Alert: Missing Persons Unit Season 2 Episode 4 Review: The Series Explores the Unseen Realities of Vulnerable Communities in Profound Hour

TV Fanatic

Alert: MPU is at its best when it brings compelling cases and victims forward.

And Alert: Missing Persons Unit Season 2 Episode 4 not only delivered on both but succeeded at organically shedding light on some of the most vulnerable victims of abduction, exploitation, and trafficking.

While the series' premise is finding missing individuals, like other shows of the same caliber (Found), MPU doesn't often deliver on the "ripped from the headlines" vibes of capturing the real nitty gritty of missing persons.

There are so many different subgenres of individuals who slip through the cracks.

Anyone with a cursory knowledge of statistics on abductions and missing persons is aware of the most vulnerable parties: children, teens, the mentally ill, the unhoused, the LBGTQ+ community, women of color, particularly Indigenous and Black women, and so forth.

Somehow, despite its premise, Alert often skirts around those topics where other procedurals dive headfirst into them. And there's nothing wrong with that, per se. However, when a series' entire focus is finding the missing, it's a noticeable flaw.

That's why "Maya" delivered not only one of its most grounded cases of the season thus far and the series.

I've never had anyone look out for me before. I never even had anyone miss me.


It wasn't as flashy as a bus filled with children for something nefarious, inspired by an action thriller, or as unique as a former mob enforcer posing as Ben Franklin.

While those situations are perfectly fine and entertaining, at the heart of a series that exclusively focuses on finding the missing is that feeling that there are people who dedicate their lives to searching for the everyday people, no matter their origins, socioeconomic status, or anything else.

You're driven to tune in because there's a comfort in knowing that, at least in fictional spaces, if you or your loved one went missing, there's a world where people will pour their all into finding you (them).

Maya's case was special because of how reflective it was of our reality and the hundreds of teens and young women who slipped through the cracks just like her.

Kemi: Just a child, a little girl living out of a backpack. What kind of world allows that, Nik?
Nikki: And where were her parents?
Kemi: Family doesn't always mean what you think it does.

The number of unhoused queer youth in the country is stomach-churning, a pervasive issue for decades upon decades.

The hour did well in touching on how pervasive that is and how Maya fell in the category of some of the most vulnerable populations.

It also did a great job of exploring the sub-communities connected to this issue and how they opt to address it and do what they can.

Maya was one of many unhoused queer youth who found some semblance of solace in Philly's "gayborhood" that looked out for her.

Queer elders are not unfamiliar with her experience, reaching out with helping hands in the little ways that they can manage.

Canary was a prime example of that, as she provided food whenever she could to these youths and could rattle off many of their names, factoids about them, and even list where they worked.

David was another. Sadly, he had no idea that his bartender was a predator, someone who exploited the very community he was part of, which made his misdeeds even more infuriating (and a dash problematic).

Providing under-the-table work for teens who needed cash via means that didn't require them to exploit themselves was a lifeline, however unorthodox.

Maya: What do I do now?
Kemi: You start the heal, you take your meds, and maybe talk to a therapist. And in a few more years, you're going to go out into the great big old world, find your own place, and find a new family. What you've been through, you can face anything.

We even got a strong sense of community from every scene that saw Mike and Jason navigating this neighborhood, patrons willing to assist them in taking down the local drug dealer, and gay couples catcalling our boys while shopping.

It was a lovely community, yes, but a virtual safe space that served as a haven for queer youth across the state.

Even with limited housing options and shelter beds, of which an exhausted advocate for them voiced her frustrations about a system that simply fails these people day in and out, these teens found some semblance of home and community there.

And that's a reality, something that has become more mainstream thanks to stories like this -- peeks into the underbelly of tight-knit queer communities that form to protect each other because the system rarely does.

These little elements made the hour more compelling than most, and the investment in the case was also great. Mike Sherman and Jason felt like guests in this community and the homes they made amongst themselves as they became more aware of how the system routinely fails them.

And they handled their position well, respectfully navigating things and still having fun moments with their antics laced in.

After all, Jason Grant would be the type of guy who would get offended if queer men didn't hit on him as well. He's all about his ego, after all.

And Mike is so damn pretty that he would be catnip for the gays, which made every catcall, moment of ogling, and whatever else entertaining.

He also looked like something out of The Village People with that jacket, but let's be honest, it was hilarious. The boys brought the laughs with their buddy-cop shtick.

And again, while I do not mind that these two are working together, I couldn't stave off the pang of disappointment that, thus far, this is the primary dynamic we've seen all season.

The ladies have mostly taken a backseat and are mostly reduced to the B-Plot while the guys handle all the action.

And it's the perfect time to play around with more of the dynamics within this ensemble.

But instead, we have Mike and Jay and Nikki and Kemi.

The hour even opened with Jax approaching Mike and Nikki before we were abruptly (in one of many frustrating and choppy editing maneuvers) shifted to Mike and Jay on their way to the Drag Club.

It would be good for the series to mix and match, especially given that we had more of that during Alert: MPU Season 1 than now.

Fortunately, these gripes did not overshadow the installment.

The hour also featured the best of Kemi Adebayo.

Ahead of her quirkiness and shamanism, Kemi is so deeply compassionate and sympathetic when it comes to victims, and that forever makes her an asset to the unit and excellent at what she does.

Again, one of the most subtly beautiful aspects of an hour that heavily focused on disenfranchised victims like that of a young queer unhoused teen is that it illuminated a perspective some viewers may not be familiar with and humanized her.

While her being seen as human in the first place shouldn't be up for debate, the plain truth is that, in reality, it so often is.

Even when you are alone, you don't have to feel lonely. There are infinite lights in this world; you just have to see them in the dark.


Kemi was instantly connected to this young woman. It almost would have been too easy to come from the angle of Kemi taking this case to heart because she's a queer woman who could identify with Maya.

We don't know if that was a factor or not. However, what was prominent was that Kemi could relate to this teenager who didn't feel seen, loved, or accepted by her parents and family.

Kemi's observation that Maya's parents seemed "indifferent" packed a hearty punch for viewers and was deeply relatable for Kemi.

They didn't care at all. People tend to think hatred is the worst in these instances, but it isn't. Hatred at least involves some level of passion or consideration.

But indifference? Apathy? How does a child process that?

It was very much the same with Kemi and her father, which made her connection to this case so enjoyable and a great touching point on her previous storyline that otherwise felt abandoned.

It was inarguably the best installment for Kemi. It felt like we got a better insight into this character through this case than we ever had with some of her surface-level quips and quirky antics.

Because situations like this are about human connection and that which binds us... that we can live in a world where a 30-40-year-old Black woman of African descent could identify so profoundly with a queer white unhoused teenager.

That's what you get for messing with kids. You got the right to keep bleeding, homeboy.


Certain experiences or rather the feelings they evoke aren't unique... they're human.

It was also a lovely sentiment that, in many ways, Maya saved herself. Hopefully, despite her difficult home life, she can heal from her experiences of being on the street and nearly sex trafficked.

In usual circumstances, Richard serving as the perpetrator would be an issue. But the hour did a great job of balancing out his evil misdeeds of exploiting the same community he's part of by showing the beauty, support, and humanity within the LBGTQ+ community.

Sadly, because all groups contain multitudes, they aren't exempt from the evils that pervade any and everywhere else.

To mitigate falling into vilifying a gay man, the majority primarily focused on destigmatizing any misconceptions or pure bigotry directed at the community.

It wasn't lost that the most beloved individual who was saving, supporting, and tending to children rather than "corrupting" them was a Drag Queen.

It felt very intentional and something I appreciated.

Outside of the case, however, it feels like we're in a pressure cooker with the team.

I look like Brown Fonzie.


Wayne has barely had screentime this season, but she lives rent-free in Nikki's head.

And Nikki still won't unpack why Wayne and her connection with Jay bothers her so much.

She's been so accustomed to being Jay's "person" that she's struggling to process him having someone outside of her.

And nothing good can come from Nikki lying to Mike about Jay looking into Hollis.

Their relationship is wholly reliant on open communication and honesty. When Mike finds out, he'll be upset and feel they've taken a giant step back regarding Nikki Batista holding this secret from Jay that he's not privy to.

And Hollis didn't hesitate to appeal to Mike via career trajectory.

Hollis has it out for Jay big time. He's not even subtle about his desire to rid the MPU of him.

He's very calculated.

Jay has Hollis rattled, maybe for good reason because, like a dog with a bone, Jay isn't letting go of that bombing no matter how clean they make things look and who they got to take the fall.

You can watch Alert: MPU on Tuesdays at 9/8c on FOX and stream the following day on Hulu.

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Roger Ebert