TV Report Card | 'Betrayal' Season 1 Review

Overview: Two married persons with no chemistry begin an affair for no discernible reason and destroy their respective spouses and children’s lives, in the process. “Betrayal” which, had failed to retain the sturdy lead-in of line-up predecessor, “Revenge” seems an unlikely candidate for a second season.

The original episode order was only for 13 episodes, though ABC never billed it as a mini-series, a tactic that might’ve increased viewer interest. Advertised as a sexually explicit, nighttime soap; the network fell short of its tantalizing ad campaign, which was to be expected, given 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 couple of quality episodes stood out as 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, driven by lust, selfishness and simply being terrible people, they allowed their narcissistic ambitions to ruin their families.

The set-up for their affair was clumsily explained, Jack’s wife being a good mother and devoted wife, had done nothing to warrant his disinterest and Sara’s husband Drew, a rising D.A. was only guilty of being a tad 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, who’s on his last leg, in. That doesn’t 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 out of the selfish desire to be reunited with Jack. She was never once, properly smacked down verbally by anyone for her behavior, during the course of the series.

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

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

After tying up most of the loose ends, during the finale, one question was left hanging in the balance. 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 capable of explaining what the writing didn’t bother to, in terms of their attraction as cheating paramours. Their attraction was devoid of the usual lusty froth, something the show insisted was evident and key to the characters’ relationship.

Ware and Townsend’s individual 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’ve been so much better. It did mightily improve 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]

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