See It or Free It: 'Betrayal'

Never before has an affair seemed more nonsensical. The connection between the protagonists is completely devoid of any passionate chemistry and the overall story lacks any highly palatable stakes.

Dealing with the fallout of two rich people as they engage in an affair for no real personal reasons such as a lack of martial affection, financial distress or overall boredom with their lives; is painful. Not that any reason would suffice, in terms of justification, it would at least provide a motivation for the betrayal.

There are quite a few homages to the 2002 film “Unfaithful” but unlike that movie, there are no steamy romps to fall back on (this is network TV). The thing that made that film tick, besides the raunchy hook-ups, was the looming consequences. It was an affair breed out of pure lust and the yearning to see the wife, at the center of the debauchery, reap what she’d sowed, was a driving force in the story. 

On “Betrayal” the lead characters, Sara (Hannah Ware) and Jack (Stuart Townsend) are painted with the desperate brushstrokes of empathy. The sympathy, by which they are presented, doesn’t have any basis in reason. Instead, it’s clearly being done in the hopes of having the audience feel the same. They don’t want the characters to get their hands dirty, which is impossible with the subject matter at play.

The spouses that will suffer as a result of the affair aren’t being fleshed out in any particularly sympathetic manner either. They seem to be a second thought. Another thing that made “Unfaithful” work was Richard Gere’s portrayal of the devoted husband.

Where is the man, the audience is invested in hoping won’t find out or be damaged by the resulting fallout? Besides being sympathized with automatically, there is no effort being spent in developing, Sarah’s husband past that point. 

One redeeming attribute of the series is James Cromwell’s scion of industry character, Thatcher, who is also Jack’s father-in-law. Albeit the machinations of the rich and powerful are nothing new, Cromwell’s portrayal adds an edge of tension the show desperately needs. With no personal stakes or investment, there is nothing to feel “betrayed” by with this series, except the lost potential it had. 

Episodes Aired: 4

See It or Free It: See It; as it stands now this is entertaining enough to see it to its conclusion, which is 9 episodes away (if the season order is aired). The alluring notion of an assured beginning, middle and end, is too tempting an offer to resist.

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