I’ve just finished binge-watching one of the best and most addictive TV series I’ve come across in a long time – The Adulterer (or in Dutch, Overspel).
It is made in The Netherlands and therefore is subtitled for English-speaking audiences. So if you don’t like subtitles or foreign films (and I feel sorry for you if you don’t, you’re missing out on quality film and television), then this series is not for you. Otherwise read on but there are spoilers ahead.
When I first landed on it as I was channel surfing, I was a tad wary and cynical. I immediately thought of the American series The Affair. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the first few seasons of The Affair, I rapidly lost interest and didn’t see it through to the end. However there wasn’t much else on the goggle box that took my fancy so I started watching Overspel.
The Adulterer/Overspel is the story of two married people, Iris and Willem, for whom, when they meet, the sparks fly, and they hurtle into a passionate, heated affair.
Iris is a professional photographer married to Pepijn, a public prosecutor, and they have a six year old son Menno. Willem is lawyer married to Elsie, and they have teenage twins, Marit and Marco.
The affair would just be your predictable disaster if it wasn’t for the fact that Elsie’s father Huub is a wealthy property magnate who probably more than dabbles in criminal activities, and Willem works mainly for him, I guess keeping him out of gaol. The effects of the affair as a result are anything but predictable.
Despite Huub’s gangster inclinations and that Willem appears to be essentially a decent person, he and Huub have a close relationship, with Huub being a father-figure to Willem. However, you also get the impression that there is something else tying Willem to Huub beyond a professional and family-relationship, which does become clear as the series progresses.
As the affair between Iris and Willem explodes on the screen, the body of Huub’s brother-in-law Louis is pulled out of Amsterdam’s cold canal waters. Huub’s brain -damaged son Bjorn (Elsie’s half-brother I believe) was seen on the nearby dock and is promptly hauled in for questioning. Huub’s stooge is commissioned by Huub with constructing an alibi for Bjorn – the alibi being he was at “the club” with two prostitutes, who are accordingly bribed by the stooge, and Bjorn is subsequently released. Unfortunately however one of the prostitutes then gets greedy and the stooge disposes of her. Then Huub’s sister who was married to the dead Louis is persuaded to give a statement about Bjorn being on the dock and Bjorn is hauled in again.
The person doing the persuading of Huub’s sister is Pepijn (Iris’ husband) who was assigned to Louis’ case as public prosecutor. In the meantime, the affair is discovered which makes Pepijn more determined to bring down Willem and Huub’s family and to hurt Iris also, which he does by denying her time with Menno once she moves out of the home. Elsie, Willem’s wife, also discovers the affair and is devastated and kicks Willem out. In the meantime their twins are going through their own crises.
The above really just touches the surface of the family entanglements and sub-stories, and you’d think that it would all be so confusing, going off in random meaningless directions from the central plot line, being the affair, but that’s not what happens. Everything is tied together. It’s like when you pull the plug out of a full bath and each drop of water swirls independently for a while around the drain, eventually coming together and being sucked into the single small vortex. The climax is an edge-of-your -seat court room scene with Iris as the star, and a completely unexpected character ending up in gaol. Not only that, the adulterer of the title is not intended to refer to Iris or Willem.
About my only criticism of the show, and it’s only in hindsight, is that the clues are probably a tad too obvious. However that is a very minor criticism. It kind of makes you feel clever for noticing them, actually.
The acting is absolutely superb, each character right down to little Menno impressing their uniqueness on the watcher and drawing you further into the story along with your deep emotional involvement.
In short, if you’re after a thoroughly entertaining and absorbing weekend in front of the TV to escape from the real world, and if you love family dramas with lots of characters, and a fair bit of crime and sex thrown into the mix, then Overspel is for you.
I understand there is a second season however at the present time my channel surfing has been unable to find it. I’m determined to get hold of it.