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'Red Widow' review: Disbelief, unsuspended

In the premiere episode of "Red Widow" airing

In the premiere episode of "Red Widow" airing at 9 p.m. March 3 on ABC, crime boss Schiller tells a still grieving Marta (Radha Mitchell, pictured) he wants her to import a shipment for him, but she doesn't know when or how he will contact her. Credit: ABC

THE SHOW "Red Widow"

WHEN | WHERE Premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. on ABC/7, then at 10 p.m. starting March 10

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Marta Walraven (Radha Mitchell, "Silent Hill") has what seems to be the perfect Marin County life: Three kids, perfect home and a husband, Evan (Anson Mount), who runs a lucrative dockside business. Then it all goes to pot. He's murdered in her driveway, and she's forced to take over his real trade to protect her family. Evan was secretly a marijuana smuggler whose brother had stolen a fortune in cocaine from an established gangster, Nicholae Schiller (Goran Visnjic, "ER"). Schiller wants it back -- or else. Marta, whose own father is a Russian mobster, has to learn the wiseguy ropes fast.

MY SAY Sunday's two-hour launch is actually the pilot and the series' second episode airing back to back, but for our purposes, let's talk about the pilot. Over 44 minutes, "Red Widow" sets up the entire premise -- desperate housewife forced into life of crime -- with a lot of moving parts that are engineered to make you believe in Marta's plight without actually forcing you to question it.

But the moment you do -- if you do -- it all collapses into an ash heap of stray bits of logic, non sequitur plot threads and one big inescapable fault line. Marta could just as easily go to the cops as turn to a life of crime.

Red Widow" halfheartedly insists Marta is bonded to the Russian mob "Bratva" code (think "omerta" honor code) -- mostly because it really wants to establish her as the nice-mom-next-door without any other options.

Here's another snag: Not once during these two hours do you ever get a deep sense of her backstory. As a result, Marta as Mob Mom is not fully believable or recognizable or (for that matter) relatable on any level. Without empathy, this "red widow" is just plain dull.

BOTTOM LINE "Red Widow" (based on a Dutch drama) is probably destined to be another chapter in network TV's 2013 winter of discontent -- a hard-to-swallow thriller without any thrills.


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