Why everyone is talking about the new Netflix series — and what it has to do with pillows

Netflix’s erotic thriller “Obsession” is currently one of the streamer’s most popular shows. (Photo: Ana Blumenkron/Netflix)

Spoiler alert: This story mentions a specific scene in the Netflix show Obsession.

Have you watched Obsession yet?

The much-discussed erotic thriller that Netflix released this month has already got people talking, with some viewers having already gulped down the four-part miniseries.

Here’s a closer look:

Why is everyone talking about Obsession?

Like audience favorites Basic Instinct, Fatal Attraction or, more recently, Fifty Shades of Grey, Obsession is sexy, with a juicy plot. Netflix describes it this way on the streamer’s cleverly named blog, Tudum: “William, a renowned doctor, is at the height of his career — he just successfully performed a 14-hour brain surgery on conjoined infants — and his wife and grown kids are wildly proud of him. But trouble starts after he meets his son’s girlfriend and sparks fly — nay, explode. The two begin a fiery affair that quickly spreads into a dangerous, all-consuming romance.”

According to Netflix, the show currently ranks in the top 10 of its most popular TV shows.

Viewers have proclaimed it “steamy,” “wild” and “cringe” on social media.

This despite Netflix’s international properties issuing a tongue-in-cheek nudity warning.

There’s one scene in particular that instantly prompted endless memes…

How is a hotel room involved — and a pillow?

Much of the attention has centered on a scene in which the character of William, played by Richard Armitage, stays in the same hotel room where his son Jay (Rish Shah) and girlfriend Anna (Charlie Murphy) had stayed. He smells around the bed, hoping for a whiff of her scent, and buries his head in a pillow as he masturbates.

Armitage explained to Metro just what went into making the scene.

“It was really unexpected because it was written as quite a different scene,” he told British newspaper this month. “There was a tissue with her imprint of her lipstick on which we didn’t feel necessarily worked.”

Charlie Murphy and Richard Armitage play lovers Anna and William in

Charlie Murphy and Richard Armitage play lovers Anna and William in “Obsession.” (Photo: Ana Blumenkron/Netflix)

The actor said he had some help from Murphy, who, unbeknownst to him, had sprayed her scent onto different parts of the bed.

“I was really conscious that it shouldn’t be in any way comedic so we sort of left it quite open and it was a bit of an improvisation actually,” Armitage said.

Is the show based on anything?

Yes, Obsession is adapted from Damage, a 1991 novel written by Josephine Hart. The story was also the basis of an opera and, in 1992, a movie starring Jeremy Irons and Juliette Binoche. That film currently has a 79%, based on 24 reviews, on aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Co-star Miranda Richardson, who plays the wife of the cheating husband, was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar. She won prizes from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts and the New York Film Critics Circle. Per Box Office Mojo, the film version earned $7.5 million in theaters worldwide; by comparison, other romantic dramas from the same year brought in a lot more. Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman’s Far and Away sold $137.8 million in tickets, while blockbuster The Bodyguard made $411 million total. But even the smaller The Cutting Edge, which was actually more of a romantic comedy (toe pick!), earned $25.1 million.

What have the reviews for Obsession the show been like? And will it be back?

So the newer Obsession has not been well received by film critics. Fourteen reviews, with an average of 40%, have been tallied by Rotten Tomatoes. Some 50-plus audience members have rated it, and their scores give it a low 21%. Audiences appear split, however, alternately finding it to be “a shambles,” “disturbing,” “fantastic” and “beautiful.”

Regardless of reviews from anyone, the show was released as a limited series, so it’s not expected to have a second go-round. It’s notable, though, that neither did HBO’s buzzy Big Little Lies when it came out in 2017, yet there was a second season in 2019.