William & Anna In Netflix’s ‘Obsession,’ Explained: How Did Their Relationship Effect Ingrid & Jay?


The premise that “Obsession” sets for itself, or even the manner in which it begins, makes it seem like the characters presented would have many deep layers and would be the most interesting facet of the miniseries. However, as the show progresses through its steamy narrative, the earlier assumption falls flat, as most characters just end up being one-dimensional individuals. What is worse is that there seems to be a lack of any convincing motivation or reason behind their actions, making “Obsession” all the more forgettable by the end.

When William is first introduced, the man’s character is that of a distinguished surgeon of high class and reputation. “Obsession” then gradually chips away at this character, making him look immoral and engulfed in bodily desires. The first meeting between William and Anna is rather strange because of the very direct manner in which both flirt with each other. It almost seems like there is some history between the two individuals with respect to how easily they try to strike up a rapport. Yet there is no history between them whatsoever, and the fact that William is happily married to his wife makes it all the more strange. The surgeon and Ingrid still have a romantic relationship, with their physical chemistry intact, as was established in the first few minutes. There is no reason provided as to why William would get attracted to Anna and then pursue her to introduce himself and have a conversation. William does not seem to have any history of cheating; he is not someone who has ever gone out of his way to do something as scandalous as have an affair. The man himself admits to this later on, saying how he had always pursued the right things, like a career in medicine and marrying Ingrid, and had also received his father’s support in his decisions.

What is even more baffling is that William recognizes Anna as his son’s partner after she introduces herself and then goes on to sensually feed her an olive. The relationship between him and Jay is quite formal and superficial, even in the moments when they get personal. Added to that, the fact that he has a full-fledged affair with Jay’s fiancée makes it almost look like William might be a stepfather with some bad blood between the two. This is not the case either, and the father suddenly has a rush of guilt after Jay’s death, as he sits at the foot of the staircase completely naked in public, clutching onto Jay’s lifeless body. This concern for his son had been visibly lacking throughout the rest of the series, making this sudden expression seem rather staged and ingenious.

The relationship between William and Ingrid, as shown in the opening minutes, is one of mutual respect, love, and adoration. After the man starts to have an affair with his future daughter-in-law, even though he has not been looking for any love in life, this matrimonial relationship takes a hit. No longer does William share anything with his wife, and he looks lost most of the time that he spends with her. Being perhaps the only consistent and convincing character, mostly due to Indira Varma’s standout performance, Ingrid obviously guesses that something is up with him. As a mature individual would, she tries talking to William, even gently questioning him about any possible affairs, but the man keeps himself shut off. When the ultimate revelation strikes Ingrid, it is too late for the relationship to work out anymore, especially since her son Jay is now no more. The wife reacts in an appropriate manner, demanding an immediate separation and divorce and deciding to stay away from William forever.

Therefore, with no solid motivation behind his actions, the only reason that can be thought of—and definitely the one that “Obsession” points at—is that William is overrun with bodily desire. Once his sensual affair with Anna begins, the man gradually wishes to dominate and win over the woman during their normal lives, too, just like while they get intimate. The man grows jealous of his own son, directly saying that he wants to spend more time with Anna than Jay gets to. Or when he asks whether Anna keeps a written record of her intimate moments with Jay. Such is the woman’s web of attraction that William spirals out of control, forgetting his own family members and risking his reputation and the well-being of his son to get her.

In the case of Anna, she still has one thread of reason tying some of her present actions to the experiences in her past. After having been physically violated by her own brother, Aston, the woman seems to have developed a strange dependency on any figure who would remind her of him. While Aston had passed away from a supposed suicide, it is clear that as an adult, Anna had been searching for men who would resemble her brother, get involved with them romantically, and then ultimately lead to their downfall and even possibly death. It is, therefore, very clear that she finds Jay and then settles into a life with him because of her traumatic past. But what remains a mystery is why Jay agreed to be with Anna and even wanted to marry her. It is not like the two characters can be seen on-screen sharing much chemistry, and whatever little “Obsession” chooses to show of their bond is rather cosmetic. It is all quite informational, only establishing that the two are a loving couple. The fact that Jay is confused about Anna’s character and how little she shares with him is also quite strange since he decides to marry the woman and spend his life with her. In some sense, it can be perceived that Anna has the same effect on Jay as she has on his father, but with him, she is more restrained and in control.

The reason why Anna gets involved with William remains unexplained, other than blaming it on some sort of nymphomaniac tendencies that the woman seems to suffer from. Or, it can be that Jay is unable to fulfill her desire to be dominated, for which she seeks out someone else, and William gladly fits into the role. With William, Anna submits herself wholly to the man during intimate acts and then exercises her control over him and their situation at all other times. It is she who decides when they are to have their encounters, but then it is not like Anna is able to stay in control at all times either. Whenever William meets her or creates an opportunity without Anna setting it up, the woman cannot stop herself from getting physically intimate with him. There is an effect of the indomitable desire inside Anna as well, even if it is not arguably as great as on William.

But the ending sets apart the two characters in this aspect, with Anna seemingly choosing to control her desires while William still wants to live on with her. William is, by now, without a son and without the support of his wife and father-in-law as well, but all he keeps thinking about is Anna and the intimacy that he perhaps believes will run the rest of his life. But the woman finally draws the line, although she genuinely seems like a veteran in such situations, making it all the more possible that she had caused the deaths of other men before. Ultimately, “Obsession” tries to present the bond between its two central characters as something that is characterized by total submission and domination of each other, with no regard or concern for their individual lives and families, one that is, most importantly, not in their own control. While this could be an interesting premise to build an entertaining show, where “Obsession” tremendously fails is in its characters. Most characters, specifically Anna and William, do not have much depth or perspective about them, taking away any possible seriousness or spark from the work.

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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