Spoilers abound, so beware.
23 episodes, ABC (September 2011 - May 2012)
Desperate Housewives was always an unusual series for me, in that it was that rare show that I'd watched from its very first airing until its series finale in real time, only I never particularly loved it past that notoriously attention-grabbing first season. At the same time, it was never exactly a show that fell off, as much as people insisted it did. It had one season that was especially strong, but then quickly dovetailed into a self-consciously zany 'dramedy' that occasionally traveled into darker places. It rarely got explicitly terrible, so it was fitting that its final season was something that left me mainly cold, but was generally distracting while it lasted.
What initially grabbed audiences all those years ago was the show's mystery format, with a dark underbelly of suburban secret-keeping lurking beneath the surface and disquieting the titular housewives enough to try and discover the truth. But it was that same format that wound up becoming something of a handicap in the show's later years, and while season eight opened with what seemed to be an intriguing central mystery that neatly folded together in a book-end with the first season... it rapidly became clear that it was just as ill-plotted and underwhelming as the mysteries of the past few years.
I loved the gradual building of the tension, from the women burying Alejandro's body, to the blackmail letter, to Chuck's murder, but the story came unhinged around the season's mid-point, in which Susan painted a ludicrous piece of artwork that depicted the four women dumping the corpse. Then we found out who was responsible for Bree's blackmail, but that was more of a red herring -- the story quickly depersonalized that element of the arc, and the final stretch featuring Bree's trial seemed more like a distracting after-thought rather than something complex and ball-busting that would bring the Housewives saga to an end. Like certain other shows this season, an intriguing opening led to a sagging middle and eventually a petered-out climax.
Of the housewives themselves, Bree's descent into promiscuous bottom-feeding was the only story that seemed to operate on a deeper level, in particular her brief flirtation with suicide and that powerful vision she had of Mary-Alice. Gabrielle remained mostly stuck in standalone sitcom stuff, but Eva Longoria remains such a charming performer with impeccable comic timing that she made most of it work. Vanessa Williams, a ridiculously gorgeous and multi-talented actress, got saddled with such lousy material last season that I appreciated that she was given more to do this year, even if most of her story with Ben seemed to be building to something a lot more interesting than it eventually did.
I had real problems with Lynette's arc this season, but my complaints are the same ones I've had every year about her. It all comes down to the fact that she's the most controlling, obnoxious and manipulative hag-harpy-wench to ever appear on television -- the very worst type of 'nagging housewife' cliché, only she was never called out on her behavior. Even if she has brief trips to Guiltville, she still actively manipulates those around her and ultimately always gets what she wants in the end. I also disliked that we were meant to see Jane as a villain, especially when the writers actively made her arch and deceitful in order to make Lynette look better. In the end, Tom and Lynette got back together, just like they inevitably would, only with no believable growth or evolution on Lynette's end. But Tom is such a flake that maybe they just deserve each other?
Elsewhere, I was more distracted by the Teri Hatcher rumors than anything Susan actually did this year, but couldn't help but feel that Mike's death was needlessly masochistic. Yes, certain moments in the immediate aftermath were effective (the funeral, the jar-smashing), but eventually his murder became so inconsequential that you wonder if it was more a vengeful by-product of Nicolette Sheridan's accusations in her lawsuit, rather than something organic that made sense for the series. It was almost like they wanted to make Susan suffer as some kind of retribution against Hatcher. Oh, God. I'm sounding like a gossip columnist.
In the end, Desperate Housewives closed with something of a whimper. I'm mostly in a party of one with that, but I found most of the ending pretty trite and generic, particularly the random job offers and annoying flash-forward montage (I never like those things). Then again, I don't know if I was ever particularly in love with the show. I watched every damn episode, but it ended up rarely reaching above 'fine' territory. There were laughs, some decent lines, actresses with real conviction -- but it never really had anything more than that, especially these last couple of seasons. With that in mind, I'm not at all sad that it's no longer around. C
Favorite Episode Nothing really stands out, but I thought Any Moment (8.18) at least had some semblance of balance between Susan's mourning, Andrew's heterosexual engagement, and the admittedly hilarious subplot involving Gabby's adventures as a personal shopper.