“There’s nothing more peaceful than a night on Wisteria Lane, until someone comes along, and disturbs the peace,” says Mary Alice Young (Brenda Strong) at the opening of “Suspicion Song,” the eighth program of the eighth season of Desperate Housewives, and it is a bit of an understatement. As anyone who has ever watched the show knows, there has never been any peace on Wisteria Lane, at least not since viewers were first introduced to the suburban paradise back in 2004.
Desperate Housewives began as something of a satire of nighttime soap-operas, and kept that edge throughout its run. There was excitement surrounding the show from the very beginning. The year 2004 was so long ago that Howard Stern was still on terrestrial radio, and he talked about the show often. I must admit that I have always had a fondness for the series as well, and it has probably been my biggest guilty pleasure of the past eight years.
All good things must come to an end though, and Desperate Housewives is no exception. The show bowed out with a highly rated two-hour finale last May. ABC Studios have just released Desperate Housewives: The Complete Eighth and Final Season as a five-DVD set, and the 23 episodes that aired in the 2011-2012 season sent the ladies off in high style.
With a series as outrageous as this, I had hoped that the writers would pull out all the stops for the final season, and they did not disappoint. The previous season ended with a murder, which provides the main conflict for season eight. The murder occurred after a dinner party at Gabrielle Solis’ (Eva Longoria) house. Her child-molesting step-father Alejandro Perez (Tony Plana) was threatening her, and her husband Carlos (Ricardo Antonio Chavira) hit him from behind with a candlestick, which killed him. The three other housewives, Susan Delfino (Teri Hatcher), Lynette Scavo (Felicity Huffman), and Bree Van de Kamp (Marcia Cross) were also present at the time. The four of them then buried the body to protect Carlos.
Keeping this dark secret provides a huge amount of tension for the characters, and affects everyone. Carlos turns to alcohol, Susan tries painting, Bree dates the investigating detective, and Lynette goes through a separation from her husband. This being Desperate Housewives, there are plenty of other subplots going on as well.
In the seventh season, Lynette's best friend from college, Renee Perry (Vanessa Williams), moved to Wisteria Lane, and fit in perfectly. Renee was not at the house when the killing occurred, so the ladies have left her in the dark about it. Her romance with neighbor Ben Faulkner (Charles Mesure) provides another of the major plotlines of the season though. Ben is a developer, and his building site is where Alejandro is buried. Troubles at the location put Ben in a precarious financial situation, and he turns to a loan shark to bail him out. This move leads to some serious ramifications as the season progresses, with Mike Delfino (James Denton) eventually paying the ultimate price.
The big secret casts a long shadow. To deal with her guilt, Susan paints what could be considered a confession, in her art class. The pictures supply some compelling evidence for Detective Chuck Vance (Jonathan Cake), who began investigating the missing person case after being dumped by Bree. To assuage their feelings, both Bree and Carlos develop drinking problems. Bree’s drinking leads to a series of ugly one-night stands, which catch up to her later on. Kyle Maclachlan returns for a few great final appearances as Bree’s ex-husband Orson, who engineers the scenario in which she is arrested for the murder of Alejandro.
Carlos’ drinking gets so bad that he winds up going into rehab. When he returns, he decides to quit his high-powered job and go into charity work. This cramps the spoiled Gabrielle’s style, and she takes a job, which she eventually excels at. In addition to her involvement in the cover-up of the killing, Lynette has to deal with a crumbling marriage. Her husband Tom (Doug Savant) moves out of the house, and seems to have quickly moved on with another woman.
Things really begin to ramp up in the second half of the season, especially with the surprise appearance (and pregnancy) of Susan’s daughter Julie (Andrea Bowen). Besides Bree’s trial and Julie’s pregnancy, the other main storyline of the second half of the season revolves around Karen McCluskey (Kathryn Joosten). She receives news that her cancer has returned, and is very aggressive. Sadly, Kathryn Joosten would succumb to cancer (after an 11-year battle) just 20 days after the Desperate Housewives finale, in which her character expired.
Besides the death of Karen McClusky, the grand, two-hour finale of the series featured a birth and a wedding. The episode manages to tie up all of the loose ends on Wisteria Lane, and offers the viewers a glimpse of what the future holds for the housewives. It feels a little rushed, but I suppose that is inevitable for a program like this, in which there was always something going on.
DVD extras include “I Guess This is Goodbye,” a 16-minute piece in which the actors reflect on their time in Wisteria Lane. There are also 13 deleted scenes, and a three-minute “Blooper” reel.
Although Desperate Housewives enjoyed its highest ratings in the first two seasons, the quality of the show remained high throughout its eight-year run. The cultural impact of the series has been enormous, and one we are still in the midst of. For example, most of the programs on Bravo would not exist without it, beginning with all of The Real Housewives… series.
There is something about these glamorous middle-aged ladies that defined a certain zeitgeist. The series was a winner on many fronts, and it is a little hard to believe it will no longer be around. The girls went out the way they came in, with a bang.