unconcerned and says Emily and Nick will work it out between themselves.  Finally the real issue comes out.  She tells him that Emily makes her nervous too.

After telling Alice she needs to have more compassion for Emily, Alice starts whining about all the time Nick’s been away.  Nick tells her it’s just the case.  Once it’s over, things will go back to normal.

Absentia episode 2

Don’t lie to me Nick.  There is no more normal.

She’s not wrong – which is why Nick doesn’t answer her.  Instead he takes Flynn up to bed.

The Twist

Okay, I did not see this coming at all!  While Nick is putting Flynn to bed, Gibbs is answering a call at Harlow’s place.  Harlow is found murdered in his pool!

Final Thoughts

What made Absentia episode 2 work so well was the psychological build up going on for Emily.  We get to see how her frustrations and sense of loss drive her.  Did it drive her to kill Harlow?  I doubt it,  although I’m sure someone is going to find a way to suggest she did.  She has an alibi for some of the time, but not all of it.

The real question is this: was Harlow actually telling the truth?!  Is that shared look he was talking about losing 6 years of their lives?  Did the same person that took Emily frame him, or is someone just trying to frame Emily? I’m inclined to think that latter, but what did you think?  No spoilers please! In other words, don’t use information past Absentia episode 2!

 

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