Written by John Shea
Sunday, 17 October 2004 20:05
This is more like it.  This episode was right back to everything that hooked me in the pilot.  The dark humor, the surprises and the nice development of characters are the backbone of the show and they were out in force with this episode.

Episode 1.03, "Pretty Little Picture"
Directed by Arlene Sanford
Written by Oliver Goldstick
Guest Starring: Ashley Bukowki, Richard Burgi, Doug Savant, Sam Lloyd, Anne Dudek

First off, let's talk about Mary Alice.  Yes, she's still narrating more than is really necessary.  But at the same time she's being brought into the picture more clearly with flashbacks to when she was alive.  That means she isn't just a disembodied voice but an actual character, which is a lot more satisfying.  So for this week I'll forgive the voice over.  I still think it needs to be phased out eventually but they justified it for now.  The entire episode hinges on a flashback in which Mary Alice decides to throw a dinner party, one that she inconveniently dies prior to holding.  They decide to hold it anyway, with Bree hosting.

What I liked most about this episode is that it gave the husbands some time in the spotlight.  That's not to say that as a man, I want less of the housewives' stories.  It just gives the whole thing a lot more depth and credibility to make the husbands into full on characters instead of background noise.  Lynette's husband Tom for example, has been barely seen so far.  Always away on business, he's been a factor mostly by his absence, leaving Lynette to struggle with their hellion children.  In this episode, he's actually home and laboring under the belief that he works a lot harder than she does.  Much to her credit, Lynette doesn't disembowel him for this, instead leaving him alone for a night with the kids while she goes to the dinner party.  The fact that she loads them up with sugar first only slightly undercuts her otherwise fair lesson to Tom.  He shows very good instincts by recognizing the situation for what it is and trying to introduce a bit more fun and romance back into the marriage.  That makes Tom a bit dull but clearly the wisest of the husbands on this street.

For the first time we get to see Susan's ex-husband Carl in action.  He had a few tiny moments in the pilot but now we get to meet him and find that Susan is more than justified in her anger towards him.  He's a self-centered asshole with a shiny red sports car and a blonde chippy on his arm.  Basically, your stereotypical wandering husband suffering a mid-life crisis.  Susan realizes that he makes her unreasonably angry just by his presence and she tries to let it go so she can move on.  She asks him to come by so they can talk but he shows up early, getting her out of the shower.  Long story short, they argue, he storms out, she goes after him, gets the towel stuck in his car door and loses it when he tears off.  Naturally, the door has locked behind her and she has to try and break in naked.  Luckily Mike wanders by as she falls into a bush and helps her out.  Lucky guy that Mike.

We get to see a bit more of Rex too but mostly as he struggles to avoid the force of nature that is Bree's devotion to appearances.  He sleeps on the pull out sofa instead of with her.  Sleep is a generous statement, as he can't sleep on the uncomfortable thing, plus she gets him up before dawn so that the kids don't see this.  Little does he know that she is deliberately sabotaging the sofa to make it more uncomfortable.  Marriage counseling is still not much of a success as Bree is far too tightly wound to ever let an actual emotion slip out.  Rex inadvertently discovers a cure for this when he lets it slip out at the party that they are in counseling.  This inspires Bree to share a particularly humiliating sexual detail about Rex with their friends.  In response he moves out. 

Gabrielle gets mad at Carlos when he says he might not make the dinner party because of work.  He tells her to relax, which she does by inviting John the gardener over for some rumpy-pumpy.  Unfortunately, while getting started, she notices the face of a young girl watching through the front door.  That face belongs to Ashley, the demon spawn child that has just moved in next door.  Ashley quickly learns the finer points of blackmail, which basically means say nothing and let the victim's guilt push them into doing what you want.  Gabrielle has just found a new best friend whether she likes it or not.  Continuing with the more husbands theme, Carlos gets to have a few moments when he isn't being a cocky businessman.  That gives him a few precious seconds to be a human being and actually be a bit likable.  It's not a lot but it makes him a better character while adding to the precarious nature of Gabrielle's philandering.

No review would be complete without discussing the mystery of Mary Alice's suicide.  As predicted, the toy chest resurfaced and does indeed contain human remains.  Since my prediction about that last week turned out so well, I'll try it again.  Those remains are probably those of another Young child.  How exactly it died, I'm not ready to speculate on.  But I will bet that Mrs. Hooper figured it out and sent Mary Alice the note that caused her to pull the trigger.  As for her family, Zach and his father Paul are not exactly getting along.  Zach wants to talk about what happened and Paul is trying hard to pretend he never had a wife.  There's a disturbing undercurrent to this relationship that I can't quite put a finger on.  It could be that Zach is on some sort of medication or it could be the big mystery.  Either way, I'm not sure we've seen the last ugly incident in this family.

This was an excellent episode.  Last week almost seemed like taking a breath before plunging further into the story.  Nothing really happened in terms of character or action and that was disappointing.  This week the show returned to building characters through smart writing.  I particularly liked the development of Bree this week.  She got a chance to show more facets to her personality that made her fairly fascinating.  For instance, when she invites Zach to the party, she shows real concern for him.  Later at the party she is remarkably vicious and then later at the therapist seems very vulnerable.  Her overall appearance is still very icy but the writers give her moments to show more and Marcia Cross does a great job with them.  She walks a very thin line between making Bree a caricature and a real person and so far, walks it well.

Episode Rating: 9 out of 10

 - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it has a red sports car.  Unfortunately it is neither shiny nor actually running.  He’s willing to listen to offers if anyone is interested.

 

 

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