Amazon’s hoping to throw a grenade into the never-ending streaming wars with its latest action series, The Widow.
The thriller stars a bronzed Kate Beckinsale, hacking her way through the Congo in search of her missing husband who’s presumed dead after a fiery plane crash. Beckinsale’s Georgia is a woman who’s shut her self off from the world, retreated to the icy tundra of Northern Wales, and all but given up on life due to her grief until she catches a glimpse of her “dead” husband Will (Matthew Le Nevez) on a news report and launches her own investigation into the mystery surrounding his disappearance.
Comparing this show to a grenade feels particularly apt because, after Georgia’s startling revelation, the entire plot implodes, fragmenting off into smaller storylines that are left untethered for so long that when they’re finally woven back together, the stitching feels off. Georgia’s jaunt through the Congo is meant to be our main through-line, and we’ll admit, it’s a damn interesting one. She’s fearless in her quest, squaring off against militiamen who raid and kill for fun. She embeds herself with local aid groups, traveling deeper into the jungle and uncovering all sorts of unsavory corruption.
She kicks ass, takes names, and oversteps all the boundaries and because this is Beckinsale, a woman who’s created a film legacy encased in a leather catsuit, the action that dominates the first half of the season isn’t just believable, it’s exciting. Sure, there are plenty of times one might wonder whether, after three years, Georgia’s husband is even worth trying to find. Bodies continue to pile up in her search, friends pay the price of her obsession, and the suffering of African people gets pushed aside to make room for one white woman’s inability to accept such a loss. If Will is, in fact, dead, this has all been for nothing. If he’s not, how do we justify the bloody mess Georgia leaves in her wake?
Both are dilemmas Beckinsale’s character struggles with, especially when she starts asking the right questions, the kind that lead her to government officials orchestrating terrorist attacks and smuggling schemes meant to line the pockets of powerful men. But we’re forced to wait entirely too long for any satisfying answers because the show seems determined to tease the mystery to an excruciating extent.
So instead of watching Beckinsale f*ck shit up in the Congo, we pivot to less-interesting subplots.
First up is that of a blind Icelandic man seeking a procedure to restore his sight in the Netherlands. His connection to Georgia isn’t exposed until later in the season, so for the first few episodes, we’re left to believe that another show within this show exists and it’s about two visually impaired people falling in love. It’s the Dutch rom-com you never wanted.
The second, slightly more interesting storyline is that of a young African girl who’s serving as a child soldier in the militia. Her name is Adidja (a gifted Shalom Nyandiko) and she too has a vital role to play as the series moves forward. Adidja’s tragedy isn’t a snooze fest like her Icelandic counterpart, it’s just not given enough time to be fleshed out, which means we’re left wanting more than a show like The Widow can ever truly give us.
Revealing any more about the plot of this thing would push us toward spoiler territory so instead, we’re going to hijack the rest of this review to talk about Kate Beckinsale.
Despite some of its more obvious flaws, The Widow excels at giving the actress her time to shine. It’s the first TV series she’s ever starred in and though she shares screen time with talents like Charles Dance and Alex Kingston, it’s difficult to invest in anyone but the titular heroine. Some of that works to the show’s detriment – Beckinsale capably sells the grieving wife frantically searching for her lost love but measly flashbacks meant to spotlight that relationship never evoke the right emotions. It’s hard to care about Will or anyone else on the show because Georgia remains so aloof and cut off from the people in her life, and she was like that long before this saga began.
But, if you can tune into this show just for her and rid yourself of the guilt of not caring about anyone else’s fate, The Widow is pretty damn entertaining.
Beckinsale is an action icon, so watching her traipse through the African tundra with an automatic strapped to her back and a no f*cks given attitude is both familiar to fans of her Underworld days, and refreshingly new. Georgia’s a badass, but she’s also a vulnerable, broken woman holding out hope that her husband’s alive, that she’s doing the right thing in searching for him. She’s forced in a roundabout way to confront the consequences of her journey, to answer for her wrongs, to acknowledge that her pain doesn’t negate the destruction she’s caused. If this show were simply a character portrait of Beckinsale’s Georgia, it would be a surprisingly successful feminist entry.
It’s not, of course.
The Widow is nothing if not ambitious and those ambitions push it to skirt dangerously close to white savior territory, with Beckinsale time and again trying to “fix” the mess her cohorts have made and with the show lingering a bit too long on the deflating realities of the African diaspora instead of giving secondary characters of color their own empowering storylines.
Still, if action, intrigue, and a few too many plot twists are your idea of a good time, The Widow won’t disappoint there.
And, did we mention, Kate Beckinsale’s in it?
‘The Widow’ premieres March 1 on Amazon Prime