'The Missing' delivers another time-bending mystery on Starz

Tcheky Karyo in Starz's 'The Missing'

(CNN)Much like "Fargo," the second season of Starz's "The Missing" manages to replicate the tone and attributes of its first season with only the slightest crossover between them. What emerges is another beyond-twisty mystery, one that grows more gripping and densely layered as this eight-episode limited series unfolds.

While not quite as emotionally devastating as the first outing -- which dealt with the disappearance of a five-year-old child and the bitter toll on his parents -- this new story employs a similar time-hopping format and proves almost equally unsettling. The lone overlap, shrewdly, is the character of Julien Baptiste (Tcheky Karyo, terrific in an expanded role), a dogged French detective, determined to solve one last long-suffering case as his health fails him.
Once again, the narrative plays in two distinct time frames, gradually filling in the present from what happened a few years in the past. Here, the missing person in question is a young girl, Alice (Abigail Hardingham), who inexplicably returns 11 years after her abduction, tossing a grenade into the lives of her parents, a British army officer stationed in Germany (David Morrissey) and his wife (Keeley Hawes).
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That, however, was in 2014. In the present, the girl has met a tragic fate, her parents are estranged, and Baptiste is traveling to Iraq, seeking clues about Alice as well as another missing girl, having concluded the two cases are likely related.
Again written by brothers Harry and Jack Williams and directed by Ben Chanan, "The Missing" plays like an elaborate jigsaw puzzle, with many structural similarities to the first season of HBO's "True Detective." Only unlike that program, this team has managed to conjure a second installment that's nearly as satisfying and highly addictive. (Starz is making all the episodes available, in fact, so viewers can binge.)
By telling a self-contained story, continuing such series represents something of a high-wire act, forcing the producers to reload (if not entirely start from scratch, necessarily) with each new edition. With its predominantly British cast, "The Missing" has accomplished precisely that, evoking the same queasy feelings as the original while standing completely on its own.
Starz doesn't often deliver shows spoken of in the same qualitative terms as the best of HBO, Netflix or Showtime, but "The Missing" is just such a commodity -- the sort of ambitious, meticulously crafted character study that's well worth seeking out.
"The Missing" premieres February 12 at 8 p.m. on Starz.