From the moment CBS All Access’ Why Women Kill starts, viewers know they’re in for a world of killer fun. Okay that’s my last pun. Marc Cherry’s energy is immediately clear in the comic styled theme song and the bookend confessionals. For anyone who enjoyed Desperate Housewives and Devious Maids, this is the next best thing. Especially since there’s no holding back in the language.
The ten episode, close-ended series (with hopes for an anthology) opens with our husbands Rob (Sam Jaeger) in 1963, Karl (Jack Davenport) in 1984, and Eli (Reid Scott) in 2019. Rob and housewife Beth Ann (Ginnifer Goodwin) have just moved into the mansion. Socialite Simone (Lucy Liu) and her third husband Karl are throwing a party. Polyamorous bisexual lawyer Taylor (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) and writer Eli welcome Taylor’s current other partner Jade (Alexandra Daddario) into the mansion under construction.
Why Women Kill artfully goes back and forth between the three decades. First transitioning between the floors and landscaping to then naturally shifting from one decade to the next.
Pretty quickly we’re provided motives for murder. Rob and Karl are both cheating on their wives. Rob’s also a real 60s man. Eli and Taylor in 2019 are more complicated. They have an open marriage after all, so the tension comes from Eli starting to fall for Jade, who was first Taylor’s other partner. In fact, Eli was more annoyed about Taylor breaking the rules for Jade that they’d set up for their marriage, and ultimately wants to bring her into their relationship.
Not that cheating isn’t motive enough for murder, but the 45 minute episode has so much more! Beth Ann tells her neighbor Sheila that they once had a daughter (dead?) and Rob would never cheat! At least finding out he’s cheating makes her realize she needs more in her life than being his wife. Her musings about him dying and leaving her are one of the funniest scenes yet.
Elsewhere, after Simone tells Karl he’s to pack because they’re getting a divorce, he downs a whole pill bottle. She tells him she wants to see him suffer. Specifically, “in a one bedroom apartment next to the airport” and calls an ambulance.
On the flipside, Jade thanks Taylor and Eli by cleaning their entire house and serving them breakfast on their good china (that they had no idea existed). Taylor seems more unnerved by Eli’s interest in Jade than anything else but is happy when he agrees to let Jade stay longer while she finds a new apartment. At first glance this story seems the least likely to explode but that would be the trick. We’ll see if Taylor murders Eli or Jade or neither but the show sure is setting it up for both!
By the end of the episode Tommy Harte, Simone’s friend who is two days away from turning 18, kisses her. Beth Ann meets April, the waitress Rob is cheating with and becomes her friend. Taylor and Eli welcome Jade into their relationship.The ending confessional sessions from the wives points out that we should focus on the women’s stories because then we’ll understand their choices.
Those choices are highlighted in the promo reel after the episode and the audience is in for a treat. Beth Ann decides to guide April in life and try to seduce her husband, Simone continues her affair with Tommy while continuing to live with Karl, and our polya couple become a throuple. There sure are a lot of choices for the audience to analyze.
Of the many, many, many series I’ve watched, Why Women Kill‘s pilot is one of my absolute favorites. Just enough exposition and detailing to hook the viewer, but not so much they won’t come back for more. Every single person in the cast delivers, from the eight main leads to the supporting cast. Alicia Coppola’s Sheila and Kevin Daniel’s Lamar are especially lovely. Plus, I really enjoy Marc Cherry’s brand of chaotic dramedy and look forward to the reveals and murders to come.
Particularly intriguing is the writers’ approaches to the three women. Beth Ann wants to do more with her life but making friends with the waitress Rob is cheating with is rife for problems. As a 60s housewife, Beth Ann has a lot of pent up rage that could lead to her killing Rob or April. Though April is young, which makes Rob cheating with her even worse.
Simone spends most of the episode understandably angry. The one real moment of introspection (and tears) we get is her telling Tommy that her first husband liked alcohol more than her, while her second husband liked cocaine more. Now Karl likes “boys” which makes Simone’s affair with Tommy all the more darkly hilarious. Making Karl gay (or bisexual) really allows for some complicated emotions to come through for Simone. Karl, too, seems to love Simone but also has one (or more) dalliances. Will Simone and Karl find their way to one another? Or is she going to murder him? (Or is Tommy’s mom going to find out?)
Similarly, making Eli and Taylor a lens into polyamorous relationships provides plenty of room for social commentary. What exactly do the writers consider infidelity in a relationship between three people? Does that lead to Taylor or Jade going after one another?
The real question is, do they get away with it?
I know I’ll be watching the rest of the show to find out!
Why Women Kill is streaming now with new episodes premiering on Thursdays.
Image courtesy of CBS All Access