[Warning: Pre-review with spoilers for the pilot episode.]
In real-life situations, I’m not at all about cheating/affairs/infidelity. And I’m usually not interested in them as a dramatic device, but I made an exception for Betrayal, frankly, because of Stuart Townsend. While Betrayal is absolutely a soap opera, the caliber of the cast, and the work they’re all doing, have the potential to make this appointment TV for me. I haven’t decided yet.
The pilot brings the heat right out of the gate as Jack McAllister (Stuart Townsend) and Sara Hadley (Hannah Ware) meet cute when they take leave of a gallery opening at the same time and then have a really hard time staying away from each other in the days that follow.
Each is married to other people. Sara is trying to figure out where she fits into her husband’s larger political ambitions. For Jack, it’s a marriage that came out of a childhood friendship where he was part of her family after a tragedy took his parents, and marriage was a sensible next step. I think we can safely say Sara is unhappy. Jack is maybe finally in love for the first time in his life.
The pilot sets up the larger arc of the initial 13-episode order. Jack is an attorney for his in-laws and he’s called upon to defend his brother-in-law, T.J. (Henry Thomas), who’s living with the ramifications of an accident-induced Traumatic Brain Injury. He may or may not have killed the business partner of his dad, Thatcher Karsten (freshly-minted Emmy winner James Cromwell).Â As luck has it, Sara’s husband, Drew (Chris Johnson) is the D.A. prosecutor who’s going to make a run at T.J., and Jack.
So we have the procedural aspect going on in tandem with the love affair. Chemistry is what sells the hell out of that part of the story–there’s nothing scripted in an “aha, soul mates!” kind of way but Ware and Townsend are believable as two people who find each other in the middle of messy, already-full lives and just vibrate with a need to be together. There are several scenes where they both tear up because they know they shouldn’t be together, should walk away from each other, and just are physically unable to do it. When they finally fall into bed, you believe they’d combust if they didn’t.
I’m in for Stuart Townsend, and I’m glad to see him back on ABC after the one-and-done Night Stalker reboot a few years ago. Henry Thomas does nice work here–I wasn’t sure out of the gate what was going on with T.J., but Thomas is very good playing a young man who’s still trying to maintain the entitled lifestyle he grew up with, even though he’s not at all the same person–and he’s ripe to be taken advantage of.Â And yay that James Cromwell is settling into TV. He’s also very good as someone with a little more edge than I’ve seen him play (I did not watch American Horror Story, so I don’t know who he was there). Hannah Ware is new to me, but she has chemistry for days with Townsend, and if that wasn’t there, we wouldn’t have a show.
Wendy Moniz plays Jack’s wife, Elaine, andÂ Chris Johnson, plays Drew–we don’t get enough of a bead on their characters in the pilot but I’m familiar enough with them from other projects that I’m sure they’ll bring it when the affair is revealed.
Betrayal premieres tomorrow night at 10/9 c after Revenge, and it’s a good partner for back-to-back backstabbing by pretty people in pretty places. I hope it finds an audience. Given that the similarly themed summer soap Mistresses was just renewed for a second season, I’m guessing there’s a ready-made audience looking for something to fill that void until next summer. We’ll find out!
Here are some sneak peeks at the pilot:
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