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27th January 2020

Review: Why Women Kill

Created by Desperate Housewives showrunner Marc Cherry, Why Women Kill is a brilliantly written, genre-bending and stereotype-shattering anthology series, writes Theatre Editor Jay Darcy
Review: Why Women Kill
Photo: Erica Cherup @ Flickr

Why Women Kill is a new anthology series from Marc Cherry, creator of the hit show Desperate Housewives, and the lesser-known Devious Maids. It focuses on a single, opulent house where three women, in different decades (60s, 80s, today) and very different marriages, each take a life.

Devious Maids sounds like your typical ‘Hell hath no fury‘ sexist bullcrap, but Cherry really gets women (as the Desperate Housewives themselves have stated). The main cast rolled their eyes at the prospect of a show about five Latina maids (yawn), but when they read the script, they saw that Cherry was playing with stereotypes and convention. His new show does the same.

Ginnifer Goodwin (Once Upon A Time, Zootopia) stars as Beth Ann Stanton, the quintessential 60s housewife, whose businessman husband happens to be seeing a young, blonde waitress. Very ordinary—until it’s not. Cherry shakes up this classic adultery, making it hard to believe the same woman played Snow White.

Lucy Liu (Charlie’s Angels, Elementary) plays Simone Grove, an Asian-American socialite and gallery owner. Her husband/business partner cheats on her … with a man! Most of the show’s comedy comes from her subsequent affair with a best friend’s teenage son.

They are joined, finally, by Kirby Howell-Baptiste (Killing Eve) as black, bisexual lawyer Taylor Harding. Her and her drug-addicted Jewish husband’s open marriage is going fine, until they both fall in love with the same woman. Worse— this woman is not all that she seems. But then, as Cherry asks in all of his shows, who is? Behind closed doors, even the most pristine of us have a little dirty laundry…

Immediately noticeable is how each relationship is more progressive than the last. The show brilliantly reflects social change, from simple things like decor, to the serious business of sexuality. Even the affairs are radically different.

Whilst, in classic Cherry style, the mystery and intrigue are masterful, the series isn’t so much ‘Who gets popped?’ as an exploration of relationships and what leads these women to commit unspeakable acts. Until the final episode, it appears as though each story will end in a stereotypical (scorned wife kills cheating husband) way, but Cherry defies convention.

The show’s tone is whimsical, with a colourful palette and witty, sardonic writing.  Its aesthetics are quintessential Cherry. The opening credits, for example, are a comic cartoon (recalling the opening to Desperate Housewives) in which we see various women off their male partners.

Each episode concludes by revisiting its opening scenes, which focus on the lovers of the men and the friends of the murderers. Season 2 of The Purge just did something similar: whilst these scenes add little to the main story, they offer incredible insight into the fictional worlds.

One of my favourite parts of the show is how it links the decades. This is often simple: setting scenes in the same room, with transitions focused on a single part, or drawing the whole into a magical past/future transformation. The final episode even treats us to a crossover of sorts. But I’ll say no more.

In each of his shows, Cherry establishes archetypes in order to destroy them. Every character is 3-dimensional, every portrayal is nuanced. Why Women Kill does not end the way it started, which not only makes for good, shocking television, but also turns convention on its head.

Jay Darcy

Jay Darcy

Theatre Editor. Instagram & Twitter: @jaydarcy7. Email: [email protected].

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