The makers of “Red Widow” want you to sympathize with Marta Walraven, and on the surface, the character is easy to get behind. She’s a good mother willing to do anything to protect her children, even if that means entering the criminal underworld. But when you think about it, Walraven is not innocent. She grew up in a mob family, married a drug smuggler, and didn’t need to get involved in criminal activity to protect her family; it was her choice.
Her husband was murdered after getting involved in a plan to steal a drug shipment from crime boss Nicholae Schiller, but not before making a deal with the FBI to place his family in the witness protection program. That offer was still on the table for Walraven; all she needed to do was hand over a memory file containing information on her Russian mob family. But she refused, deciding instead to pay off her husband’s debt by working for Schiller.
In other words, Walraven chooses to keep her kids in harm’s way while perpetuating crimes for the Schiller mob in order to protect her own criminal relatives. That decision was neither intelligent nor moral and it is difficult to sympathize with a character that has brought all her problems onto herself. An unjustified protagonist might be the fatal flaw in this new series.
What could save it is the fact that at least Walraven is likeable. Though she’s lying to herself that getting involved with Schiller was unavoidable, she truly doesn’t want to be a part of the criminal world and valiantly shields her children from it. As a housewife she’s out of her element dealing with mobsters and handling weapons, and it’s touching how she appeals to an innocent man to take a bribe instead of letting him get killed. Walraven clearly dislikes the person she’s becoming but that shows her humanity.
Radha Mitchell is excellent as Walraven, conveying a loving mother, a desperate criminal, and a woman struggling with the consequences of her actions all in one character. Most intriguing is Clifton Collins Jr. as Agent Ramos, perhaps the only moral character on the show.
Will a show like “Red Widow” last? Considering its lead-in is “Revenge,” it just might.
Sean Quinn can be reached at Sean.email@example.com.