Last year, I’d all but written the women of Wisteria Lane off for good. The season’s mystery was as slow-moving as it was predictable, and the subplots were mostly one-episode self-contained silliness with the emotional depth of a puddle. The entire mess built to a cliffhanger — who did Mike marry? — that wasn’t exactly going to have people sitting on the edge of their seats waiting for the show to return.
Well, guess what, kids? The HOUSEWIVES are back, and they are on fire!
Two episodes into the new season, the entire show feels reinvigorated. There’s a new family on the block, as usual, but unlike the Applewhites or Mayfairs, the Bolens are both intriguing and mysterious. There’s the brutish dad, tough-talking mom and thuggish son, all of whom were thrust immediately into the unfolding action. By the end of the first episode, Susan’s daughter, Julie, had been strangled, setting off a “who done it” that at first glimpse seems fairly obvious and yet might well have been designed to deceive.
Better still are the secondary storylines involving our beloved wives: In perhaps the boldest story to be told on the primetime sudser in years, Lynette is pregnant (again) with twins (again), and finds herself realizing that she might not actually want more children. Felicity Huffman has, for my money, always given HOUSEWIVES its soul, and she’s never been better than in the scenes in which Lynette tries reconciling what every woman is “supposed” to want with the unsettling fact that she doesn’t. Meanwhile, the affair Bree started last season with Susan’s ex-husband, Carl, has been given unexpected resonance in the wake of his daughter’s attack. I’m not quite sure what to make of seemingly-unbalanced Katherine, who has gone a bit nutso since being dumped by Mike, but Dana Delaney is giving a stellar performance that makes it almost believable. Even Gabriella — a character who has never really developed in accordance with the blows life has dealt her — seems more mature this season as she deals with Carlos’ teenage niece and the chaos she’s brought into their lives.
So far, it’s looking as if HOUSEWIVES is making an early bid for the title of “Most Improved Show” on our annual Year In Review list. After two lackluster seasons, Wisteria Lane is once again the place to be on Sunday nights!