Stana Katic’s Return in ‘Absentia’ Impels Immediate Mystery

Six years after the disappearance of FBI agent Emily Byrne (Stana Katic), her assumed murderer, Conrad Harlow (Richard Brake) is sentenced to life in prison. However, with no corpse, her husband Nick (Patrick Heusinger), a fellow FBI agent, refuses to accept the verdict. His intuitions remain, and rightfully so, as Amazon’s moody mystery-thriller “Absentia” quickly proves nothing is as it seems.

Shortly following Harlow’s conviction, Nick receives a call directing him to a desolate and deeply dilapidated shack. There he discovers Emily locked within a water-filled tank grasping for her last breath. She is alive, but barely. Previously presumed dead by everyone around her, Emily’s reappearance comes as quite an unexpected shock, and her true captor is still on the loose.

Katic portrays Emily with strong conviction. Her latest role follows an eight-year run on “Castle.” Here her character, although suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder, struggles with what life has become after it was believed she was dead for the past six years. Time seemingly stood still while she was locked up in confined torture, but the bitter reality that everyone else moved on provides the most tragic empathy for her as a character. In the adjustment to her new life, she yearns to reconnect with her young son – who has no recollection of her. The relationship with her husband is no longer existent, as he has since remarried. His new wife Alice, played by a guarded Cara Theobold, is far less enthused and fairly suspicious of Emily’s sudden resurgence.

However, the character’s return to normalcy is largely overshadowed by the unknown whereabouts of her captor. She is determined to find the person responsible for her six years of unbearable torment. However, her determination gets set into overdrive once a string of murders, all bearing the same grisly mark of a serial killer, trace back to her. As Emily cannot remember or prove her exact whereabouts for the last six years, her innocence becomes as clouded as her memory. A series twists and red herrings lead for an intricately laid web. Her six-year disappearance is a giant mystery, but the trauma has understandably left her angry and highly unhinged – a dangerous concoction. Her emotional scars dig far deeper than any physical infliction she has endured.

Director Oded Ruskin helms all 10-episodes of season one. Bleak blue hues formulate the mystery-thriller’s unoriginal aesthetic. But Ruskin succeeds in providing sharply timed pacing, that finely balances stark emotion with consistent action. Penned by creators Matthew Cirulnick and Gaia Violo, the series, by design is innately complex. But with so many moving parts, some elements are paid off a tad inconceivably.

Never the less entertaining, “Absentia” is occasionally a show less concerned with probable logic. But its fast pace and shrouded underlying mystery will keep select viewers in tune. In comparison to other mystery-crimes available to binge, including “Mindhunter” or “Top of the Lake,” the series, or at least the first four episodes, doesn’t conquest much in terms of breakthrough territory. There are better shows out there for those with a strictly refined appetite. However, the show certainly serves up enough juice to please a select crowd. Albeit a tab shallow, those looking for a moody, mystery-thriller, “Absentia” will provide a decent binge.

The entire season one of ‘Absentia‘ premieres Feb. 2 on Amazon.