Missing Ending Explained: TikTok Sleuths Couldn't Have Been More Wrong

by Zen

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Maybe and, hear me out, the Internet turning people's real-life tragedies into content was a mistake?


Editor's Note: The following contains spoilers for the film Missing.

If ever there was a film that was designed to poke fun at digital sleuths pouring over every single detail and the very nature of breaking down how all the pieces came together, it would be Missing . It is then almost humorous to explain what it all means as it is quite straightforward in retrospect which, in its own way, ends up being precisely the point. An unexpected sequel to the 2018 film Searching , it takes us through a similar story that is seen through new eyes and ends up tearing down all the wild theories being thrown out to get to something simpler yet no less unsettling. In case it wasn’t already clear, this piece is about to give away every single thing that happens in the film. If you haven’t yet had the chance to see it for yourself, then best bookmark this page and come back after you’ve done so. If you have, we’re here to dive headfirst into what it all means when the chaos has drawn to a close.

The story all centers around June ( Storm Reid ) whose mother Grace ( Nia Long ) appears to go missing when on a trip in Columbia. She was there with her new boyfriend Kevin ( Ken Leung ) and the two seemed to have a wonderful time until, as we later see through online videos, they were abducted off of the street. Stuck back in Los Angeles while all this was going on, June attempted to do everything she could to piece together what was happening by using various online tools at her disposal. In the course of doing so, she discovered that the truth behind her mother’s disappearance was closer to home than she realized. Though June had been told that her father, Tim Griffin’s James, had died when she was younger, the reality was that he had actually been sent to prison, both for abusing Grace and running drugs, where he had been for years. June was then taken by her mother to Los Angeles where the two of them could start over. However, James had actually gotten out of prison and sought them out. This is where the plot gets a bit complicated even as the underlying truth remains simple.

Storm Reid as June, waiting for her mother at the airport, in Missing Image via Screen Gems

To put a long story short, it was James who actually got Kevin to get close to Grace in the first place. Then, when they were both meant to be going to the airport, they made a swap. With James acting as their driver he was able to abduct Grace. Then, to cover their tracks, he hired a woman who was meant to be a lookalike to go on the trip with Kevin. This would allow her supposedly loving boyfriend to keep sending home photos of their joyous time and hold off suspicion for as long as possible. Where Kevin messed up was that he actually sent a “live photo” that revealed that this wasn’t Grace all. This was when June realized that she needed to start looking a lot closer to home. She was still working with limited information, as Kevin had died in a raid by police after being abandoned by James, but she managed to discover that her computer was actually being monitored. She also managed to find surveillance video of her mother trapped in a shed by their old home. It is then clear that there is only one person who could be behind this nightmare of a situation that has kept getting worse at every single turn.

The Truth Was Painfully, Terrifyingly Simple

Right when June was on the cusp of figuring out that this was James, he shows up at her door and abducts her as well. He then takes her back to the isolated home. Though things get quite dire, the mother and daughter are able to team up to take him down. Through quick thinking that also serves as a callback to a joke about Grace always overusing Siri, June manages to let the police know where they are even when locked in a room. While not a work of incisive commentary by any means, as it very much remains a thriller first and foremost, there also is a significance to how all this gets tied up. When the entire Internet seemed to be speculating wildly with cockamamie theories flying left and right about what could have been the cause of it all, it was only June who was able to get the truth. She was the one who was able to save herself and her mother because everyone else, including the police, were looking in all the wrong directions. When the TikTok talking heads were more than happy to just slander her family and turn this tragedy into content for their followers to lap up, June got to a truth that was painfully common. Yet, despite its prevalance, everyone else didn't see it.

Nia Long in Missing Image via Sony

Though everyone else was buying into that there was some sort of mastermind criminal pulling off an elaborate scheme, it actually was just a common abuser coming back to continue terrorizing his family one more time. Again, the film is mostly about the spectacle of this playing out and can frequently get tangled up itself. Still, the fact that all the misdirects end up fading away to unveil a more harrowing truth, remains just a bit pointed. For all the ways imaginations run wild about crimes that subsequently turn them into the equivalent of a television show that is devoid of any foundation to reality, which the film pokes at via some light skewering here and there, the truth is much more grounded. Sure, there are plenty of narrative leaps needed to make things more exciting. With that being said, when that is peeled away, the answers Missing provides reveal the most terrifying truths come from when others turn you into something to be consumed and miss the truth staring them in the face.

Missing is in theaters now.