In an age where captivating, thrilling TV has somehow become dime a dozen, “The Widow” offers little of note to make it stand out in this crowded field. “The Widow” features legendary actress Kate Beckinsale (“Farming”) making her debut as a lead for a TV series, but is let down by pretty much everything.
Beckinsale plays Georgia, a widow who lost her husband in a plane crash in the Democratic Republic of the Congo a few years ago. However, while catching an off-hand news update at a hospital after a minor injury, she notices someone who looks suspiciously like her presumed-dead husband. A little too suspiciously like her presumed-dead husband. Intrigued, she travels off to the Congo to investigate further, becoming entangled in a web of individuals including the husband of the accused bomber who bought the plane down. Other characters are brought in and out, mostly to explain the plane crash mystery (even Charles Dance (“Game of Thrones”) is roped in as pretty much just a guy with an epic voice).
“The Widow” frequently switches back and forth in time, and while that in and of itself isn’t necessarily distracting, the writers don’t quite pull off the timeline shifts well enough to prevent the multitude of storylines from blurring together. Moreover, the pacing and storytelling suffers, going much slower than it could have gone. Entire sequences could have been stitched together instead of constantly switching back and forth, creating a disorienting effect.
Beckinsale and most of the cast deliver at minimum satisfactory performances. Even the dialogue isn’t terrible, but the storytelling is what detracts from all of it. Even a couple episodes in, viewers are unlikely to develop an emotional attachment to any of the characters, even those with more intriguing storylines. Moreover, the DRC is little more than an exotic prop, with annoyingly paternalistic undertones permeating several scenes. A few characters are given a semblance of a backstory. Some even give some social commentary about their country’s history and the havoc colonialism has wreaked on it. However, in a cruel twist of irony just like real life, their words are largely ignored in favor of the “main story.”
Tension is never really built in a meaningful way until the end of each episode. But given the continuous manner in which many viewers of the show will watch it, even those cliff-hangers aren’t all that satisfying. The writers bury and stomp any semblance of “show not tell,” with exposition taking up too many scenes. Georgia’s relationship with her husband is as generic Hallmark show as you can get, and her massive quest is never given more than a superficial raison-d’être.
All in all, the question I kept asking myself throughout the first few episodes was “why…..?” Why should I care about these characters? Why aren’t the people of the country the show is set in given any depth? Why am I watching this?