Missing: Dead or Alive has hit No. 2 on Netflix — stream it or skip it?

(L to R) Vicki Rains and Nina Mauldin in Missing: Dead or Alive
(Image credit: Netflix)

People love to watch Netflix's true crime documentaries and docuseries programming. Its latest hit, Missing: Dead or Alive, inverts the typically reliable format of the genre for something a bit different. But it's also divisive.

It's still popular, though, at least by the metrics of Netflix's Top 10 Shows in the U.S. list. Missing: Dead or Alive jumped up to the No. 2 slot on May 11th (according to FlixPatrol), the day after its debut. It's held that spot since. 

But since most critics won't help you figure out if you should watch (it doesn't have a Rotten Tomatoes score), we've done some work to help you figure out if the series is worth your time. Here's what you need to know about Missing: Dead or Alive.

What is Netflix's Missing: Dead or Alive about?

Missing: Dead or Alive follows around a Columbia, South Carolina police department that's tracking down missing persons. Its first case is about Loretta Garcia, a 61-year-old woman who had been living with her son Andrew, an Iraq war veteran.

We follow this case through investigators Vicki Rains, J.P. Smith and Nina Mauldin, as well as their captain Heidi Jackson. We see the team search through trash at the Garcia family's abandoned home, and find evidence such as a destroyed cell phone.

Yes, unlike a lot of true crime content on Netflix, Missing shows us a case unfolding in real time. Which has led to some audience questions we'll explain below. Rains and crew came to this case because of a report from Loretta's former daughter-in-law, who explains that Andrew had a violent temper

Missing: Dead or Alive reviews — What critics and audience members say

Heidi Jackson in Missing: Dead or Alive

(Image credit: Netflix)

Missing: Dead or Alive's popularity seems to be in stark conflict with the word of mouth surrounding the show. Not only have critics barely even looked at it, but most of the buzz on social media is negative.

Twitter user @camren_0011 is one of many who questions the legitimacy of the series, writing "the new show on netflix missing dead or alive is actually so bad like its 100% scripted and fake and the acting is so bad."

Christina, @secularSWer, tweeted "Just finished episode 1 of Missing: Dead or Alive on #Netflix and I must be the only one, but I think it's not good."

These are cops, not reality TV stars, so there is a bit of a forced feeling to these scenes.

Joel Keller, Decider

I did find one Missing: Dead or Alive review from a reputable critic, though, and they agree with the crowd about the show's scripted feeling. Joel Keller of Decider wrote that it "plays out more like a scripted drama, with narration from both Rains and Jackson overlaying scenes that seem to give the show a narrative propulsion you don’t often see from true-crime docuseries."

While Keller says that "It’s a more effective device than we thought it might be," but notes "some of the scenes aren’t quite spontaneous ... These are cops, not reality TV stars, so there is a bit of a forced feeling to these scenes." His review is overall-positive, recommending audiences stream Missing, though he notes it "stretches the idea of 'reality' in ways that feel forced."

M.N. Miller of Ready Steady Cut calls Missing "below average" and says it "brings nothing new or interesting to the true crime docuseries genre."

Outlook: Should you stream or skip Missing: Dead or Alive?

True crime fans will definitely flock to Missing: Dead or Alive. The only question is if they'll enjoy or finish watching all four of its episodes.

Those looking for a true documentary-style series will probably bounce right off of it, because the mood seems too glossy. Folks who want to get answers, however, will probably stick around to see if any are there. 

Overall, though, this seems like a show you can probably skip.

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Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.