The press release that accompanied the first episode of the second series of this show from the Netherlands says that the first series of The Adulterer (Overspel in Dutch) was the most viewed show on Walter Presents in 2019. That is quite an achievement, given the quality and quantity of shows that Walter and his team offer us.
If you want to avoid all spoilers for The Adulterer, stop reading this article now.
I must confess that I’m slightly surprised by this. It’s a decent enough show, but there are more thrilling thrillers out there. This is really a cautionary tale about the consequences of deception – recalling the Walter Scott quote “oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive”. It’s basically a very well-written, family-led drama – don’t expect too much in the way of shoot-outs and car-chases; this is more subtle than that.
It’s the story of Willem (played by Dominic West look-a-like, Fedja van Huêt) and Iris (the extraordinarily beautiful Sylvia Hoeks) – he’s a high-flying lawyer and she’s a talented photographer. The affair they started in series 1 has had all sorts of implications on their partners, businesses and families – but by the start of series 2, things seem to have settled down to some extent. They’re living together and are trying to cope with the pressures of having ex-spouses who – understandably – hate their guts. Willem’s wife is in jail, following on from her attempt to kill Iris in series 1; and Iris’ husband is contesting custody of their child. They’re also trying to cope with other family issues, including Willem’s teenage son who has a gambling problem.
Meanwhile, Willem is under-pressure from his former father-in-law, Huub Couwenberg. He’s a particularly nasty piece of work with some highly suspect business dealings, played quite menacingly by Kees Prins. And additionally, Willem’s mood isn’t helped by the news that his ex-wife, Elsie (Rifka Lodeizen), has been stashing sleeping pills in her jail cell in order attempt to take her own life.
And that’s my one issue with this series – everyone is basically either despondent, stressed-out or suicidal. It’s not quite Eastenders in terms of being depressing, but the lack of levity can be draining at times.
Episode 1 begins and end with the disappearance of Willem. He was due to meet Iris for a trip to Paris, but failed to turn up at the train station. He left a note for his daughter, Marit, saying he needs time on his own to think things over. But Iris suspects there might be more to his disappearance than meets the eye.
Despite my reservations, this is a fine series – beautifully acted with a well-crafted script. If you enjoy family dramas with an element of intrigue, you could do an awful lot worse.
The Adulterer series 2 premieres on Channel 4 on 6th January at 11:30pm with the full series available on Walter Presents via All 4.