You’re familiar with the Taken story, right? Liam Neeson stars as an ex-CIA agent whose daughter is kidnapped while on holiday in Paris. He then goes on a compulsive rampage to retrieve her by any means necessary. ITV’s new drama, The Widow follows a similar narrative but with a woman in the driving seat and far more complex twists and turns, we’ve got a much more interesting story to delve into. You know, without relying on the tragedy of another dead, missing or assaulted young woman to drive a familiar story.
Kate Beckinsale makes her return to the small screen as titular widow, Georgia Wells. Three years ago, her husband died in a plane crash in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and since then she’s lived reclusively in the Welsh countryside. While walking along the coast, Georgia falls and injures her leg, which then forces her to make the long journey into town to visit hospital. In the waiting room she overhears a television news report about ongoing unrest in the DRC. A quick glance at the screen and she spots something startlingly familiar – the bright orange baseball cap that her husband, Will (Matt Le Nevez) was wearing when he left for Africa all that time ago.
It might sound tenuous but Georgia is sure it's him. A nurse kindly rewinds the broadcast to where she’d spotted the hat and on second look, she’s convinced. How can he have survived a plane crash and gone undiscovered for three years, you ask? Well, that’s what we’re hopefully going to find out over the course of the series’ eight-episode run.
Meanwhile in an eastern region of the DRC, we’re given a snapshot of child soldiers being marched through woodland. We know that the unsettling dealings there are somehow going to be linked to Will's mysterious disappearance, but how is yet to be discovered.
With little support around her, Georgia leaves Wales and returns to Kinshasa, the DRC's capital, for the first time since learning of her husband's apparent death to try and find out if he really is still alive. She's bold, determined and also crippled by grief and uncertainty, muddling her way deeper and deeper into dangerous territory. She stays with Will's former business partner, Judith (Alex Kingston) who clearly knows more than she's willing to share about what happened to Georgia's husband. It's friend and former journalist Emmanuel, who lost his wife in the same crash, who comes to her aid to help piece together the increasingly expansive puzzle. It doesn't look like it's safe to trust anyone.
Parts of the narrative are frustrating. Turmoil in the West's perception of an unsafe and unruly Africa and a woman's instincts mistrusted are recurring themes. But beyond that is the strange relief of seeing Kate Beckinsale lead a story that is so often told from a gender-flipped perspective. The world is saturated with televised stories of women going missing only to be saved by a strong man with a gun. But this time we have a woman out there trying to track down a man, her husband, who seems to have found himself mixed up in the menacing world of what looks a lot like illegal trade and political cover-ups. Will Georgia save Will? We hope so. At the moment we're just here for the fact that we're finally watching a woman pulling a Taken.
The Widow is on ITV One from Monday 8th April at 9pm