Red Widow Season 1 Review “Pilot; The Contact”

Red Widow (ABC) Season Premiere Pilot / The Contact (5)
In ABC’s new drama Red Widow, Marta Walraven has a seemingly idyllic life that involves bike rides around San Francisco Bay, a luxurious home, and three darling children. Things swiftly turn ugly when Marta’s brother Irwin ropes her husband, Evan, into an unsavory transaction. Irwin made a big mistake and stole a shipment of cocaine intended for Schiller, a ruthless gangster. Before being murdered, one of Schiller’s henchmen ominously warns him, “No one steals from Schiller.”

Marta’s husband makes an even bigger mistake by going along with Evan’s plan to sell the drugs. He changes his mind, though, after Marta begs him to stop his criminal activities. Marta is willing to sacrifice everything, including her family, friends, and life as she knows it in order to escape the dangers of this criminal lifestyle. Before that can happen, Evan is gunned down in their driveway in front of their young son.

Ultimately, the pilot of Red Widow is all about convincing viewers that this mother can go from being a housewife into the world of organized crime. The fact that her family seems to be part of a Russian mafia lends the premise some credibility. It’s not like she’s never been around these kinds of bad guys. The most interesting angle will likely Marta’s relationship with Schiller. He is a peripheral character at this stage, but will undoubtedly play more of a prominent role. Goran Visnjic does an excellent job of creating a lot of ambiguity with the character. In some moments he seems reasonable and almost disinterested in dealing with Marta. In other moments, it’s possible to see his sadistic vengeful side that would never forget or forgive an injury. Is it possible that Marta will develop a more intimate relationship with him? Will she be seduced by the power that his position gives him?

I’m not sure Red Widow was the best title for the show. It makes Marta sound a lot harder than she actually is. The heart of the show needs to be the combination of her strength and her vulnerability. If she becomes too hard, she will be unlikeable. While a lot of her vulnerability comes from her motherly instincts, Marta needs to develop an independent motivation for her actions, aside from just protecting her children. If her focus shifts to avenging her husband’s death, this will give another layer to her character that will be interesting.

If we’re going to believe that Marta is a concerned mother, she also needs to be strict about not letting her children get dragged into the underworld with her. This was one of the problems that Weeds encountered. When the children in that show started helping their mother with her drug operations, there was little left to like about her character. Marta starts out in the position that she wants to separate her life from her family’s criminal legacy, and that needs to be something that she continues to strive for.

The casting is well done, and I’ve always liked Radha Mitchell since her role in Pitch Black. Clifton Collins Jr. is a good choice for the role of FBI agent Ramos. It will be interesting to watch Ramos try to gain Marta’s trust. The show also has impressive behind the scenes talent, including show developer Melissa Rosenberg, who worked on the Twilight movies and Dexter. Most importantly, it feels like the show has possibilities. Even if the mystery of who killed Evan is solved, there are still other places to go with these characters.
Follow me on Twitter @LaVaudreuil