For many people, this coming May marks the end of an era. “Desperate Housewives,” a show that has been running since 2004, is currently on its eighth and final season. Viewers who have stuck with the show since the beginning are used to story arcs that involve deceit, secrecy, murder, angst, sex and almost comical levels of drama. This current season is no exception. During the finale of the seventh season, Gabrielle Solis’ sexually abusive stepfather, who is supposed to be dead, pays her a visit. Before he can do anything to harm her, her husband Carlos comes in and hits him with a candleholder, accidentally killing him. This turns out to be horrendous timing: the couple is about to host a dinner party for all the residents of Wisteria Lane. The two of them, with help from her best friends Bree Van de Campe, Susan Delfino and Lynette Scavo, hide the body before the guests come, and dispose of it in the woods later that night. Season eight centers around the guilt and issues that inevitably arise.
Viewers who choose to watch “Desperate Housewives” do not do so for its realism. Every cliché soap opera plot has been done at least once on this show. Amnesia? Mike Delfino lost his memory when he was run over by Bree’s husband Orson Hodge. In this storyline, Orson ran Mike over because he was the only person who could make the link between Orson and Monique. Monique was a flight attendant who Orson had secretly had an affair with before his mother killed her. Orson did not want his sadistic, controlling mother to be sentenced to a life in prison. It also turns out that Monique was having an affair with a woman named Carolyn Bigsby, who upon learning the news proceeds to shoot up a grocery store. She holds hostages and ends up killing Nora, the mother of Tom Scavo’s illegitimate child. When the stories are explained, they sound absurd. So why do people watch “Desperate Housewives?”
There is something addicting about the absurd levels of drama that the show puts its characters through. Whenever a new person or family moves onto Wisteria Lane, the viewers know that they are harboring some big secret. It is entirely possible, in fact, even likely, that the new neighbor has some reason to want to kill one of the show’s principle characters. Rationally, “Desperate Housewives” viewers understand how ridiculous this is. It would be highly unlikely for everything that happens in the show to involve the residents of just a single street. However, just knowing that Wisteria Lane is more or less cursed is what gives the show its addictive quality. The new neighbor has a secret and by the end of the season we are going to learn what it is. Maybe she will stay for a while and become friends with everyone before stabbing herself in order to get her ex-boyfriend in trouble and eventually leaving for Paris with her new girlfriend. Perhaps the new characters will move away from the lane, hoping for another fresh start so they can finally put their painful pasts behind them. Of course, there is always the possibility that they will end up in a mental institution.
The writers of “Desperate Housewives” are trying their hardest to make everything come full circle in this final season. They brought back one of the most dramatic aspects of Season One, the threatening notes. The pilot episode of the show commences with the narrator, Mary Alice Young, shooting herself in the head. At the end of the episode, Lynette, Bree, Susan and Gaby discover a note in her things. It says, “I know what you did. It makes me sick. I’m going to tell.” This season, Bree finds a note with those exact words in her mailbox. When her friends find out that she has been keeping this from them, they turn on her. She also has the added stress that her ex-boyfriend, policeman Chuck Vance, is lusting for revenge and has pretty strong suspicions that she and her friends have something to do with the disappearance of Gaby’s stepfather. Bree comes close to taking her own life using the same method that Mary Alice did.
In the theme of wrapping things up, some old characters are returning this season. Susan’s daughter, Julie, comes to visit, and in true “Desperate Housewives” fashion she turns out to be pregnant. In the next episode, Lynette’s twin sons Porter and Preston also return home. Susan and Lynette soon learn that Porter is the father of Julie’s baby. When Julie came home, she was hoping for some support from her mother. Susan was completely willing to do this, until she learned that Julie was planning on giving the baby up for adoption. This gives Susan the perfect opportunity to defend her role as the most frustrating character in the series. She blatantly lies about Julie’s mental condition to a couple that hopes to adopt the baby. She then all but coerces recently evicted Porter into hiring a lawyer so that he can fight to keep the baby.
Arguably, the most frustrating aspect of “Desperate Housewives” is the immaturity and selfishness of the characters. It seems that a requirement of living on Wisteria Lane is being utterly incapable of making rational adult decisions. Susan, of course, displays this when dealing with Julie’s pregnancy. Gaby also continually prioritizes her own happiness over that of her children, husband and friends. It is understandable why the characters are written this way. It allows for life lessons to be learned, dramatic changes of heart to occur and cathartic confrontations to be staged. However, it also causes the viewers to lose significant amounts of sympathy for the characters. If the show really ends the way it started, and the women of Wisteria Lane take their lives, will this be emotionally traumatizing for their viewers of eight years? Or will it be a relief? They have followed these women long enough. The viewers have been frustrated by them many times. Perhaps, then, it is time to move on — to say goodbye to Wisteria Lane and its residents permanently.