Is it possible to recover from a tragic loss without losing your identity? That's part of the premise behind ABC's new drama "Red Widow," which showed how one woman struggled to keep her family safe after a shocking crime. The execution had some potential, but the story's familiarity and time slot might hinder it.
"Red Widow" followed Marta Walraven (Radha Mitchell) as her seemingly perfect life was shattered by the shocking murder of her husband Evan. Marta longed to be outside of her father's world of crime as a Russian gangster. Andrei Petrov (Rade Serbedzija) and his trusty bodyguard Luther (Luke Goss) knew how to navigate the criminal underworld in Marin County, California. Unfortunately, Marta had to get a crash course from her husband's former smuggling partner Mike Tomlin (Lee Tergesen) and advice from her brother Irwin (Wil Traval) who was now in jail. She had to immerse herself in how to be a drug smuggler because her late husband and his associates stole drugs from the ruthless Nicholae Schiller (Goran Visnjic). Schiller demanded that Marta, Irwin and Mike pay off their debt by importing one last shipment of drugs to recover the stolen ones that were never recovered. Marta is forced to lie to her three children Gabriel (Sterling Beaumon), Natalie (Erin Moriarty) and Boris (Jakob Salvati) who were greatly affected by their father's murder. They were also beginning to suspect that their mother was getting into something dangerous. It also didn't help that Agent James Ramos (Clifton Collins, Jr.) was watching Marta' every move. Will Marta be able repay her debt to Schiller without getting arrested in the process?
In terms of questions, the show posed a few of them in the series premiere, but the biggest one surrounded how far the show was willing to go to explore Marta's world. Of course, the show couldn't go as far as other cable television shows, but the premiere has so far managed to lay down some valuable groundwork. There are still some kinks that desperately need to be ironed out. "Red Widow" has too many loose plots going around and needs to find a way to connect them together into Marta's new occupation. The show's biggest problem was trying to find a way to connect Marta's family with the rest of the show. In the premiere, the Petrov family seemed like the picture of domestic normalcy even though they were mostly criminals. Future episodes need to flesh out how the Petrovs were just as dangerous as Schiller, or even more so. The premiere foreshadowed how Traval's Irwin proved to be the only lethal one in the bunch. His character was the one that stole the drugs and may have done a lot worse. Traval has hinted that Irwin was truly a bad apple whenever he delivered a crooked smile or allowed his eyes to say more than he was willing to convey to his family. The show also needed to work on going into Ramos' background to give each episode a balanced portrayal of cops and criminals. Collins delivered some early potential as a lawman who danced a fine line between being honorable and questionable. Only time will tell which one the show chooses for his character.
As for breakout stars, Mitchell and Visnjic led the pack for very different reasons. Mitchell found a breakthrough role as a complicated housewife who had remove the blindfold from her eyes very quickly. She gave Marta the right amount of vulnerability and anger as she tried to fight back tears and fight back altogether. Mitchell's character had the potential of being the perfect female anti-hero, but the show ran the risk of trying to mimic the success of AMC's "Breaking Bad" with her character. The show will need to find a way to humanize Mitchell's character and allow her to get dangerously close to the flame for shock value. Mitchell proved to be up to the task of pushing her character's moral code to the limits. Visnjic, on the other hand, had the dubious task of playing a potentially unlikable character, but he added some lethal levity to give viewers another perspective on the show. Visnjic's Schiller was the picture of quiet ruthlessness. He could literally scare the living daylights out of viewers without saying a word. His scariest scene was when his character was fighting with an opponent while trying to prove to Marta that she shouldn't tangle with him, unless she was willing to get her hands dirty. Hopefully, Mitchell will get the chance to do just that.
"Red Widow" premiered on March 3nd and airs Sundays at 10:00 PM on ABC.
Verdict: Mitchell's character had the potential of being a fascinating one, but it's the rest of the show that needed a little work.
TV Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)