'The Widow': TV Review

There's so much better out there.
3/1/2019

Amazon and ITV's new series stars Kate Beckinsale as a woman whose missing husband may not be missing after all.

The British writing duo of brothers Harry and Jack Williams have an interesting body of work — but nothing, at this point, has been more impressive than their The Missing (2014), which started as a miniseries and morphed into two great seasons of compelling drama, intriguing twists and an unrelenting ability to understand grief, regret, how people live with it and how they deal with others while suffering from it.

But their latest, a weak-tea and eye-rolling bit of mystery and loss for Amazon called The Widow, doesn't take very long to unravel — or maybe it just never starts.

The Widow, an Amazon and ITV co-production, is a big whiff, even though you could see it being presented as the next shiny new thing viewers might be tricked into watching after they've binged on Jack Ryan, the streamer's better and more entertaining effort starring John Krasinski. Of course, Jack Ryan was really meant to be all action, and anything layered on top like solid writing and emotional nuance (which it actually has) was a bonus, whereas The Widow tries to invest nearly all its effort making its mostly ludicrous story of a woman who loses her husband to a plane crash, only to realize later that he's alive, very serious and very mysterious and very emotional. 

The Widow stars Kate Beckinsale as Georgia Wells, and when we first meet her she's living in what looks like a Punishment Cabin in the deep nowhere of Wales, alone. As she walks along the beautiful seaside cliffs and miles of vacant tundra, she slips and falls and hurts herself. She limps home and her car won't start — not the first inconvenient vehicle to not start in The Widow, by the way — and so she walks miles into the nearest town to get sewn up. There, a woman at the facility says not to walk on the injured leg (and that's where you realize that The Widow will be a series of things that Beckinsale's Georgia shouldn't do but does anyway, because she's stubborn). It's at the clinic where two important things happen: We see that Georgia's left wrist was once sliced in a suicide attempt; and, more important, as she's about to leave the clinic, the TV is showing a riot in the Democratic Republic of Congo and — hey, look at that — a brief image seems to indicate that her husband, Will (Matthew Le Nevez), who was supposed to have died in that plane crash three years ago, is actually still alive.

What follows is a slowly unfolding, not particularly riveting story about a woman on a mission. Almost every scene features Beckinsale, and while at first Georgia comes off as sympathetically frantic to find her ex, she increasingly registers as annoying to everyone she meets and then, ultimately, as a woman willing to make a series of very dumb decisions that serve only to ratchet up the action (the convenience-heavy storytelling also makes room for the revelation that she knows how to use a gun, because she's ex-military).

There are subplots in The Widow, and those don't move very quickly or efficiently either, including one about a blind man named Ariel (Olafur Darri Olafsson), who was on the downed flight and survived. In the early going, he meets another blind woman, Beatrix (Louise Brealey), as both are looking to explore clinical trials in Rotterdam with the purpose of regaining their sight. That story, and Georgia's as well, finally engulfs the actor Charles Dance, who pops up early in The Widow like Chekhov's gun and finally has something to do later as Martin Benson, who is very connected to what was happening in that part of the world where the plane went down. It's always good to see Dance in anything, but the material and pacing fail him.

A lot of The Widow ends up being a mystery you might dismiss as not worth the effort. The show wants to be ambitious but lacks gravitas. 

Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Charles Dance, Alex Kingston, Matthew Le Nevez, Bart Fouche, Olafur Darri Olafsson, Louise Brealey
Writers: Harry Williams, Jack Williams
Directors: Oliver Blackburn, Samuel Donovan
Premieres: Friday (Amazon Prime)