Why Women Kill returns with a new cast of characters in a new time period, but the same old house full of infidelity and death for another season of darkly comic excess.
This recap of Why Women Kill season 2, episode 1, “Secret Beyond the Door”, and Why Women Kill season 2, episode 2, “The Woman in the Window”, contains spoilers.
The first season of Why Women Kill on CBS All Access was really rather good, which is worth reminding people of since I haven’t heard anyone talk about it since. Coming courtesy of Marc Cherry of Desperate Housewives fame, it was a very snappily written dark comedy with fantastic characters, costumes, and period details uniting three distinct stories of death and infidelity across three different decades. That ambitious setup, which cast a Pasadena mansion as a kind of lavish interpretation of that house from The Grudge – it was interesting to look at, but you’d never want to live there – has been abandoned for the second season on Paramount+, which is confined to a single post-war timeline focusing primarily on Allison Tolman’s frumpy housewife Alma.
Tolman was last seen doing excellent work on the underappreciated Emergence, and she fits right in here. Why Women Kill season 2, episode 1, “Secret Beyond the Door”, introduces her as a put-upon spouse of modest means endlessly fantasizing about being a member of the exclusive, glamorous Elysian Park Garden Club, of which Rita Castillo (Lana Parrilla, basically “phwoarr!” in human form) is the most prominent member. Rita is also a prominent member of the cast given she’s carrying on an affair with a hot young actor named Scooter (Matthew Daddario) and would very much like to be rid of her elderly husband, Carlo (Daniel Zacapa, 69 but playing a convincing 80).
Connections to the first season are obvious from the off. Rita lives in the opulent house, and Jack Davenport, who played that season’s best male character, Lucy Liu’s gay husband, narrates this outing. Social climbing is an obvious theme here as it was there, the production design and costuming are spot on, the post-war period details are very well-observed, and so on, and so forth, to say nothing of all Cherry’s soapy storytelling hallmarks, which are present and correct. But as if to prove that things aren’t going to follow quite the same narrative tracks, it’s established almost immediately that Alma’s seemingly kindly veterinarian husband, Bertram (Nick Frost), is a Harold Shipman-style serial killer.
This isn’t just revealed in the first two episodes, but by the end of Why Women Kill season 2, episode 2, Alma is well-aware of it, which makes one of the big narrative push-and-pulls whether or not she can keep his activities secret enough not to jeopardize her standing in the garden club. That’s so comically on-brand for this show that I can’t help but giggle at the prospect of it, and it’s complemented well by Rita’s obvious efforts to try and torture and eventually kill her husband without suffering any pushback, legal or otherwise. Those are two fittingly dark storylines that it’ll be fun to follow along with. The only problem so far, at least beyond nitpicks, is what the show plans on doing with an impressive but underused supporting cast that includes B.K. Cannon as Alma’s daughter, Dee, who is also sleeping with Scooter, and Jordane Christie as Vern, a private eye hired by Rita to spy on Scooter rather than her husband. (Rita’s withering, “If he can’t stick to his vows, why should I?” in justification of her affair is the exact kind of writing Cherry excels in.)
Either way, it’ll be interesting to see how Why Women Kill Season 2 chooses to split its time between Alma and Rita, what it makes of the single timeline rather than three competing ones, and how it can top the shenanigans of the first season, which amounted to some wonderful payoffs. Whatever happens, I’m happy to see the show back in business, and it’ll be a laugh recapping each episode.