Family dynamics can be … complex.
If you host a Thanksgiving dinner, for instance, you know there can be friction. Uncle Willard always wants to argue politics with Cousin Bart. Someone's grandmother or aunt or in-law is bound to complain about the sweet potatoes. The kids won't stop throwing olives at one another. And some families just pray that you-know-who doesn't show up impaired or with a new spouse in tow.
But however prickly family relationship might look in your life or mine, chances are they're not quite as perilous as what Marta Walraven's dealing with in ABC's Red Widow.
Marta has, in essence, two families. First and foremost she has her kids: oldest son Gabriel, irksome teen Natalie, sensitive youngest Boris. Her husband died not long ago, and she's doing her best to raise her brood on her own (with a little help from her layabout brother Irwin and her best friend and sister, Kat). It ain't easy. Trying to keep her children happy and focused and obedient to her rules is a full-time occupation it seems.
But Marta has another family to worry about: the powerful crime syndicate she was born into.
See, Marta's father isn't just some stern, mustachioed gray-haired man looking forward to retirement. No, he's a notorious Russian kingpin who never leaves home without a bodyguard. And Marta's husband didn't just die. He was killed when his crime-lord bosses suspected he was snitching to the FBI. (Which he was.) Now the same syndicate who killed her husband is demanding that Marta pay off his debts by going to work for them. Meanwhile, the FBI wants Marta to help them bust the whole cabal—naturally at great risk to herself and her family.
All this talk of family is a rare positive attribute in Red Widow. It's great that Marta would do pert near anything to protect her kids. And it's great that she's trying to raise them in a loving, responsible matter. (Or, at least as responsibly as circumstances allow.)
But good intentions don't make everything bad go away. (Marta's dearly departed husband is a strong testament to that.) Because while all the talk of family is great and all, this family engages in some problematic pastimes. We might see Marta's son in bed with his girlfriend or Marta's father kill a rival. Kat might waltz around in her underwear. Marta could be fishing a dead body out of the drink.
Red Widow does indeed invite us to sit down with a family. But family television it is not.
Marta walks in on Gabriel and his girlfriend having sex (we hear grunts and giggles, then see the two of them under the sheets). Gabriel's furious. "I'm not a kid anymore," the teen shouts. "Honey, having sex does not make you a man," Marta says. But other family members express approval, including Marta's father. He tells Gabriel he lost his virginity when he was 11 and suggests the young man should have sex in a car or motel. "Or go to a professional," he adds.
Someone makes crude suggestions about Marta and a crime kingpin's relationship. Women are seen in bras and panties. Naked people wrap themselves in sheets. References are made to testicles, condoms and breasts.
Gabriel and his girlfriend take Ecstasy. Gabriel accidentally "gives" his pill to her as they kiss, leading to an overdose. (Marta secretly thinks that's funny.) A drug addict, trying to keep his significant other from kicking him out of the house, invokes God's name as he swears that he'll stop snorting cocaine and gambling. The woman responds, "God ain't buying it anymore, and neither am I." We see shipments of cocaine and hear people talk about it and pot. Characters drink wine, martinis and vodka.
In flashback, Marta's father kills someone. We hear a gunshot; we see the man's bloodied face. There's talk of body mutilation. Foul words include "b‑‑ch" and "h‑‑‑." God's name is misused at least eight or nine times.