REVIEW: The Widow (S1 E3&4/8)

The first two episodes of ITV’s eight-part The Widow presented us with an intriguing (if well-worn concept) concept. Written and created by the prolific Williams brothers, it told the story of Georgia Wells (Kate Beckinsale), who’s on the hunt for her husband in the Congo. He went down in a plane crash three years before, but she’s convinced he’s alive and is determined to find him.

At the end of episode two, there was a big reveal – Will was indeed alive and held in a crate, ferried over the border into Rwanda.

It’s a brave show indeed that unravels its central premise so early. Now this is not a story that asks whether Will is alive or dead, it’s a story about the race against the clock to find him. Again, it’s a bold move, but it does add a layer of suspense – we know and can see Will, but Georgia can’t.

But of course, we never saw Will again in these next two episode. The reveal was a carrot to up the stakes, nothing more.

Instead, episode three focused in on Ariel’s story, after all, he had some explaining to do to Beatrix.

In flashback mode, we saw the Icelander (played brilliantly by Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) board the fateful flight, passing on the way both Emmanuel’s doomed ex-wife (who was being handed the rucksack by the shady general), and Will, who was making his call home to Georgia. He sat down next to a friendly woman called Dominique. They made jokes about his sunburn.

On the way to the toilet, he passed Emmanuel’s widow and heard a beeping sound coming from her rucksack. Like an alarm or something.

He sat down in his seat and then… boom. For anyone who’s scared of flying this terrifying scene would not have been for them. The plane ripped apart as the bomb went off and the wreckage plummeted into the jungle. How anyone survived is a mystery, but Ariel – or Mikhail, his real name – clambered from the crash scene in severe pain. Much to his surprise, he was soon joined by Dominique who went to get help, and was never seen again.

Ariel was picked up by militiamen, bundled into the back of a truck and woke up in a hospital, an English-speaker doctor explaining the extent of his injuries. He was shown a newspaper, reporting the finding of Dominique’s body. At that moment he made a decision: he would not say a world about the flight or what happened, for fear of being tracked down. This would be the cross he would bear.

Until Martin Benson tracked him down in episode four. Ex-military intelligence, he had had enough of sitting around at home in his retirement and had decided to emerge from the shadows and help Georgia. At this point we were unclear as to the two’s relationship: in episode one Georgia came to him for help and he refused, but now he’s feeling guilty.

Benson told Ariel he knew all about what had happened and what he ‘had done’ (ie kept schtum about the flight), and pressured him on these guilt points. In return, Ariel finally opened up to the extent that he wanted to go to the Congo with Benson and track down the shady general who had given Emmanuel’s ex-wife the bomb.

It looks as though they would be forming a sleuthing team to find this general and get to the bottom of what happened to that plane, and why.

On the ground in the Congo was Georgia, still approaching her search for her husband in a reckless, bull-in-a-china-shop fashion. Journeying deep into the Kivu province, near to the Rwandan border, to search for Peter Bello, much of her past was told in flashback.

We saw how her and Will’s lives were torn apart when their baby, Violet, died from cot death, and her subsequent suicide attempt. We were also told that she was also ex-military, which also explained a lot. Especially when she shot and killed a militiaman who had attempted to abduct her.

These character details were crucial, because I had a lot of questions about Georgia: why on Earth, in an alien, dangerous country, was she stomping around and making herself very visible? The fact that she had lost everything certainly explained her approach – she had literally nothing to lose, and her determined, loud enquiries, and insistence on walking into the jungle alone were the actions of a woman who really was sitting in the last-chance saloon.

Soon, Georgia was coming face-to-face with Peter Bello, after an encounter with child soldier (along with Ariel, the most affecting storyline in this show) Adidja, machine gun in hand, Tomb Raider-style clothes dripping with sweat. She had turned into the kind of action role we normally played almost exclusively by men. So for The Widow to turn the tables and subvert these gender roles in action thrillers is a very welcome thing. With Will close, it The Widow has turned more into a western than anything else – the vengeful, nothing-to-lose central character storming into the hornet’s nest to claim what is hers.

Yes, it’s faintly ridiculous, but it’s a watchable kind of ridiculous.

We’re halfway through this slickly-produced, well-acted series and I’m going to make a prediction: Georgia will end up adopting Adidja.

Paul Hirons



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