Netflix's new thriller series has the most embarrassing sex scene we've ever seen
It isn't ALL bad... but it is mostly all bad.
Anyone who has ever been watching a movie with their parents will know the very specific type of embarrassment that arises when, as if out of nowhere, a very explicit sex scene arrives. Now, if you can imagine that embarrassment, but somehow achieved even if you're watching the sex scene on your own, or with your partner, it doesn't really matter, because the awkwardness is derived from what is happening on screen.
That is exactly what happens in the second episode of Obsession, when a very odd sex scene begins with Richard Armitage in a hotel room on his own. Your eyes will actively wander away from the screen, too uncomfortable to maintain eye contact with the events taking place, your own face beginning to blush out of a sort of contact humiliation.
Unfortunately, this isn't the only time that this four-part erotic thriller mini-series will leave you feeling unsettled and a little bit ashamed, because despite the best efforts by everyone involved in the project, Obsession never once feels like it is taking place within a world where reasonable people exist.
Maybe that is the point - being so obsessed with someone else that all capabilities of regular thought processing go right out the window - but the show gives us absolutely no entry point to that mentality. Instead, we're quickly introduced to successful surgeon and wannabe politician William (Armitage), his wife Ingrid (Indira Varma), their daughter (Sonera Angel), and their finally returning home from college son Jay (Rish Shah).
We're told that Jay has a new girlfriend, which is a big deal because he doesn't stay in relationships for long, but he has apparently fallen head-over-heels for this new lady. At a work party, William makes eye contact with and then frantically chases down a complete stranger, who we discover is Anna (Charlie Murphy). Having actively fed her olives from his drink in front of his colleagues (this is that mind-blowing lack of reality we're talking about), the two embark on an affair involving equal obsession from both of them, but it isn't long before William discovers that - yep, wouldn't you know it - Anna is Jay's new beau.
Obsession with good acting and bad scripting
From there, we're greeted to some pretty explicit sex scenes between William and Anna (or, in that one very embarrassing scenario, just William), with some interesting ideas put forward about dominants and submissives, psychological tops and bottoms, and the power dynamics at play between a couple that involves the power of submitting all power to someone else.
It is such a shame then that this sexual preference is then directly tied to a childhood trauma, once again - we're looking at you, Fifty Shades of Grey - linking any kind of non-vanilla sexual act to abuse and/or unresolved issues. Yikes.
In the middle of this, we've got Armitage and Murphy really, REALLY trying their best with this outdated material, but the script never gives them the support or modern edge that these characters really require. Instead of coming off a good man who has gone off the rails, William comes across as a spoiled brat who throws a mopey tantrum every time he sees his son happy.
Meanwhile, Anna comes off slightly better, at least aware that their actions will have consequences... but not so aware that it stops her from having sex with William in a well-lit garden right outside a mansion filled with their friends and family. Seriously, so many times, someone in this show - usually William - will do something so head-scratchingly dumb, that you can't help but be dragged out of the drama.
It is a shame, because there are kernels of good things in here, but over 30 years on since the book it was based on was published (and the first movie adaptation, titled Damage, starring Jeremy Irons was released), and it would've been nice for this version to feel a bit smarter, a bit more current, a bit more 2023. Instead, we get attractive people in attractive locations, having sex and being really dumb about it.
And as for that sex scene in the title, you'll know it when you see it. Armitage alone in a hotel room, attempting to source the scent of Anna, who had checked out of the same room earlier that day. (Doesn't he know they... change the sheets?) So he goes animalistic, sniffing her out, kicking off his clothes and bed sheets, embarking on a solo sex scene, his desire literally splayed out across the room, and it is all just so painfully unsexy.
Erotic thrillers are definitely making a comeback, but let us hope the rest of the upcoming slate have a higher IQ than this. All four episodes of Obsession are available to watch on Netflix right now.
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