Midseason Review: Red Widow, Vikings, The Bible
Edi Gathegi and Radha Mitchell | Photo Credits: Sergei Bachlakov/ABC
It's not much of a spoiler alert to point out that the title character of ABC's Red Widow winds up in (sexy) mourning by the half-hour mark of Sunday's dreary two-hour premiere (9/8c). It's even less of a surprise, given the nature of this most dismal network midseason in recent memory, that these widow's weeds are fashioned from less than sturdy dramatic fabric.
Weeds being among the shows that dealt with this sort of subject with more imaginative verve. The subject: murderous drug intrigue cloaked in a family façade. Poor Marta Walraven (Radha Mitchell, gorgeous and tough) has spent her life looking the other way: as the daughter of a Russian mobster who uses his ethnic restaurant as a front, and as the wife of a well-meaning pot smuggler (Anson Mount, moonlighting from Hell on Wheels) who's keeping it all in the family, partnering with her jerk of a brother. In a set-up reminiscent of Fox's thankfully defunct and even more ridiculous The Mob Doctor, Marta's numbskull sib opens the show by recklessly stealing $1.5 million in cocaine from feared crime boss Nicolae Schiller (the dashing Goran Visnjic), killing two of his henchmen in the process.
"We're all dead," mutters Marta's hubby when he learns what went down, but before he can spirit his family out of the San Francisco Bay area and turn evidence over to the feds, he's been rubbed out, and the widow's worries have just begun. (Actually, they started a few scenes earlier, when their youngest son Boris takes his dad's gun to school to scare off a bully. But that's another story, for a potentially better show. And little Boris spends the rest of the premiere traumatized by having witnessed his dad's bloody murder in the driveway of their fabulous home.)
"You married me, not my family," Marta's sister (Jaime Ray Newman) tells her new groom in a wedding-party scene that sets up some of the conflicts to follow. We'd know this wasn't true even if we hadn't seen the Godfather movies. Or The Sopranos, which I found myself missing with renewed intensity as Red Widow plods through the preposterous machinations that trap the unschooled Marta into agreeing to import a "consignment" for Schiller to repay the debt, while feds hound her every move.
"Is this who I am now, that I do this to people?" she laments to her dad, as she plots to lure an innocent dupe into her melodramatic web. To the show's credit, there are multiple scenes of people erupting in laughter (sometimes including Marta) as they consider the contrived nature of this premise. "When I want to torture someone, I'm much more direct about it," Schiller tells her with a sly grin, which doesn't really alleviate her panic.
Red Widow presents mediocrity as its own brand of torture. It's like a bad Lifetime movie that doesn't know when to quit.
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VIKINGS AS RAIDERS: Here's blood in your eye. And ears, hair, nose and mouth. The sword and ax blades are flying, the body count's rising, and Game of Thrones hasn't even come back yet. While Starz' Spartacus: War of the Damned nears its final showdown, the latest addition to TV's warrior ranks, History's Vikings (Sunday, 10/9c), is just getting started, introducing an awfully scruffy tribe of dubious heroes. A superstitious lot, these Scandinavian pagans' main purpose in 8th-century feudal life seems to consist of sailing off on raids to plunder from less barbaric others. Go, team?