Red Widow

TV review by
Kari Croop, Common Sense Media
Red Widow TV Poster Image
So-so drama mixes drugs, violence, and a strong female lead.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Family is important, but it's often overshadowed by a general sense that the world is a dangerous place where criminals don't often face negative consequences.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Although Marta wants her husband to get out of the business, she reluctantly agrees to work for a crime lord to keep her children safe. Her heart's in the right place, but it doesn't make her actions any less illegal.


Characters use weapons (mainly guns), and there's some bloodshed -- even death. But blood isn't gratuitous.


Some simulated sex with bare backs, skin, etc., but no sensitive body parts shown.


Occasional swearing includes words like "bitch" and "damn."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A big part of the plot revolves around the illegal drug trade (marijuana and cocaine). Some social drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that a big part of Red Widow revolves around the illegal drug trade (specifically, marijuana and cocaine) and the culture of violence surrounding organized crime. You'll see characters carrying weapons and threatening others, and even some character deaths. There's simulated sex, too, with bare skin, but no sensitive body parts, along with some light swearing ("bitch," "damn," etc.) and social drinking.

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What's the story?

Born into a family of Russian gangsters in San Francisco and married to a man who makes his living exporting marijuana, Marta Walraven (Radha Mitchell) has just about everything, including a beautiful house and plenty of money. But she longs for a normal existence where her children are safe -- a dream that dies when her husband is brutally murdered for a drug debt she knew nothing about. Now, to learn the truth about her husband's death and protect her family, this newly minted RED WIDOW must climb into bed with one of the city's most notorious crime lords (Goran Visnjic).

Is it any good?

Based on the Dutch series Penoza, Red Widow has all the elements of a gripping TV drama: organized crime, illegal drugs, and a respected film actress cast as a mother who will do anything to keep her children safe. But thanks to a plodding pilot (penned by Twilight screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg) that takes too much time setting up the central plot, you might not care much about the characters by the time the real story gets going.

That's not to knock Mitchell's performance or suggest the series as a whole is a snooze. But compared to other TV shows about strong women, Red Widow feels tepid at best.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the ethics of Marta's decision to enter the crime world, even though she's doing it to keep her family safe. How far would you go to protect those you love? How far is too far?

  • How realistic is Red Widow's portrayal of organized crime and the illegal drug trade, particularly in terms of consequences for those involved? Why do movies, television, and video games so often glamorize the gritty world of organized crime?

  • Marta is a strong female character...but does that make her a good role model? How does she compare to other strong female leads in movies and television?

TV details

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