Most people would consider William’s life to be wonderful. He is well-known for his work as a neurosurgeon, and the procedure on the twins was widely publicised. His wife, Ingrid (Indira Varma), is a respected barrister; even after years together, the two appear to remain hot for each other. Jay (Rish Shah) and Sally (Sonera Angel), their adult children, are family-oriented overachievers. Ingrid’s father Edward (Anil Goutam) reiterates his intention to propose to the House of Commons that he become health czar during a visit to Ingrid’s family’s rural house.
William notices a lovely young woman peering into his soul at a cocktail reception with those same politicians. They meet at the pub, and she introduces herself as Jay’s new girlfriend, Anna Barton (Charlie Murphy). She’s fascinated by William after hearing about his surgical skill, and she’s open about her feelings for him. William doesn’t put up much of a fight.
She is all he can think about for the next few days, and vice versa. She steals Jay’s phone number and puts it in hers; she calls him to inform him that she and Jay are on their way to “meet” the family. Even when they meet at the country home, Anna and William are unable to put out the fire between them when no one else is around.
While he is in his office, Anna calls and schedules a meeting with him. They meet in an empty flat and have a passionate sexual experience. They’re both exhausted, but they both know this won’t be the last time this happens, despite their respective entanglements.
The first episode of Morgan Lloyd Malcolm and Benji Walters’ Obsession, based on Josephine Hart’s novel Damage, is straightforward: Two people who shouldn’t be together are extremely drawn to one other and act on their feelings for each other. What happens next during the four-episode limited series will be incredibly tricky. The series’ difficulty is that we don’t know how much we care that Anna, and especially William, are killing their lives with their infatuation.
One of our concerns is that there is no explanation for why William is so drawn to Anna. We get the attraction in the opposite direction; Anna is a sexual person who is drawn to William’s surgical genius. She is also drawn to Jay and wishes to be in a relationship with him. But, given what we know about William in the first five minutes of the episode, we have no idea what draws him to Anna so immediately. Is he known to have cheated on Ingrid in the past? Is he just a horny jerk? Is Anna simply exuding sexuality, rendering him powerless?
Some background would be helpful here, because the vixen seducing the “innocent” family man feels so archaic. Granted, the novel on which this programme is based was written in 1991, but the premise that it takes two to have an affair feels more appropriate in today’s prestige series climate.
Will we learn more about the context later? Maybe. However, we believe that there will be so much focus on the shady affair and its ramifications for William and his family that we will not get much. This could be one of those few cases where an extra 30 or 60 minutes of substance would have been beneficial in making things make more sense.