Absentia season 2 episode 1 review: Who is Valerie Chandris?

AbsentiaBefore we dive any further into the twisted narrative that is Absentia season 2 episode 1, we should note from the get-go that there are SPOILERS within. If you’re watching the Canadian broadcast on Showcase, this article is for you! Otherwise, you may want to steer clear until the show arrives on Amazon this summer.

Through just one episode, the clear takeaway with Absentia season 2 is this: It’s a more fully-formed piece of entertainment than ever before. In season 1, the show went to the lab and concocted its own formula, one that was gloriously dark and containing a number of unique elements in between a signature ton, fantastic cinematography, and even a few moments that may make you jump right out of your seat. After season 1, someone clearly took the formula back to the lab to perfect it.

What we have as a result is a premiere episode that contains much of what made season 1 great, but also a few more elements. We’d say that there is a greater sense of contrast, both visually and stylistically, than anything that we had in the first season. You see more of Boston in the daylight in this episode, and Emily Byrne trying to live a normal life. This is placed perfectly against the fearful nights, the traumatic moments, and the dark gas deployment that cost so many their lives in this episode. There’s also a particularly dark sense of humor here, perhaps best scene in Emily picking up her groceries off the street after chasing after someone she believed to be watching her. She’s got these impulses now, these fears, and these constant nags in her mind that are brought about as a result of what she’s gone through. It’s understandable, and also heartbreaking that these are elements of her psyche that certainly will not be going away at any point in the near future.

For Emily, her top priority from the start in this episode was trying to figure out the truth about her past, long before arriving at the harrowing orphanage that she eventually defined a certain part of her life. She had a partner in her quest for answers in Tommy, who, as it turns out, she also hooks up with here and there. We wouldn’t call this relationship super-committed — we’re not sure we’d call it anything, but the two’s proximity to one other does lead to them being able to take on some of these challenges in a way they may not be able to otherwise.

What they do find at the end of this episode is a name in Valerie Chandris — once that makes a little more sense when you understand who that person is in relation to Emily. This is her biological mother, at least supposedly. We’re not sure we would take the word of a woman who is a pseudo-nomad living in a trailer, but it does seem like she’s got a lot of newspaper clippings about Emily’s past and she’s followed her story for some time.

This was your cliffhanger for the episode, but our review is still far from over…

The gas attack

This seems to be the central event that Nick Durand and the rest of the FBI will be looking into — it was a sweeping attack believed to be terrorism, with countless lives lost. Yet, as new character Julianne Gunnarsen (there to examine the profile of the responsible party) points out, it’s quite unusual that no one has claimed responsibility. This suggests that they either don’t want to be found, or they are planning so much worse and even more sinister in the near future and want to do that before they claim anything.

The aftermath of this attack is leaving the Durand family scattered — Nick’s working closely with the team to determine what went wrong, whereas Alice realized that she’s needed as a therapist back at the hospital to help those who are suffering. She’s realizing now that Flynn doesn’t need her at home anymore — and that gives Flynn a chance to spend more time with Emily. He spent the night with her in this episode and despite her quirks (which include a rather dodgy apartment and no real food), he was still interested in going back. Emily’s afraid of being a bad mom, but she does love the kid. She just has a lot of issues to sort out but (hopefully) she’ll get there.

CarterMatt Verdict

This premiere really did capture the perfect Absentia formula, in between the atmospheric vistas, the intense music, the jump-out-of-your-seat moments (i.e. the bathtub scene), and yet another scene-stealing moment from Papa Byrne at the start of this episode that helps to remind us how we could watch about three hours of just this guy alone. It’s a fantastic start to the season and we’re excited to see what’s next.

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What did you think about Absentia season 2 episode 1? Be sure to share right now in the attached comments, and remember to stay tuned to get some further insight on the show. (Photo: Sony.)

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