TV Report Card | 'Betrayal' Season 1 Review

Want to watch a TV show about two narcissists who start an affair? “Betrayal” follows a husband and wife who do just that for no discernible reason and destroy their respective spouses’ and children’s lives. Instead of dealing with the consequences of their actions, the series postures Jack and Sara as heroes when they are heartless cheaters. So, how did it go over with viewers?

“Betrayal” failed to retain the sturdy lead-in of its line-up predecessor, “Revenge,” and seems an unlikely candidate for a second season. How did we get here? The original episode order was only for 13 episodes, though ABC never billed it as a mini-series, a tactic that might haveve increased viewer interest. 

Promoted as a sexually explicit nighttime soap - the network fell short of its tantalizing ad campaign. That was to be expected when you consider the inability of networks to compete with the racy antics of cable. Unfortunately, that lackluster capacity to compete only worked to make the show look duller.

Storyline Direction Pros: A few quality episodes were defining moments for the series that seemed indicative of a changing tide for the show. The fallout of Sara (Hannah Ware) and Jack’s (Stuart Townsend) affair was well played, as was the episode that set up the big reveal. 

The reaction from Jack’s wife Elaine (Wendy Moniz) was well-written, her outrage palpable. Her father, Thatcher (James Cromwell), was fleshed out, as both a villain and a conflicted criminal patriarch, his intrigue more substantial, as a result.

Storyline Direction Cons: Lead characters, Sara and Jack, were unsympathetic in every way imaginable. Both were driven by lust, selfishness, and simply being terrible people. They allowed their narcissistic ambitions to ruin their families.

“Betrayal” clumsily explained the setup for Jack and Sara’s affair. Jack’s wife was a good mother and a devoted wife who did nothing to warrant his disinterest in her. Sara’s husband, Drew (a rising D.A.), was only guilty of being career-focused.

Never mind, Jack was also highly ambitious and working for a criminal organization. Her reasoning for glorifying him and treating her husband as if he were a bad guy was irrational, at best. 

Drew wasn’t written with the greatest sympathetic edge, but he was a better man than Jack. They were written so similarly it was hard to understand why she preferred one over the other. Drew was attempting to build his career by destroying Thatcher Karsten, which put him at cross purposes with Jack.

This angle to the show fell flat as Drew, late in the show’s run, claims Karsten is ruling a crumbling empire. If that is the case, how is it a coo to arrest him? He’s taking a guy in who is on his last leg. That does not sound like the makings for an impressive, career-making takedown.

Meanwhile, Jack, who has benefited from his life as a crime enabler/architect, walks away scot-free because he turned over his boss. A man he had no problem profiting from until it meant he could be going to prison. Not to mention, he had cheated on the man’s daughter. How was this guy remotely noble?

In another despicable move by Sara, she outed Jack’s alibi for the series’ kick-off crime, knowing full well he was lying to protect his son. Her reasons were purely motivated by the selfish desire to be reunited with Jack. She was never once properly smacked down verbally by anyone for her behavior during the series.

By the time the season ended, Sara wanted desperately to get back together with Jack. Even after nearly dying in a shooting, Karsten had orchestrated to scare Jack out of testifying. Adding to the drama, Jack’s own son was the triggerman.

Her desire to be with her lover had put her son at risk, and she still wanted him, even after her husband had taken her back, restoring their family, despite her betrayal. Seriously? Her character did not grow or learn anything throughout the entire season. 

After tying up most of the loose ends, one question was left hanging in the balance during the finale. Who did Sara end up at dinner with after crying to Jack in the previous scene over their lost relationship? My answer: I didn’t care. It was unfortunate after all the pain she’d caused, the series closed with her smiling, the character least deserving of a happy ending.

Production Caliber: Cold, industrial, and grainy, there was little warmth to be seen. 

Performance Quality: Personally, Hannah Ware and Stuart Townsend lacked the chemistry to explain what the writing did not regarding the characters’ decision to become cheaters. Their relationship was devoid of the usual lusty froth, something the show insisted was evident and key to the characters’ relationship.

Ware and Townsend’s performances were good, as was Chris J. Johnson’s as Drew. His appearance being so similar to Townsend, it was hard to tell them apart throughout the show, which made things all the more confusing. The lack of a more distinct, physical contrast between the leads was curious.

Wendy Moniz (Elaine) was an all-star for the series, bringing the show’s most emotional moments to screen with aplomb. James Cromwell (Karsten) brought his natural gravitas to the show as “the heavy.”

Musical Score: The opening cello melody was foreboding brilliance, one of the standout TV themes in recent memory. 

Overall Grade: B-, it could have been so much better. It mightily improved from its original episodes, maintaining enough of a hook to retain personal viewership, and it certainly elicited a passionate response. The story began as an uphill battle with neither of the leads being sympathetic. However, seeing them suffer the consequences of their actions could have been a not-so-guilty pleasure.

[Image by ABC]