Without A Trace: The Complete Second Season (DVD)
"You can't save everyone, Jack," a child molester taunts FBI Agent Jack Malone before hurling himself out a window. But the tireless efforts of Malone (Anthony LaPaglia in his Golden Globe-winning role) and the members of the elite Missing Persons Squad to do just that are what make Without a Trace
so compelling. Each episode is a race against time to find a person who has mysteriously vanished (their slow fade from the screen has lost none of its unsettling power). In some of this sophomore season's most gripping cases, people and events are not what they seem. In "Confidence," the task force discovers that a missing wealthy socialite has a seriously shady past and keeps "bad company." The past haunts the present in "Risen," in which Vivian (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) gets a new lead on a four-year-old case (Kirstie Alley is excellent as the missing girl's distraught mother), and in "Copycat," a sociopath with a grudge against Jack (see "Are You Now or Have You Ever Been" from the first season) is involved in a disappearance with disturbing similarities to a 12-year-old case.
The procedural aspect of Without a Trace is fascinating as Jack and company employ advanced profiling techniques in their investigations. Over the course of the season, episodes also deftly flesh out the characters. Samantha (Poppy Montgomery) struggles with the psychological repercussions of being shot in the season 1 cliffhanger. Taylor (Enrique Murciano) is revealed to have a brother who is in jail. Samantha, who had an affair with Jack, is drawn to Martin (Eric Close). Jack learns that his father (Martin Landau in an Emmy Award-winning performance) has Alzheimer's. He also weighs a move to Chicago to save his rocky marriage. Fulfilling the promise of the auspicious first season, Without a Trace has established itself as among the best-written and -acted (not for nothing did the series earn a Best Casting for TV award from the Casting Society of America) hours on television. And without commercials to break the tension, it's an even more intense experience on DVD. --Donald Liebenson