Black Widow (Penoza)

Not to be confused with the Swedish series Black Widows, the Dutch export Black Widow (singular) is a look at Amsterdam’s criminal underworld through the life of Carmen van Walraven. When series 1 opens, Carmen (Monic Hendrickx) is married to Frans (Thomas Acda) and they have three children together: Natalie (Sigrid ten Napel), Lucien (Niels Gompert) and Boris (Stijn Taverne). Carmen is one of three siblings with younger brother, Irwan de Rue (Fedja)) and sister Marleen (Maartje Remmers).

Black widow

When the series opens, Frans who is, according to his wife, a dealer in hash, becomes involved with the heavy world of cocaine trafficking when business partner Irwan rips off a shipment belonging to Belgian Schiller (Filip Peeters).

Soon Irwan, Frans and the third partner  of the “shop,” volatile Steven (Marcel Hensema), are up to their eyes in trouble. When things turn ugly, Carmen tells Frans that she wants him to leave the Life or she wants a divorce.

All this comes on top on younger sister Marleen’s wedding–an event which causes no small amount of turmoil in the family. Carmen’s mother, the very sour faced Fiep (Olga Zuiderhock) refuses to attend if father André (Tom Jansen) brings along his latest ditzy mistress. We get the first glimpse of Carmen’s strategic thinking when she manipulates the situation in her favour.

Of course, as we all know, noone leaves the life, or if they do, it’s either through the witness protection programme or in a wooden box. All hell breaks loose when Frans, pressured by Carmen tries to leave his criminal life (along with their fantastic waterside home).

To say too much more about the plot of this fantastic crime series would potentially spoil it for other viewers, so instead I’ll say that the plot shows the thorny path to acceptance of violence, and this is shown so well in the character of Carmen, who finds herself doing things she has no taste for, and yet she shows a great deal of skill in strategic planning, leadership and intimidation.

On one level, Carmen is a mother trying to ‘save’ her children, and yet by ensuring their safety, she creates a moral abyss which surrounds the lives of her children, and we see how each of the three children must find their way through a world of corruption and death. Yes, they are privileged: doors open for them, and yet it all comes with a cost. There’s also danger, as we see as the series progresses in not telling them some of the salient details of what she’s up to, so it’s a dilemma: should she tell them the truth to protect them from potential dangers or does the truth present moral difficulties which she will have to explain?

I can’t finish this post without mentioning the friendships Carmen maintains with two women: Hanneke (Peggy Jane de Schepper) and Sandrina (Medina Schurrman)–a woman who, as the series progresses, shows a history of poor choices in men. These friendships are tested when loyalties shift.

There’s also “Baldy,” or Berry (Loek Peters), a criminal whose role (and loyalties) shift throughout the series, but in spite of the many questionable things he does, there’s still, at the heart of this character, a sort of tarnished chivalry towards woman. It’s this facet of his character which makes him so interesting to follow. There’s also faithful henchman Luther (Raymond Thiry) and finally there’s the dogged, underappreciated policeman Jim Leeflang (Hajo Bruins). The plot plays with his motives at many times. He plants himself outside of Carmen’s house 24-7 but what is he driven by: attraction or at the desire to stick this woman behind bars.? Carmen is seen as a desirable woman who gains the respect of everyone who deals with her (well almost everyone).

As the series continue, you can’t help but get involved with the characters. The plot wobbles a bit at times, but overall, this is great entertainment, and Carmen’s mother Fiep remains one of my favourite characters.  I’ve watched series 1-5 so far and there’s another on the way. In N. America, this is available on Walter Presents. 

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