I flipped over to ABC Sunday night ready to get my Revenge on and was instantly confused. Why was Emily suddenly a soccer mom? And Russian? Why was there not a single quippy internet billionaire in sight? But of course it wasn’t Revenge (at least technically), it was Red Widow, ABC’s latest attempt to seize the audience who made Revenge an instant hit last year. Because why put effort into making the show people actually obsessed over better when you can just recreate it, add in some other elements, and call it a whole new show?
So, with some hints of Weeds and an attempt to include some eau de Sopranos, Red Widow tells the tale of a woman, Marta Walraven (Radha Mitchell), forced to pay her husbands debt to an intimidating crime lord. Or at least that’s what they’d like you to think. The two-hour pilot introduced us to the Walraven family, Evan (Anson Mount) who provides for his family by importing drugs and Marta who pretends that he doesn’t. Luckily, she’s had plenty of practice because her father happens to be the head of his own crime family.
Actually, our first introduction is to Irwin Petrova (Wil Traval), Marta’s brother, as he steals some cocaine from a rival drug lord and kills a few goons in the process. This theft is the catalyst for the rest of the series. Irwin springs the stolen goods on Evan and forces him into selling them. Only, Evan isn’t interested in selling stolen cocaine (especially with his wife on his back about getting out of the game after their young son takes Evan’s gun to school to threaten a bully) and opts to tip the FBI off to his brother-in-law’s whereabouts and makes a deal with Agent Ramos (Clifton Collins Jr.) to enter his wife and family into the witness protection program.
Unfortunately, before the deal can actually go through, Evan is gunned down in front of his house (and son). Irwin puts the blame of the stolen goods on Evan and suddenly Marta is responsible for repaying the debt to Schiller (Goran Visnijic). But here’s where the premise starts to stretch a little too thin.
Marta believes that her husband stole drugs, got her brother sent to prison and then compiled information to trade with the FBI in exchange for their family’s safety. Only two of these are actually true, but even if they all were, her reaction to these discoveries is confusing. Less than 24 hours earlier, this woman was agreeing to abandon her life for safety, but when her husband is killed (thus proving just how dangerous their lives are) and leaves her all the information necessary to make the planned escape, she decides that the best course of action is to pay off the debt by working for Schiller and importing some drugs of her own.
Red Widow has potential (though if ABC agreed it probably wouldn’t be premiering in March), but if it wants the success of the shows it’s emulating, it might want to re-watch those shows again. Emily Thorne is a dynamic protagonist because she is highly trained and always maintains control. Just like Tony Soprano or Nancy Botwin (eventually). Marta Walraven is just an idiot. She has no clue how the criminal world works, considers herself too good to actually get her hands dirty, but also refuses to take the steps to actually keep them clean and protect her family. If the show has any future (which given the premise still isn’t guaranteed), Marta needs to choose which road she’s taking; for better or worse.
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