Tuesday, November 14, 2023

REVIEW: 'Found' - Gabi Takes Risks Without Losing Her Composure in Front of the Team in 'Missing While Indigenous'

NBC's Found - Episode 1.07 "Missing While Indigenous"

Native American schoolteacher Denae Wagon decides to deliver her baby on the tribe's reservation in Virginia but disappears before she can make it home. The search is complicated by a tense family dynamic and Denae's high-risk pregnancy.

"Missing While Indigenous" was written by Nikita DeMare and directed by Christine Swanson

Gabi took a risk by inviting Trent into her home. She reacted with empathy knowing his life was imploding. He could possibly lose his job because of what she did. Discovering Sir in her basement could probably earn him some good will in the department. And yet, he doesn't learn Gabi's massive secret. Instead, Sir is quiet throughout the evening. Gabi doesn't immediately question him the next morning. Sir is actually the one demanding answers. He wants to know who is so special that she let into her house with him downstairs. He desperately asks if she had sex with Trent. He flails in an attempt to gain control over her once more. Gabi doesn't flinch. She doesn't need to provide any information about her life to him. Of course, that largely highlights how stagnant this aspect of the narrative has become. It follows a rigid formula. More is always teased about what could happen. The story never fully delivers. It showcases how Gabi is always in danger. She hasn't been caught yet. That may be the inevitable outcome.

Until then, Gabi repeatedly drops a file in front of Sir for his input. That's a part of her investigative process. Somewhere along the line she has to return home to inform her former captor about the latest person who needs to be found. Over the course of the episode, he usually provides one observation that immediately dawns on Gabi as the next viable lead to pursue. She has her own instincts. The team looks to her for guidance. She must always manage the resources available. They must be used wisely. Time can't be wasted. Lives are at stake. Every moment counts. That's why she sees the value in keeping Sir locked up and working for her. It just hasn't produced as much storytelling potential as the creative team probably would have liked. Each episode seemingly must incorporate a flashback to Gabi's time locked up in the cabin. Those have developed fleeting returns too. The purpose this time is to remind her never to give up. She has the strength to power through even during the bleakest of times. Remembering that lesson is clarifying no matter what for her.

The narrative still structures its episodes around the game Gabi and Sir are playing with each other. They are always looking for an opening to exploit. It's a private battle. One where the consequences extend far beyond them. Lacey is terrified of going to Virginia because that's where the cabin was. Just being in the state is a big trigger. She seeks to confront her fear head on. Gabi is always by her side. That essentially places them in the familiar and comforting dynamic they've always known. Previously, Lacey was stepping out of that role to question why Gabi was lying to her. Everything has seemingly gone back to normal. The case doesn't actually pertain to Sir in any way. However, Gabi and Lacey can't hide from that shared past. The difficult emotions will only rise to the surface more because the tip line produces a credible sighting of Sir around Gabi's house. It's a precarious tease because Gabi witnessed Sir throwing a tantrum in his cage and knocking the camera offline. She no longer has that connection. She has lost control. She can't panic because she still has a missing person to find. She succeeds in that mission. She's happy. She can't overlook the danger that's present elsewhere. She's alerted to the truth. But again, the show has established the reputation of it probably not being as consequential as it seems in this particular moment.

Elsewhere, Gabi and the team contend with a different legal jurisdiction. They can no longer rely on Trent as their police liaison. Of course, he still pulls some strings and gets whatever they need. He still has friends willing to help him. He too sees the importance of this mission. Gabi knows he needs the distraction. He needs a purpose instead of facing the existential crisis of potentially no longer being a cop. That's his family legacy. He has to honor that. He's risking it all by helping Gabi. He refuses to shift responsibility onto her. She broke the rules for the right reasons. He understands that. It just means he can't flex his might as a law enforcement officer. He's a private investigator just like the rest of the team. He has to trust in others' willingness to share information simply because they genuinely want to help save a life. In this case, two lives are on the line. Denae went missing while in route to a Virginia reservation from Washington, D.C. She went into labor at some point. The team fears the worst. Again, the story always reaches its darkest moments before the rescue plays out. Gabi realizes that the biggest point of exploitation occurs where the border between the reservation and the local government meet. It offers confusion and chaos. The victim gets lost in the process.

Denae is rescued. She was left to die in the woods as a result of a complicated delivery. Her doctor knew her pregnancy was high-risk. She was heading for a breached birth. Everyone could plan for that. Denae saw the pride and honor of returning home. She had to find herself in the outside world. She never abandoned her heritage. It wasn't fair for her brother to try to stripe her enrollment from the tribe. She is a member of this community no matter where she lives. She stands confidently in this identity. And yet, she has lived a life surrounded by domineering men who have abused her. She stays with her abusive boyfriend despite his dangerous drinking and temper. She ran away from her brother once. He is now in a position of authority where he wants the entire reservation to bend to his order. He clashes with Gabi despite everyone wanting the same outcome. They finish with an understanding of respect. It's a rather false moment that allows for a concise ending to the story. It doesn't offer complexity. The show has done that in the past. It's more comfortable being resolute with its conclusions. That isn't always the best storytelling option. It tries centering stories of those abused by society. The statistics of missing indigenous women are staggering. That's not a focus here. Instead, it's just an overnight mission that reaches its finite conclusion with the hope that the reservation will remain empowering for every generation of this family despite their differences.