The Widow: Series Review

"What have you done with my husband?"

Georgia Wells (Kate Beckinsale) has lived alone in a cabin on the desolate Welsh moors for three years, ever since her husband Will (Matthew Ne Levez), who worked for an international relief agency, died in the crash of an airliner in the jungles of the Congo. On one of her rare visits to town, in a doctor's waiting room, she catches a glimpse of a TV news report on civil unrest in the Congo, and is shocked to see her husband in some of the footage of a riot, looking very much alive. Enlisting the help of an old family friend (Charles Dance) and the manager of the aid agency husband worked for (Alex Kingston), she goes to Africa to find him – and things get really complicated.

The Widow is an eight-episode series made up of multiple interlaced story arcs that unfold across Europe and Africa. Various subplots involve two child soldiers (Shalom Nyandiko and Liko Mango), a local journalist (Jacky Ido), a corrupt general (Babs Olusanmokun), and the (literally!) cut-throat business practices of the trade in rare earth minerals used in smartphone and electric car batteries. Partway through the first episode, you may be puzzled by what the blind man from Iceland (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) has to do with Georgia's quest and the rest of it, but it does all tie together. Needless to say, there are a lot of twists and turns and unexpected revelations along the way, and Georgia finds herself on a much different mission at the end of the series than the one she started out on.

The acting is uniformly excellent, the production values are first rate, and the story moves along at a good clip. The writing makes good use of flashbacks to flesh out the characters. I was particularly impressed by how Africa and the African characters are portrayed. It's very easy for a author, when writing about a culture far different from his own, to overemphasize the differences and stress the "exotic" elements. The Widow portrays its African characters as ordinary people living are ordinary lives, albeit in a place and culture very different from our own.

The only issue I have with the series is that Georgia is a little too well-resourced for the task at hand. She has the cash to pay for a trip to Africa, and she can depart on short notice for an indefinite stay without major disruptions to her lifestyle, and she just happens to have a friend with contacts in the diplomatic and intelligence communities who can look into things for her, and she just happens to have exactly the right skill set for traipsing around in the jungle by herself, dodging rival bands of warlords and infiltrating well-guarded facilities, without getting killed in the first ten minutes. This doesn't bother you while you're watching the show, largely because the story is mesmerizing and Kate Beckinsale does such a great job selling you on the character, it just kind of nags after you once it's over.

Episode list:

1. Mr. Tequila
2. Green Lion
3. The Survivors
4. Violet
5. Poteza
6. The Spider and the Web
7. Will
8. Nigel

Additional notes:

There is a sequence in "Violet," about a minute long, that is the single most harrowing thing I have ever seen on film. I can't describe it further without spoiling it. You'll know it when it comes along.

I was very impressed by the action sequences, particularly one that takes place in a large "farmer's market," in which Georgia is trying to escape from two goons sent to assassinate her.

The portrayal of how African child soldiers are "recruited" (i.e., kidnapped) and "trained" (i.e., abused) is, unfortunately, very true to life.

Conclusion:

Though it bumps up against the limits of believability in places, The Widow is fast-paced and engaging and well worth your time. Three and a half out of four rare earth minerals.

--Baby M

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