Betrayal begins and ends with a bloody crime scene. Photographer Sara Hadley’s (Hannah Ware) blood-soaked clothes fill the screen with a creepy sense of wonder, but that’s where the magic stops. The mystery could have been worth uncovering, if only the road to discovery was not laden with such a lackluster plot.
Developer/executive producer David Zabel (Detroit 1-8-7) attempts to spin a web of intrigue, sex, murder, and family dynamics into this Chicago-based drama, yet struggles to shed any light on why one should care about the events taking place on screen. The show screams of the obviousness it should attempt to avoid. From the first moment we see Sara meeting the tall, dark, and handsome Jack McCutchen (Stuart Townsend), it’s immediately apparent that an affair will ensue before the premiere is finished. If these were complex characters then perhaps the infatuation would have been more compelling, however, both Sarah and Jack are characters lacking depth.
As a viewer, Zabel doesn’t give any indication as to why Sara would want to cheat in the first place (not that infidelity is ever a good thing). Her overly ambitious husband Drew (Chris J. Johnson), is a young attorney who has visions of becoming the next Obama, and seems like a nice guy. Ware’s portrayal of Sara doesn’t do the show any favors either. Her British accent is difficult to mask, and can be distracting at times when Ware tries to make it sound like she’s a Chicago native. The lovely young actress also struggled with this same issue in the critically acclaimed Starz series Boss.
Veteran actor James Cromwell (The Green Mile) brings some much needed gravitas to Betrayal, with his portrayal of Chicago business tycoon, Thatcher Krasten. The Krasten family may be the one redeeming quality for this series, as we are introduced to Thatcher’s son, T.J. (Henry Thomas). Apparently, there was an incident in the past where T.J. almost drowned, only to have Jack rescue him. As T.J. recalls the story during the premiere, Jack’s eyes show that he’s hiding something about the tragic event. Again, the episode gave no indication of why this is important information.
Another topic worth discussing is race. From the network that gave us a hit series like Scandal, one would think that ABC might want to continue exploring more diverse demographics other than privileged caucasian-Americans. Television is far from perfect when it comes to giving minorities opportunities to show their talents; however, Scandal at least makes an effort by featuring two African-Americans and one Latino-American in leading roles. Betrayal’s greatest failure is its unwillingness to take chances. Perhaps Zabel and his team are worried that taking a risk could result in the show’s quick departure from the network?
In a television landscape that is filled with programs like Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, and Homeland, how can Betrayal make its mark? If this series does not find a way to separate itself from other great dramas, then Betrayal could run the risk of becoming another afterthought in a long line of failed programs. Will the mystery of Sara’s shooting and Uncle Lou’s murder keep you coming back week after week, or was one viewing enough to keep you away?
Betrayal continues with ‘…Except When a Bear Is Chasing You’ next Sunday @10pm on ABC.