Obsession Season 1 Review – The most unintentionally hysterical show of the year

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: April 13, 2023 (Last updated: January 10, 2024)
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Obsession Season 1 Review - The most unintentionally hysterical show of the year


Obsession is easily the funniest TV show of the year — the only problem is that it isn’t supposed to be funny at all.

This review of the 2023 Netflix series Obsession Season 1 does not contain spoilers.

Obsession, a four-part Netflix adaptation of Josephine Hart’s 1991 novel Damage, is without question the funniest show I’ve seen this year. This is, in part, because it’s not supposed to be funny at all.

Obsession (2023) Season 1 review and plot summary

The clue is in the title. It’s about a man who destroys himself and his family over an animalistic lust he can barely contain. It’s about our basest impulses overriding our circuitry, sending us mad. But at one point, Richard Armitage aggressively tries to have sex with a bed and starts crying, so it’s quite difficult to take seriously.

Armitage plays William Farrow, a kind of composite of idyllic, safe masculinity. He’s traditionally handsome. He’s a brilliant surgeon (the series opens with him separating conjoined twins). He’s happily married to a strong, intelligent woman named Ingrid (Indira Varma), with whom he has a big posh house, an active sex life, and two children, Jay (Rish Shah) and Sally (Sonera Angel).

Jay has a girlfriend who soon becomes his fiancé, a deliberately mysterious walking red flag named Anna (Charlie Murphy). When she meets William at some kind of swanky parliamentary party, she sultrily inquires if the olive he’s fondling is for her, at which point he stuffs it into her mouth like he’s corking a bottle, and thus, inexplicably, an ill-advised romance begins.

Is Obsession good or bad?

This dynamic never takes. Damage has been adapted before, notably into a feature film starring Jeremy Irons and Juliette Binoche. You can tell this is supposed to be about something – an exploration of how human beings are, fundamentally, just animals, or how trauma is carried and passed on like a contagion. Perhaps it’s intended as a commentary on how monogamy is incompatible with our biological imperatives. It’s hard to say.

Eventually – pretty quickly, actually, since the whole thing is only four episodes long, and they’re all under 40 minutes – it ceases to be the point anyway. The sex scenes, which are plentiful, end up just being mundane, snippets of humping usually sandwiched between scenes of strained domesticity. Apparently, there was an intimacy coordinator on set, a hire intended to assure complete parity between how much of Armitage and Murphy we can see at any given time. I can report that we see all of both, often, but learn almost nothing about either.

READ: Who plays Anna Barton in Obsession on Netflix?

The sex is supposed to be especially illicit because there’s a light BDSM component, which just amounts to a lot of talk about rules (that are consistently violated anyway) and the occasional purring of something like, “I surrender to you,” which wouldn’t be especially easy to take seriously even if these two hadn’t only met, like, a scene prior.

That’s part of the problem too. The show’s brevity means that the relationship plays out on fast-forward. I missed how we went from William force-feeding Anna an olive to her calling his phone to arrange illicit meetings. It just seems to happen, over and over, and there’s zero time or effort expended in exploring this with anything resembling nuance or credibility.

Is Obsession worth watching?

William spends so much time humping his way into personal calamity that he never lingers long enough for his extramarital activities to weigh on his personal life. Armitage does a halfway-decent job of trying to express an internal conflict but it just manifests in him looking haggard and trying to aggressively penetrate hotel linen.

Since Armitage and Murphy are both lookers, there’ll be a helping of fans who are quite satisfied at seeing their bits rubbing together for the better part of four hours. But anyone looking for a serious drama with anything meaningful to say will be horrified at the quality of this unintentionally hysterical codswallop.

What did you think of the 2023 Netflix series Obsession Season 1? Comment below.

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Netflix, Streaming Service, TV, TV Reviews
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