Missions

3 out of 5

Created by: Julien Lacombe, Ami Cohen, Henri Debeurme

Missions: some isolated moments of terrific, mystifying tension; a nicely balanced core cast that skews well across the “isolated in a cabin” range of horror thriller personality types; a brilliantly odd central conceit.  This is balanced out by an unfortunate willingness to deflate that tension with underwhelming reveals; not really capitalizing on the isolation effectively; and a surprising amount of padding, given that the series, with 10, 25ish minute episodes, is less than five hours long.

It’s the near future, and we’re in a space race to Mars.  Funded by one o’ them eccentric billionaires, William Meyer (Mathias Mlekuz), the French Ulysses 1 shuttle is staffed with the regular spread of hardass captain, nerdy tech guy, a doctor, a scientist, and our point of view character, psychologist Jeanne Renoir (Hélène Viviès).    Missions gets off to a tonally intriguing start, with a dreamy floating between Jeanne’s thoughts – she has felt drawn to this mission, even though it seemed improbable for her to be a part of it – and her interactions in her role with the crew.  The announcement that the Ulysses 1 is actually following the landing of an American crew – now lost – is met with some confusion that’s immediately overwhelmed by a problematic landing.

They’re now stuck, with a ticking clock until they run out of resources.  And in a scramble to see if any resources can be scavenged from the missing American craft, they start to discover impossible things on the surface…

…To which our crew sometimes responds rather underwhelmingly, making it unclear whether or not we, the audience, are supposed to be intrigued or, like, not care either.  This is compounded by a loss of the ticking clock and sense of isolation – it starts to feel like wandering the surface can happen any old time – and then the usual squabbles that are incredibly besides the point of the oddities which one would think would be drawing our focus…

However, Missions manages to remain mostly, eh, on mission, possibly thanks to its short per-episode runtime, but also because the show is comfortable with remaining somewhat open-ended.  While this might be problematic for those who likey tidy conclusions, it prevents the kind of double- and triple-takes of twisty-turny shows that are out to surprise, which generally only cause them to stumble over those same twisty-turns; this means the main idea that starts to develop in the season’s back half can be big and weird and intriguing, certainly enough to merit the half hour runtime per episode.