TV Review: Obsession (Netflix)

Netflix further embraces the erotic thriller with the well-cast Obsession

“This is what she does, I’m afraid”

From the off, Obsession has a hard sell in that it asks you to believe that someone would cheat on Indira Varma. At the same time, it also asks if anyone could resist Richard Armitage’s dick – literally putting it right in front of our faces – so maybe sometimes there’s extenuating circumstances… Such flippancy is probably the best way to embrace this TV show – hugging it tight like a pillow – rather than taking it too seriously.

Based on Josephine Hart’s 1991 novel Damage, previously made into a film which I’ve yet to see, this four-part series is co-written by theatrical supremo Morgan Lloyd Malcolm and Benji Walters (with a curious variety of episode lengths). Armitage plays William, a successful surgeon married to barrister Ingrid (Varma) who, upon meeting his son Jay’s fiancée Anna (Charlie Murphy), tumbles into an obsessive affair which upends everyone’s lives.

In some ways, it is a successful take on the erotic thriller which refreshes the gender balance through its unfairly derided nudity parity doctrine. Armitage is actually probably more exposed than Murphy in terms of steaminess and even with a light dalliance with BDSM, directors Glenn Leyburn and Lisa Barros D’Sa show a real interest in the presentation of how overwhelmingly seductive an illicit relationship can be.

It’s not always matched with plotting that is fleshed out as it could be. The narrative is frustratingly thin at times, psychological depth rarely explored in the characters affected by the affair – Rish Shah’s Jay feels particularly underserved here. And the fallout from the shenanigans comes too late to really have the impact it could – Varma consequently only gets one opportunity to knock it out of the park, which she duly does.

Marion Bailey and Pippa Bennett-Warner do their best in limited supporting roles as Anna’s mother and best friend. But whilst Murphy is effective in creating an antihero-ish figure, again you crave a bit more time and space for her character to unfurl, another late revelation proving too little too late to give us insight that impacts our viewing. As I started off saying, Obsession is probably best watched without thinking about it too much and an enjoyment of the view.

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