Death becomes her. And her. And her, too.
Why Women Kill, premiering Aug. 15 on CBS All Access, adds some sizzle and scandal to the summer TV landscape and reaffirms that the trope of the "woman scorned" doesn't have to be too serious -- even if things do get deadly. The newest dark dramedy from Marc Cherry (Desperate Housewives) centers on three women in different time periods who all move into the same sprawling Pasadena mansion in the hopes of making it a happy home... until their relationships are each poisoned by deceit.
Beth Ann (Once Upon a Time's Ginnifer Goodwin) is a '60s housewife who thinks she's content to make meatloaf and wear the same dowdy dresses every day for the rest or her life, but her world is shattered when she finds out that her husband, Rob (Sam Jaeger), has a mistress at the local diner. Worse, the whole neighborhood seems to know about it before she does.
Meanwhile, Simone (Elementary's Lucy Liu) is a feisty, fabulous '80s socialite who feels that the third time is the charm when it comes to her latest marriage -- until she finds out her husband, Karl (Jack Davenport), has a man on the side. And Taylor (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) is a boss lady lawyer in the present day whose open marriage with Eli (Reid Scott) is going just fine until she brings her lover Jade (Alexandra Daddario) into the home and introduces all-new feelings of lust and jealousy.
After seeing the first two episodes of the CBS All Access series, it's clear there are some surprises in store when it comes to who will be leaving that Pasadena house in a body bag. (Cherry has teased that some of the victims and killers might be unexpected.) Why Women Kill is intentionally not a high-brow affair; its characters are deliberately campy, beholden to the mannerisms of their eras. But, like Cherry's previous women-behaving-badly series, Desperate Housewives, there's a cheekiness to the setup that makes it feel like a bait-and-switch plan is afoot. Even if we could see the ending coming though, it would still be good fun getting to the reveal.
The deeper elements of Why Women Kill balance out the shallow end. It doesn't take long for us to learn that Beth Ann, for instance, is quietly dealing with a previous trauma, and Simone's aura of self-possession and poise clearly masks her insecurity over her previous divorces. Some of the husbands are even worth rooting for at times, as when Karl goes toe to toe with Simone or Eli is hurt by Taylor's deep connection to Jade. None of them are particularly intense character studies after two episodes, but they're complicated enough to keep audiences on their toes.
At the same time, what makes Why Women Kill work is the fact that it knows it's likely to get labeled a "guilty pleasure" and plays into that hand very well. Consider, for instance, when Simone kisses a neighbor's son only to find out he's two days shy of his 18th birthday -- "As much as it would cheer me up to commit a felony, I think you should go," she says -- or when Beth Ann decides to try to spice things up with Rob by taking notes from a sex book and ends up hurtling her husband through the shower glass. These scenes, and many of the scenes around them, are pulpy and downright delightful. Why Women Kill is able to find balance by imbuing its darkest moments with absurdity. What results is a tasty little slice of entertainment.
TV Guide Rating: 3.5/5
Why Women Kill premieres Thursday, Aug. 15 on CBS All Access.
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