Kate Beckinsale expands her repertoire in Amazon’s The Widow, which appeared a few weeks ago on Amazon, and is now available in the UK on ITV.
Many familiar faces join Beckinsale in The Widow.
Set in Africa, The Widow focuses on Beckinsale’s Georgia Wells, a seeming widow to a man lost to risky non-profit work in one of the world’s more precarious territories. Early on Georgia catches a brief view of an orange baseball cap on a news report and starts thinking that perhaps her husband isn’t dead at all.
Georgia’s single-minded search for answers about her husband takes her to African villages and jungles uncovering corrupt NGOs, delusional warlords and child labor along the way.
Beckinsale brings depth to Georgia, who must exist in multiple timelines (as do most of the characters) as flashbacks set-up encounters and justify grief. Joy and comfort of the past give way to confusion, determination and ultimately vengeance in the present.
Martin Benson, Tywin Lannister of Game of Thrones, supports first as cautionary and reluctant mentor and then transforms into a battle partner. Alex Kingston, the timeless wife of Doctor Who and erstwhile ER doc, plays Judith Gray, a complex and conflicted head of a relief agency that does few favors when offering favors. Babs Olusanmokun steals many a scene as the waning General Azikiwe and his entourage of guilt (before you think that sentence doesn’t make any sense, watch the show).
Shot in South Africa, the villages and jungles seem real because they are. Much of the world lives in a very different reality, one that is a kind of remix of our reality: popular culture pumped through the Internet and over airwaves clashes with a cacophony of corruption to create a very surreal world for those viewing from their Western iPads and 65-inch big screen television in houses with no bars where front doors of sit unlocked.
The Widow touches upon many of the challenges still facing Africa and other developing areas. Villages are raided and children are turned from students of ideas and language into students of hate and weaponry. Those not so lucky to become soldiers become miners or take on other menial tasks with yokes held by local warlords and their Western associates.
Most of this observation is told through the plot, with some exposition. In the last episode, however, the underlying moral struggle gets exposed, as The Hulk might say, like a raw nerve. The intrigue and tension get spilled into a montage on how the threats exposed in the show stem from the Western need for cellular phones and other electronics. Without our greed for technology, things might be different. Rare earth minerals as the new conflict diamonds.
It isn’t that the moralizing is wrong or inaccurate, it just distracts from the characters and the plot, much as the insets in the documentary elements of National Geographic’s Mars bogged down a show that needed more energy to start with. The Widow has energy, but the last episode’s opening does drain some of it away through a sluice of overselling.
If you like Kate Beckinsale, then you need to watch The Widow just because she doesn’t work as much as other actresses. But then, most actresses don’t have the Underworld franchise to fall back on. In this outing, and in Love and Friendship, another Amazon endeavor, Beckinsale demonstrates that she can bring power to a film and lead the audience through it. And that she does in The Widow. She builds up a juggernaut of conviction that steamrolls through the steamy streets of Kinshasa, first in a desperate attempt to find answers and then in a journey to reconcile her life with those answers.
The eight-episode run by pretty quickly and I’m doubting there is much meat left for a second series, so the investment is light and the payoff pretty good for fans of Beckinsale, television mysteries and rethinking the distribution of wealth.
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- Free on Amazon Prime