Absentia Season 3 Episode 1 Review: Tabula Rasa

Television

It’s time to buckle up for Absentia Season 3 Episode 1 and forget the standard seatbelt. We’re going to need a 5-point harness and perhaps a helmet to survive this ride!

Stana Katic returns as the indomitably fierce Special Agent Emily Byrne, but her Special Agent status is in question because Byrne’s FBI psychological evaluation came back inconclusive.

This shouldn’t surprise anyone. What type of test can possibly measure the amount of trauma this woman has endured?

The title of this episode, “Tabula Rasa,” is the theory that we come into this world as a blank slate and that what we “know” comes entirely through our experience and perceptions.

I’m sure Emily Byrne wishes she could turn her life into a blank slate and start over because what she’s learned has been horrific. 

To quickly recap, Emily was abducted, tortured, and held captive for years while her family believed she was dead. Then she came back to find her husband married to another woman and said woman raising her son.

Emily got in touch with her biological mother only for the woman to be killed. Then Emily’s lover/off-the-books partner, Det. Tommy Gibbs was murdered, all while she tried to figure out the heinous conspiracy that wasn’t only endangering her life, but also her son’s. 

As if that wasn’t enough, Alice, who she at least thought was a good step-mom to Flynn, turned out to be planted to make sure Flynn’s blood was readily available for some experimental testing. 

Given all of that, Emily’s paranoia and PTSD seem perfectly reasonable. I think I’d find it more worrisome if she was somehow able to walk away from all of that without psychological repercussions.

But I do wish that Emily would refrain from drinking to deal with her stress. Alcohol helped fuel some of her disasterous encounters with Det. Tommy Gibbs before he died, and I’d hate to see Emily go down that road once again. 

That Byrne was able to let Flynn out of her sight at all, never mind letting him go away for the weekend to a swim meet show’s how much of her sanity she’s held on to. 

But I wonder what she would have done if she had gotten caught breaking into Mr. Rizzo’s apartment. Would she have begged forgiveness, or bludgeoned him with that baseball bat? I’d like to think it would be the former, but I’m not entirely sure. 

It’s curious how Flynn is drawn to the water, perhaps as a coping mechanism after his time in the tank, while Emily is repelled by it. Maybe it makes sense given that Emily went through that water torture over and over again, for years. 

On the upside, Nick, Emily, and Flynn have found some sort of domestic equilibrium as the two adults live together platonically while raising their son. 

But, on some level, that’s got to be incredibly strange for Flynn.

First, he loses his mom, then he gains a step-mom who raises him as her own for years, then his real mom comes back from the dead, and now his step-mom is killed and his real mom has moved back in. 

Try explaining that one to your friends at school.

And it appears that Flynn doesn’t even know the whole sordid truth about Alice, at least not yet. 

He deserves to know the whole truth, not just some half-assed lie.

Emily

Flynn is away on a swim meet, which seems a bit of convenient writing to allow both of his parents to be brutally attacked in their home. 

Another plot point that particularly bothered me was Nick’s source showing up at his home. Emily had a right to be concerned. 

What FBI agent gives out their home address? Or did she track him down at home after doing a google search? 

When his source bolted from the diner, Nick took his time going after her. If getting the information she had and keeping her safe were so important, you’d think he could have moved a little quicker. 

Elsewhere, Emily’s obsession/investigation into Julianne Gunnarson was both understandable and exhausting. 

Something has felt off since Julianne arrived during Absentia Season 2, and the way she shot and killed Alice was questionable at best. 

That Gunnarson is still Nick’s immediate supervisor is mind-boggling. How do you continue to be someone’s boss after killing his wife?

And is an FBI agent allowed to simply stop going to mandatory therapy sessions without consequence? Of course, considering that Alice started out being Nick’s therapist after Emily “died” may make his aversion to counseling more forgivable.

Nick: Em, I’m just trying to figure out what’s going on.
Emily: Yeah, good luck with that.

Let’s face it, nothing about Emily’s life or family is ever easy. Even inviting her brother over for dinner turns to unexpected drama when she catches him crying over Alice’s clothes and realizes the two had been having an affair. 

Emily: After everything that this family has been through, what the hell were you thinking? Fuck. Flynn has been through enough, understand? Tell me you understand.
Jack: I’d never say anything.

Hopefully, neither Flynn nor Nick ever find out because that will make future holiday dinners really awkward. 

At the end of this first installment, Emily’s life has already fallen back into chaos. 

Nick’s investigation into an organ-harvesting ring has led to a team being sent to his home to beat the crap out of him and then abduct him. Emily is beaten and stabbed, while we hope that Cal is coming to her rescue.

Speaking of Cal, we saw very little of him. Does he know that Emily has no interest in returning to the FBI? Is he the trusted partner Emily needs or yet another person she shouldn’t trust?

If Emily Byrne is able to trust another living being ever again, it will be a miracle. If anyone has the right to be paranoid, it’s her. 

So tell us TV Fanatics, what did you think of the return of Absentia?

Is Flynn as unscathed as he appears after losing his second mother? 

Will Julianne turn out to be another part of the conspiracy? 

And will Emily physically and psychologically survive this latest deep dive into violent turmoil?

Let’s find out as we move on to Absentia Season 3 Episode 2!

And don’t forget to hit that BIG, BLUE, SHOW COMMENTS button down below and share what you think about the return of Absentia.

C. Orlando is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow her on Twitter.

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