What is Missing Dead or Alive about? Netflix true crime series explained

Daisy Phillipson
Still from Missing Dead or Alive on NetflixNetflix

Missing Dead or Alive, a surprising new true crime docu-series, has landed on Netflix – here’s what it’s about, who’s in it, and if it’s worth watching.

Netflix has established itself as a leading authority in the true crime arena, ever since its groundbreaking success with Making a Murderer.

While some might question the ethics of the grisly obsession, the true crime craze shows no signs of slowing, with the streaming platform continuing to pump out compelling new documentaries each and every month. 

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The latest entry in its catalog is Missing Dead or Alive – here’s everything you need to know about the new series. 

What is Missing Dead or Alive about?

Missing Dead or Alive is a four–part docu-series that takes us to Columbia, South Carolina, focusing on missing persons cases that are told from the POV of investigating officers. Each episode centers on a different case as police search in the immediate aftermath of their disappearances.

Check out the trailer below: 

As per the official synopsis, Missing Dead or Alive follows “officers from a South Carolina sheriff’s department as they urgently search for individuals who’ve disappeared under troubling circumstances.”

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Although each chapter focuses on a new case, the resolution is explored in the following episode, aside from the finale. Episode 1 centers on missing person Lorraine Garcia, whose son, an Iraq War veteran, comes into question after police search his home. 

The next examines the search for 10-year-old Amirah Watson, who disappeared with her mom after a weekend visit. Netflix explains that a “family history of custody battles” leaves officers “unsure of whom to trust.”

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Episode 3 focuses on the mystery of David Taylor, whose truck is found abandoned on the side of the interstate. However, “David, his phone, and a $10,000 winning lottery ticket are nowhere to be seen.”

The final installment looks at 17-year-old Sierra Stevens, who doesn’t return home after going to the movies. “Police fear she might have fallen prey to sex trafficking – or worse.”

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Who’s in Missing Dead or Alive?

The officers and investigators at the center of Netflix’s new true crime series include: 

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  • Vicki Rains, who was a cop for 22 years before being transferred to Richland’s Missing Persons Unit after working in Major Crimes
  • JP Smith, who has been in law enforcement for 40 years and is an investigator on the Richland County Missing Persons Unit, focusing on juvenile cases
  • Heidi Jackson, who oversees the Missing Persons Unit and five other departments at Richland County Sheriff’s Department

Netflix highlights the US Department of Justice’s National Missing and Unidentified Persons System statistics that 1,500 people go missing in America every day, with the first 24 to 48 hours being the most crucial in the investigation. 

Vicky Rains and JP Smith in Missing Dead or AliveNetflix
Vicky Rains and JP Smith in Missing Dead or Alive

“That’s what keeps me up at night – the need to find the person,” says Rains. “When I think things look bad, we just need to keep an open mind. We should always keep hope.”

Is Missing Dead or Alive worth watching?

It’s too early for a Rotten Tomatoes score, but Missing Dead or Alive has received some positive reviews so far. 

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Decider suggested to “stream it”, writing: “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. It’s a more effective device than we thought it might be, despite the fact that some of the scenes feel less fly-on-the-wall than they’re intended to be.”

Elsewhere, Digital Spy described it as “different to other true crime shows,” adding: “Missing Dead or Alive is a documentary procedural which could open more doors for the streamer, taking true crime further than the standard whodunnit or a tragic retelling of a murder.”

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Not all of the reviews have been positive, however, with Ready Steady Cut calling the show a “below average” entry into the genre. “Far too much time is focused on the investigators than the subjects and their families,” it said. “When the docuseries focuses on the subjects and their families, the show finds its footing.”

If you want to make up your own mind, Missing Dead or Alive is available to stream on Netflix now. You can check out our other Netflix hubs below: 

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About The Author

Daisy is a Senior TV and Movies Writer at Dexerto. She's a lover of all things macabre, whether that be horror, crime, psychological thrillers or all of the above. After graduating with a Masters in Magazine Journalism, she's gone on to write for Digital Spy, LADbible and Little White Lies. You can contact her on daisy.phillipson@dexerto.com