Betrayal starring Stuart Townsend, Hannah Ware, Chris J. Johnson and James Cromwell: When Soapy Finds Good Acting & Chemistry
I’m not going to lie, I liked Betrayal. I’m not usually the one to go for soapy plots, but when it is presented with great actors, good story-telling and it’s well-shot, why resist it? (Like the first season of Revenge.) Oh, the soundtrack is pretty good too.
I’d never check it out if I hadn’t seen Stuart Townsend’s and James Cromwell’s names attached. But once I did check, I wanted more.
Some critics use the word soap as if they were disappointed. I’m sorry, but what were they expecting? It’s a soap. Just a well-done, modernized one. You could put J.J. Abrams in the director’s seat, and it’d still be a soap. OK, maybe not with Abrams. But you get what I mean.
It is a fun show. It can remain a guilty pleasure or turn into something more. Only time will tell. Of course I’m not above fast-forwarding or giving up if I get bored, as I did with Revenge (many episodes were watched on fast-forward) and Once Upon a Time (fast-forward for season 2, not watching for season 3). I don’t always need to be impressed, but I need to be entertained.
Here’s the plot in a nutshell, though I strongly advise you to watch the trailer:
Sara (Hannah Ware) is a beautiful, married photographer with a kid. She keeps getting neglected by her prosecutor husband (Chris J. Johnson). Then she meets Jack (Stuart Townsend) during her art show and they really hit it off. A chance meeting triggers a planned one and that turns into the start of something passionate and irresistible.
Unfortunately, Jack is also married with kids, and his wife (Wendy Moniz) happens to be the daughter of his boss (James Cromwell), a tough businessman who might have ties to crime. And as if this weren’t enough, a murder case lands Jack, the family lawyer, against the husband.
A lot of the complaints seem to involve the show being a soap (I’m sorry, but next to Grey’s Anatomy, it wouldn’t even feel like one, and again, what were they expecting from that trailer and story?)
Another complaint from some viewers mentions they don’t/won’t/can’t root for the lead characters because they’re betraying seemingly good people for seemingly insignificant reasons.
While I have a list of movies where you can root for the betraying parties because the betrayed are cruel/indecent/presumed to be dead/etc. and the other person is just lovely, you don’t need to be rooting for any character or approve their behavior. That being said, the cheating aside, they are OK people The makers have gone for grey, and they’ve managed it.
If you don’t find the chemistry satisfactory between Stuart Townsend and Hannah Ware, I can’t argue with that. I like their interactions and chemistry just fine. But my personal opinions on cheating (I’m %99 against it, again see these posts to see where and why I might condone it) don’t prevent me from having an easy good time.
Maybe I’m just happy to see Townsend, Cromwell and Chris J. Johnson on a weekly basis. And I’ll argue that I understand why the characters are straying.
For one, the “perfect husband” is so career-oriented that he will be worrying about his own image even during his wife’s gallery night. He won’t buy the tie she has bought him, deeming it not good enough for the night. Hello, it’s her night, her gift and it wasn’t like the tie had inappropriate imagery on it! Then he exchanges it, saying he got something better. She constantly has to run after him for any attention, and she might maybe get morning sex, but that’s about it. Yes, in an ideal world, she should try to talk things out and not cheat. But we hardly watch ideal worlds on TV. And take his behavior, multiply it by 10 years and you might also be yourself craving the attention and chemistry you found with a stranger.
And while I found nothing wrong with Jack’s wife, I can also see where he’s coming from. Barely in his early 40s, he is much too young to be a dad to two teenagers. He has been with the same woman since he was 19, and she is his boss’ daughter. He seems to be more understanding of her father’s involvement in their lives while she questions his loyalty – she’s not happy he respects/admires her dad. Which is not exactly sensitive on her part because his dad raised him, funded his education and all that. This also backs up his argument on feeling his world is too small. Because it is. He hasn’t branched out to a new family and career. He has just expanded on the one he was brought up in. Again, ideally, he shouldn’t cheat. But does it make sense? Yes, it does.
They could make the dialogue a little better, and they could have spent more time developing the attraction/chemistry between them. But it isn’t bad the way it is.
Good old mindless, harmless fun with beautiful people. Let’s see what the next episodes will bring.
Fun trivia: My post isn’t the only thing the show has in common with J.J. Abrams. Merrin Dungey has a recurring guest role as Sara’s editor. Dungey starred as Sydney’s best friend on J.J. Abrams creation Alias.