Desperate Housewives and Devious Maids turned creator Marc Cherry into the household name for spicy, soapy, female-driven primetime dramas. Cherry is back with a bullet (or maybe a butcher knife) with CBS All Access' Why Women Kill, a sublimely wicked mystery thriller anchored by the fabulous trio of Once Upon a Time vet Ginnifer Goodwin, Lucy Liu (Elementary), and Kirby Howell-Baptiste (Killing Eve). Come for the star-studded cast, but stay for the endless nuances embedded within the three different timelines.
If you've ever wondered what it would be like if Ginnifer Goodwin and Parenthood's Sam Jaeger led a Donna Reed Show reboot stricken with adultery, sexual longing and gossipy neighbors, then Why Women Kill is probably for you.
If you've ever fantasized about Lucy Liu having access to exquisite dialogue equalled by dazzling Dynasty-esque wardrobe, while engaged in a rocky marriage with a sexually more-than-curious Jack Davenport (Smash), then Why Women Kill is probably for you.
If you've ever wanted to explore the complex logistics of a polyamorous marriage between a bisexual woman (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) and a straight man (Veep's Reid Scott), complete with said woman's alluring-as-hell girlfriend (Baywatch's Alexandra Daddario), then Why Women Kill is probably for you.
Told across three different eras, Why Women Kill is centered within the same luxurious and sprawling abode that each decade's coupling – or tripling or whatever – lives in for a spell before someone's big death shakes up the community. Make no expectations about who will die or who or what will be the one doing the killing, and don't expect for the storylines' initial plot points to stay the same throughout the season. But do expect a ton of F-bombs delivered in signature ways.
1960s Ginnifer Goodwin Realizes Her Marriage Is A Charade
In the 1960s, the central house is owned by the overly doting housewife Beth Ann (Goodwin) and the stereotypical husband Rob (Sam Jaeger), who expects hot food on the table and complete naivety when it comes to his philandering. For years, Beth Ann was perfectly willing to settle into that cookie-cutter mold, but neighbors Sheila (Blood & Treasure's Alicia Coppola) and Leo (Nurse Jackie's Adam Ferrara) spark a progressive drive within her to fight for what she wants.
What she wants, though, is anyone's guess. Especially considering Beth Ann's questionable actions towards diner waitress April, portrayed by Mom's Sadie Calvano. As seen in the trailers and other promotional material, April and Rob are... Well, they're in a way that doesn't do Beth Ann's self-worth or sexual satisfaction any good, that's for sure.
Watching Beth Ann's seemingly pristine world get soured is enormously engaging, especially with Ginnifer Goodwin as this glorious ball of pent-up and tightly wound emotions that all appear ready to snap in 17 different directions. I pity the fool(s) who gets in the way of her swinging pearls.
1980s Lucy Liu Is The Center Of Attention, Though Mostly Her Own
If Why Women Kill would have kicked off its anthology format by focusing this first season solely on the relationship between Lucy Liu's upper-crust prize Simone and Jack Davenport's delightfully drippy Karl, it would have still gotten super-high marks from yours truly.
Simone feels like a role that Lucy Liu has been playing for years, so lived-in is the effortlessly chic character. When she walks into a room – which should always occur from atop an ornately decorated staircase – she becomes the reason why the room existed in the first place. Even if some around her aren't so overwhelmingly taken by Simone's blind privilege and ego, viewers no doubt will be.
Who can deny the power of Lucy Liu slam-dunking a line like this:
You know me. I'm never late...for a party.
Fuck you! I want to see you suffer in a one-bedroom apartment next to the airport!! And you will NOT deny me that pleasure!!!
You can literally hear the exclamation marks coming out of Simone's mouth as her rage at Karl gets transformed into transmittable language. Their relationship, which also incorporates an extremely younger man named Tommy (Santa Clarita Diet's Leo Howard), is the most tumultuous of the early Why Women Kill episodes that were given to critics, adding to its watchability in spades.
2018's Kirby Howell-Baptiste Tests The Boundaries Of Marital Freedom
The core feelings from each timeline are completely universal for present-day audiences, but there's no denying the relationship between Kirby Howell-Baptiste's Taylor and Reid Scott's Eli is the most modern-day angle on marriages gone awry. A lawyer, Taylor is the breadwinner of the pair, with Eli as a between-jobs writer. Taylor is also the more assertive of the two when seeking passion outside the marriage.
Enter Alexanda Daddario's Jade, a down-on-her-luck soul that takes up temporary shelter within Taylor and Eli's gigantic house. Secrets are revealed, secrets are created, and I'm sure there's a third and fourth thing done with secrets, too.
Taylor and Eli come across as the happiest couple when Why Women Kill kicks off, from an emotional perspective, from a sexual well-being perspective, from a communication perspective, etc. Not that they necessarily are the healthiest pairing within Why Women Kill, but they appear that way, which definitely counts for something in Marc Cherry's universe. (Probably that their fall will be that much harder.)
Why Women Kill Is A Treat For All The Appropriate Senses
While there is certainly the slim chance that Why Women Kill will go off the rails in a negative way as Season 1 continues, Marc Cherry and this impeccable cast set things up so magnificently that it's hard to deduce where the downfall could even begin.
The three timelines are extremely distinct, to the point where viewers may find themselves forgetting that the three couples are living within in the same walls. Such timeline immersion has a lot to do with those responsible for the expertly dressed sets and actors. Ginnifer Goodwin's outfits look like they were just ordered from a catalog via a rotary-dial phone, and Simone's showy decorating had me, as a viewer, paranoid that I would break something I couldn't afford.
Why Women Kill is also instantly rewatchable due to the darkly comedic writing, which retains genuine emotion even as it puts its characters through howl-worthy situations that would floor normal people. Even the 2018 sections, which can't get as folksy or flamboyant as the others, stands apart from other modern shows with the same overt sexiness and genre-bending mentality.
I can't very well say that Why Women Kill will attract every TV viewer who comes across it, but it's absolutely the next logical step in Marc Cherry's creative journey. With such enjoyably brilliant performances from Lucy Liu and the rest of the cast, the juicy storytelling becomes that much more engrossing, and the ten-episode season will certainly under-stay its welcome, if anything. Count me on the Season 2 bandwagon already, whatever it looks like.
Why Women Kill will premiere on CBS All Access on Thursday, August 15. New episodes will be available every Thursday following until all 10 episodes have aired.