Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Threats and Cover-Ups, Now THAT's Friendship!...

Television friendships often start out strong but through time get lost in the shuffle of the ever-growing intricacies of new characters, new plots, and new twists. The women of Wisteria Lane introduced themselves to us as friends first-- a fearsome foursome who had survived tragedy (then their fifth wheel Mary Alice's suicide) amidst their Stepford-perfect suburban life. The loss of one seemed to bring the others closer, sharing their grief as they would a basket of muffins or some cold refreshments around the poker table. As the years (and seasons) went on, though, moments shared by all of the ladies were few and farther between, giving way for relationship drama of a different sort. Men were paraded in and out (and sometimes back in again) of their lives; they got wrapped up in their children, their jobs, their pasts coming back to haunt them, and even the occasional illness or natural disaster. With the fourth season so abbreviated by the WGA strike-- and the post-strike numbers for shows across the board being so low-- Marc Cherry and his team of writer minions really stepped it up... ironically by taking a giant step back and rediscovering the show's roots.

There were glimpses of the friends' strength in numbers, namely when Lynette was diagnosed with cancer, but even then they seemed to pair off in smaller duos than really come together as a group. The last few episodes of Desperate Housewives finally started to once again rely very heavily on the women putting aside their pride (and at times their differences) and rallying around each other for help and support. After all, it is their friendship to which the audience can most relate (after all, I don't know how many viewers have also dealt with murders living next door or affairs with teenage handymen, but my guess would be not many!), and therefore, it is said friendship that binds the show. It all seemed to resume two episodes ago ("Mother Said") when Edie (Nicollette Sheridan) found out the truth behind Bree and Orson's newborn son and blackmailed her with it. Cherry could (and probably would but for the need to get to a certain point faster) have drawn that storyline out; Bree has always been so desperate (pardon the pun) to seem perfect at all times and all costs that it would have made sense for her to give into Edie's threats just to keep her secret. Instead, though, her character, and the show in general, showed tremendous growth by arriving on her friends' doorsteps to ask for help. And of course their strong bond rallied around her without even a second thought: they marched down the Lane to Edie's house as an impenetrable wall and announced they were done with her: they would be freezing her out completely. Not one of the other three women even breathed mention of Bree's original deceit in keeping the secret from them this whole time; not one brought up the fact that it is only because she needs something does she come clean. Instead, they just immediately pulled up their metaphorical bootstraps and joined their good friend and neighbor in battle without even a second thought.

Similarly, in the fourth season ender ("Free"), upon seeing the squad cars arrive at Katherine (Dana Delany)'s house, post-shot-fired, Bree-- perhaps in a "pay it forward" sort of way--gathered all of the girls and concocted a story just generic enough to be plausible. Though up until this point Katherine had kept all of them at an arm's length away-- a point touched on earlier in the episode-- when they saw her in need of help, they banded together with the same strength in numbers approach that took down Edie. Only this time they were in the face of a much bigger monster: an abuser and murderer who hid behind his badge to get away with his crimes. They didn't know the details about what he had done to deserve the fatal shot straight to his heart, and they didn't ask (or really even seem to care); though Katherine may have built a wall up around herself, they were always hoping to be let in, and they seized their chance by coming to her defense and describing enough details to make the cops believe the shot was fired in self-defense. They are nothing if not loyal to their own.They didn't even laugh in her face when Susan said her baby boy's name was Maynard. If that's not true friendship, I don't know what is!

It was equally great to see that in the last few minutes of "Free," when it was suddenly five years in the future, despite the many changes each character as undergone individually (if you didn't see it, abc.go.com has the full episode), they still come together regularly (perhaps even moreso than before) to play poker, gossip, and just generally share their lives. And it's even better to see that they seem to have permanently added a fifth in Katherine. They, and in turn the show, will only be better for it.

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