“Mr. Tequila” introduces a respectable mystery, but it’s dogged by sloppy writing and a little too much contrivance.
This The Widow Episode 1 recap for the episode titled “Mr. Tequila” contains spoilers. You can check out our spoiler-free review of the full first season by clicking these words.
Harry and Jack Williams are among the more prolific writers in the current British television landscape, and since some of their latest efforts in Baptiste reached a relatively underwhelming conclusion, their new hope is eight-part, Kate Beckinsale-fronted missing-person thriller The Widow, which is currently airing on ITV after a fairly low-key run on Amazon Prime earlier in the year. And it isn’t — at least if the first episode is to be believed — much good.
I could be wrong. Our own Tyler Howat looked favorably upon it in his spoiler-free review of the first season, but he’s American and thus, one assumes, a bit more enamored with the British way of doing things than I am. I mostly found the whole thing a bit silly.
Anyway, here’s the premise: Beckinsale plays Georgia Wells, a woman whose aid-worker husband, Will (Matthew Le Nevez), went missing three years prior when his plane went down in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Presumed dead despite his body never having been found, Georgia turned to a weirdly nomadic life in the English countryside (with what look like self-harm scars). But she’s spurred into action when, in a ludicrous moment of contrivance, she spots a man in newsreel footage of the DRC who is wearing the same hat Will was when he left.
This is remarkably sketchy evidence, to say the least, and Charles Dance as family friend Martin Benson is quick to tell her so. A low-quality still of a man facing the other way and wearing roughly the same color hat isn’t exactly proof of life, but it’s all Georgia needs to jet off against his protestations. Needless to say, she’s onto something, and very quickly finds herself embroiled in a conspiracy that, according to our Tyler, includes “the plane crash, the aid work, child soldiers, a blind man, other unknown survivors from the flight, and much more.”
“Mr. Tequila” was primarily a table-setting episode, one designed to get Georgia to the DRC, tease some shenanigans, and end on something of a cliffhanger. But in accomplishing that it also dogged itself with some very dodgy writing and a fair amount of unhelpful contrivance. Beckinsale, who has been reliably unreliable throughout her career, is good here as what basically amounts to a cartoon character; her toughness and resourcefulness are constantly being asserted and reasserted by herself and other characters, but it’s all at the script level and none of it feels earned. The back-and-forth structure is frequently distracting and always less effective than it presumably would have been if it was told chronologically, and some of the lines are truly awful in a way that almost feels like a joke — odd, considering this is a very serious production which evidently had a fair amount of money behind it.
Admittedly, The Widow ends its first episode in a better place than it began in, and hopefully, it’ll be, if nothing else, a solidly binge-able mystery. But as far as high-quality British TV drama goes, you’d probably be better off looking for it elsewhere.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.