sun 21/04/2024

The Widow, Series Finale, ITV review - Congolese drama parts company with reality | reviews, news & interviews

The Widow, Series Finale, ITV review - Congolese drama parts company with reality

The Widow, Series Finale, ITV review - Congolese drama parts company with reality

In which the Williams brothers jump the shark

A triumph of hair and makeup: Kate Beckinsale as Georgia Wells

Are brothers Harry and Jack Williams mounting a takeover bid for British TV? They’ve written (among other dramas) The Missing, Liar and Baptiste, and they produced Fleabag. However, judging by their co-writing efforts on The Widow (ITV) they’re spreading themselves thin.

The final two episodes saw the tension mount as the mysteries unravelled, but it wasn’t enough to compensate for the basic flaws which had made it creak and wobble from the start. It was as if the Williamses had patched it together from a random assortment of press clippings about African corruption, rapacious capitalism and mysterious air crashes, then tied it all up with their favourite theme of a search for a missing person.

But apart from the fact that it hinged on the notion of a man wearing the same orange baseball cap continuously for three years, The Widow was fatally damaged by the widow herself, Georgia Wells. Presumably having Kate Beckinsale as the headline name was intended to boost the series’ export potential. And perhaps it will, but that doesn’t make Beckinsale’s blow-dried and airbrushed appearance any less preposterous. Whether tramping across a wind-blasted Welsh mountainside or running away from ruthless killers in the Congolese jungle, she never broke sweat, retained a creamily unblemished complexion, and made sure her gleaming hair bobbed adorably back and forth as she ran. When expressing profound emotion, as when she discovered that her supposedly dead husband was living with another woman and their baby in Rwanda, she screwed up her eyes and tried to wrinkle her perfectly-formed nose.Nothing about this show felt quite right. Charles Dance (pictured above), playing Georgia’s godfather Martin Benson – supposedly some kind of semi-retired spook – sleep-walked through his role with the air of a man impatiently waiting for a taxi to the airport. The Williams’s enthusiasm for jump-cutting around various different time frames grew increasingly confusing and irritating, while moody aerial views of Kinshasa merely reinforced the sense that co-production location shots were a higher priority than plot or characterisation (the Williamses also produced ITV’s Hong Kong-based drama Strangers, another implausible missing-persons travelogue primarily aimed at overseas sales.)

Viewers had to wait until the opening of the final episode to see the series’ best sequence, a slickly-cut montage set to Wreckless Eric’s “Whole Wide World” depicting toiling African workers digging up coltan ore, which was then processed and sent to a hi-tech factory to be built into the circuitry that powers smartphones. It told you more about the show’s themes of greed and exploitation than the preceding seven hours of drama. The finale, a farrago of White Saviour-ism in which Georgia rallied the grieving relatives from a sabotaged airliner and then saved Congolese orphan Adidja (a saintly girl entirely unscathed by her experiences as a brutalised child soldier), was beyond parody.


Add comment


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters