As cheesy American television goes there is one show that I can unashamedly proclaim to be my ‘guilty pleasure’; I’ve dipped in and out of it over the years but always march eagerly back with a smile on my face, each time the residents of Wysteria Lane feel just as familiar despite the huge character arcs they have all experienced over the 8 years. I’m speaking of course of Desperate Housewives. I begin with episode 2 of the 8th and final season Making the Connection, so for those who missed the season opener I shall recap. Season 7 ended climatically (as to be expected for a show built upon its cliff hangers and revelations) when Carlos Solis killed his wives abusive step father and the central women agree to cover up the crime. Episode one began with them disposing of the body and making a pact with each other to take their secret to the grave, before jumping forward one month showing us how each of the implicated characters is dealing with the burden. After all they are now all accessories to murder and some are finding it easier than others to carry on as normal.
Episode 2 picks up with Bree Van Der Kamp’s mysteriously threatening note and we are reminded that the show has in fact come full circle; the note being almost identical to the one Mary Alice received when she was hiding a murderous secret, which of course led to her suicide that kick started the series. As Bree attempts to unravel who could be responsible for the note and how much they know Susan finds a characteristically absurd way of dealing with her sense of guilt.
Providing the episode with its usual blend of humour Susan goes around town flouting minor laws in the hope of getting caught and being punished but authority seems too eager to go easy on her until she pushes an overtly optimistic police officer one step too far and is finally sent to a cell. Not wanting to trouble ‘the girls’ (as they are often collectively referred to) or arouse further suspicion within her husband Mike, Susan calls in Carlos to bail her out. Thus begins a symbiotic relationship between the two, both struggling with guilt over their part in the crime they confide in each other, taking their neighbourly friendship to a new level.
Meanwhile Renee is trying to impress the new guy on the street; Aussie heart-throb Charles Mesure by tricking him into believing that she shares his passion for caring for the elderly, this little white lie blows up in her face however when he takes her on a ‘date’ to an elderly recreation centre.
Following their decision to split (which deeply saddened this particular reviewer) Lynette and Tom provide the stereotypical struggles of separated parenting; neither wanting to be the ‘bad guy’ they refuse to say no to Parker’s request to go to a party which they both know will end in disaster. It takes their 16 year old son being covered in alcohol induced vomit for them to realise that they have to stop worrying about ‘winning’ and find a way to restore a sense of balance to what was once a picture perfect family life.
Barely an episode goes by without the girls sitting round a table playing poker and indulging in chit-chat and this time the topic of conversation is Gabrielle’s sex-life. Bree is taken aback by her request for advice “Is this actually happening, Gabrielle asking us for sex tips?” to which the response is “I know! Its the apocalypse.” But despite having enough sex appeal to fill the whole show Gabrielle is struggling to get her man in the sack, and who can blame him when he has the weight of murder hanging over him? Desperate to spice up their love life she hires a stripper to give him a lap dance- close but no cigar. Instead of being turned on Carlos is infuriated that his wife cant understand that they will never be normal again.
To me the joy of this programme is the quality and craft behind the writing team, witty dialogue, characters that make you laugh out loud one minute and want to cry the next and a way of making even the most preposterous of story-lines seem valid within this small community of suburban neighbours. The narration of Mary-Alice bookending each episode provides an elliptical quality as the themes and ideas put forward at the beginning are always tied together at the end, its a credit to the writing style that each time you are left with a question, a new clue that has been revealed or a new problem to be solved. I won’t be giving any spoilers away here but suffice it to say that life onWysteria Laneis going to get harder for these 4 friends long before it gets any easier.