Since its start seven years ago with the suicide of Mary Alice, I’ve been a fan of Desperate Housewives. Though at times the writing has not been stellar, the show has alway managed to entertain (and been fodder for water cooler chatter at work.) Tonight’s season finale was the show at its best, smoothy integrating the characters storylines and their lives and tiddying up the season’s story arc. A quick warning for those who’ve yet to watch: there be spoilers ahead.
Tonight’s two-parter was in effect two separate episodes packaged together, but they wrapped up what’s been a rather uneven season. This season saw the return of two infamous characters: Paul Young and Felicia Tillman. Longtime fans know well how Paul Young killed Felicia’s sister Martha Huber in season one. Much of this season has been about Felicia trying to get revenge against Paul and justice for her sister. In part one of the season finale, this long awaited showdown finally occurred. Felicia got Paul to confess, and he ended up going to jail. Then in an ironic twist, distracted by spilling her daughter’s ashes in her car, Felicia drove into a truck. Overall, I’d say this was a satisfactory end to a years long storyline.
In part two, it was Carlos in the lounge with the candlestick…
I loved the dinner party idea. Each course was served up in a different housewife’s home along with a few revelations. This is the show at its best, when the cast and their storylines intersect. Susan’s return to the neighborhood. Bree’s new love. Lynette’s crumbling marriage. The past haunting Gabrielle.
It was no surprise that someone would end up dead. The episode began with a glimpse of a murder being covered up. The suspense was in seeing how it unfolded. With dessert to be served at her house, Gabrielle went ahead to prepare only to be confronted by her stepfather. We’d learned earlier this season that her stepfather had raped her as a teenager. In timely fashion, Carlos arrived home just in time. He whacked Gabby’s stepfather with the candlestick. Moments later, Bree arrived with Susan and Lynette in tow. With the other guests en route, these five conspired to cover up the murder. At the very end of the episode, the camera pans to a chest in the Solis home in the room where the guests are reveling. Delicious!
The body in the chest is an old plot device, but one I’m a bit fond of. I first encountered it in Agatha Christie’s The Mystery of the Baghdad Chest (included in the 1939 short story collection, The Regatta Mystery and other stories.) In the story, a man is killed and his body found in a chest that was in plain view at a party the night before. This story also exists in an expanded version as The Mystery of the Spanish Chest. Both are Poirot stories, and though both differ from each other, they involve the same plot device.
This same device is used to chilling effect in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1948 movie adaptation of the stage play, Rope. As an intellectual exercise, two young men kill a third and stuff his body in an antique chest moments before hosting a dinner party in their Manhattan apartment. The stage play was produced in 1929.
“The body in the chest” is a clever mystery plot device. It’s often in plain sight, and it’s often designed to give the killer an alibi. Deciding how the body ends up in the chest and whether the body is meant to be found in the chest or removed and planted elsewhere, inspires a writer’s “little grey cells.” With Desperate Housewives set to return for season eight, it will be interesting to see how the show plays out their version.