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TV Review: Red Widow – “Pilot”/”The Contact”

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Watching the first half of the Red Widow two-hour series premiere was a truly harrowing experience. I actually stabbed myself in the leg at one point to make sure I was still alive and not trapped in some hell-dimension where I have to watch lifeless pilots for all eternity. Luckily, the second half wasn’t horrible. But it couldn’t really make up for how much a waste of time the first hour was.

If your show is about a widow (Radha Mitchell) who inherits her late husband’s debt to the mob, then fucking do that in your pilot! Don’t do anything else! This pilot spends so much time on tangential side-plots and convoluted world building that it barely has any time to set up the show’s central premise. When we meet the main villain, the plot finally picks up momentum, but at that point I’ve already sat through an hour of pointless side plots, from the main character’s sister’s wedding, to her kid bringing a gun to school. What do any of these plots have to do with the core concept? Nothing at all.

Any of the many plots in this pilot would have been great B plots in later episodes, once we’ve gotten to know these characters, but in the meantime they mean nothing. They have no dramatic relevance because I don’t know who these people are. I frequently noticed the writer attempting to create some thematic tie-ins for her various subplots. But using a child bringing a gun to school to illustrate the negative consequences of your dad being a mobster is a waste of screen time. We all know the mob is bad. We don’t need that explained to us.

The second half of the pilot, thank god, focuses on the actual plot. We see Radha start to pick up the various pieces of her husband’s life. Taking on his work and, more importantly, mob responsibilities. We start to get a vague idea of what she might bring to the table as a mobster, solving situations with finesse instead of blunt force. And while the mistakes of the first half are quietly swept under the rug, the bitter after-taste remains. I still have no real clue why a mob boss wants her to take on her husband’s responsibilities in the first place. She has no real skills that would make her a successful criminal. I assume the show plans on having her grow into a mobster, becoming harder and more cunning, but this doesn’t change the fact that there appears to be no reason at all for her to have been chosen in the first place.

It is this reviewer’s opinion that a pilot need only answer two questions: “Who?” and “Why?” Who are your characters, and why is this your story? Everything else can wait. As long as you have compelling characters and a unique perspective, I’ll come back for more. Red Widow spends 90 percent of its precious time letting us know who every side character is, in great detail. But when it comes to explaining why anything is actually happening, the answer is more or less “Because we said so.”

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About Timothy Earle

Tim is an LA based fiction and script writer. He has decided to watch and review every TV pilot that airs in the US because he has little regard for his own happiness and well-being.
  • Dana

    I had absolutely no interest in seeing this series once the premise was revealed– it is absolutely LAME. You don’t/can’t take on your husband’s mob debt for the mob– you can only run. I can think of no other absolutely weak premise for a series. Everything that follows can’t be good.

  • Jan

    I agree with the reviewer, only I couldn’t even watch the second hour I was so confused and bored. I hope this show gets cancelled because there are too many good shows out there and this one doesn’t deserve to be among them.

  • mya

    The way they kept advertising the show I expected something interesting, but I agree with the author, it was boring, predictable,and just didn’t make any sense at all. We’re suppose to believe that the housewife and oldest son had no idea what the drug dealer father did for a living??? What about her own brother being involved? I just didn’t get it. Lastly, like the author said, why would some crime boss expect this widow who had no clue to suddenly step in for her husband’s drug business. The husbands friend who’s played by an actor who usually appears as the naive/nice character on shows like HBO’s OZ and THE WIRE appears to be completely out of element in this role, yet he is supposed to train the widow.
    Btw, I didn’t think the screenwriting was that great in the Twilight movie series. Some of the storylines coupled with special effects were the only appealing thing about that series and it took me a while to get into that. They really need to give another show a chance and cancel this one.