Colorful, funny and poignant - ’Why Women Kill’ is really about self-discovery

Category: Television

Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry opened a press conference in LA by describing the origin of his new streaming series on CBS All Access. “I had an idea that I’d been carrying around for years about a housewife in the 1960s who finds out her husband’s cheating. And instead of telling him that she knows, she befriends his mistress and that starts her on a journey of self-discovery.” Cherry, however, added two more women in the 1980s and 2010s in the mix. Why Women Kill follows three married women living in the same Pasadena mansion in three separate decades. Their marriages are tested by betrayal and infidelity. Cherry also promised to “bring it all together in the final episode in a really glorious, surprising way that I’m so excited for everyone to see because we find a really fascinating way to connect these three characters.”

Beth Ann (Ginnifer Goodwin), a stereotypical homemaker à la Donna Reed, met Rob (Sam Jaeger) in high school. Rob, an aerospace engineer, reveals right off the bat that ‘there’s nothing sexier than a girl who wants to take care of you.’ Translation? He was looking for a glorified maid and she won a provider/protector. They seem to have it all, but Beth Ann finds out that Rob has been cheating on her with a young waitress. Rather than confronting him, Beth Ann decides to work harder to be a good wife in order to keep it together. She thinks there is something wrong with her, of course. Mind you, this is what the 60s society dictated and expected wives to do. Mistress? No big deal! After all, in any chauvinistic society, having an affair or two was considered ‘a status symbol’ or ‘a side effect of affluence.’

Simone (Lucy Liu) is a brittle socialite and businesswoman. She is a nouveau-riche social climber à la Alexis Carrington and stops at nothing to retain a mirage of well-to-do perfect lifestyle. Simone finds out that her third husband, Karl (Jack Davenport), is gay. Simone wants him to ‘suffer in a one bedroom apartment next to the airport.’ Everything the couple does is melodramatic, but the facade of being rich and perfect and having everything in its right place is critical to them. Her next project? To have an enviable divorce after her daughter’s wedding!! Go figure! Apparently Simone hasn’t learned her lessons yet.

Taylor (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) is a feminist lawyer à la Gloria Allred. It’s all about her career and success. Her husband, Eli (Reid Scott), is a struggling screenwriter and Taylor wears the pants in this open marriage. However, when Taylor invites one of her hookups, Jade (Alexandra Daddario), to stay with them for the weekend, their delicately crafted ‘house of cards’ begins to collapse. Although Jade claims to be bisexual, she fits Eli’s mold of a perfect wife.

While watching the first two episodes, I re-lived my parents’ dysfunctional marriage. I totally related to Beth Ann’s exasperation, frustration, and desperation since I am a product of a couple like Beth Ann and Rob. The conversation between them about ‘Who will I be without you?’ is extremely poignant; I’m sure it never occurred to my mother that there could be a life outside her husband. Unless you are Lady Mary (Downton Abbey), women had no choice but to get married for stability and security. It used to be a socio-economic survival strategy for most women. My mother stayed in her miserable marriage because she would have been penniless and homeless if she were to divorce my father.

For Beth Ann, her marriage is a lifetime employment that is vitally important for her survival. Simone and Taylor, on the other hand, treat their marriages as one of their life accessories they can pick and choose because they are financially independent. Cherry might be comparing apples and oranges here, but the takeaway message is loud and clear to me. Marriage is a lot of work, and death is cheaper than divorce. If you can afford to be on your own, why bother to tie the knot? It goes to show you how the times in which we live shape our beliefs, behavior, and expectations. Oprah’s certainly got the right idea!

Why Women Kill premieres August 15 on CBS All Access and every Thursdays a new episode will be rolled out for the next 9 weeks.

About the Author

Meg Mimura is a TV critic who actually watches shows zealously in search of thought-provoking and paradigm shifting human drama worth our precious time. She is a member of Television Critics Association.