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Desperate Housewives - Season 2

By Aaron WallaceThe second season of "Desperate Housewives" had a tough act to follow. The first year had swept the nation and fascinated millions, a bona fide phenomenon. It quickly became one of television's most popular series and is credited in part with the salvation of its previously fledgling network, ABC. Through a darkly comedic and mildly satiric lens, it told the story of suburbia's flagship neighborhood, Wisteria Lane, in which danger, deception, and death are nearly as abundant and disturbing as the well-manicured lawns and faux smiles that disguise them. The unexpected suicide of one presumably happy housewife revealed a dark secret lurking within Wisteria Lane and the entire first season was devoted to unraveling that mystery. The finale finally brought everything into the light, leaving little intrigue to spill over into a second year... or so it seemed.At the end of the first season, Wisteria Lane welcomed a new resident, the shady Betty Applewhite (Alfre Woodard) and her son. In the Season Two premiere, it becomes apparent that these newcomers have an enormous secret to hide, one involving the murder of a young woman and a mysterious prisoner in their basement. The Applewhites are clearly designed to fill the void of Season One's "Oh, Mary Alice, what did you do?". Theirs is not the only source of intrigue in the second year, however. Bree Van De Kamp (Marcia Cross) comfortably moves into position as the show's lead with the devastation of her husband's death (which she soon learns was murder), a treacherous pair of children, and a psychotic suitor to propel her. As she is continually betrayed by those she loves, her torment becomes nearly unbearable for the compassionate viewer, which, in the realm of TV drama, equates to irresistible suspense. Susan Mayer (Teri Hatcher) loses emphasis as there's no longer a Young family secret to investigate, a blackmailing neighbor to elude, or a thriving romance with neighborhood plumber/good-natured undercover assassin Mike Delfino (James Denton), who also sees a little less screentime. Both characters spend most of the second season as part of a four-way love... rectangle?... that also includes the resident slut with spunk, Edie Britt (Nicollette Sheridan), who officially joins the cast as a regular and Susan's ex-husband, Karl (Richard Burgi), who also comes around a lot more often. Having spent the entire first season in a state of perpetual motherly anxiety, Lynette Scavo (Felicity Huffman) does a one-eighty in Season Two, returning to the high-powered executive career path she had left several years before. That does little to alleviate marital tensions with husband Tom (Doug Savant), whose desire to return to work only complicates their children's dislike for an employed mother and the competitive edge that often gets the best of both of them. Finally, feisty ex-super model Gabrielle Solis (Eva Longoria) begins to cope with the prospect of being a mother and the lifestyle change that pregnancy demands of her. She finally calls it quits with her teenaged lover, John Rowland (Jesse Metcalfe), but with a husband in prison and a baby on the way, her marriage remains threatened by more than the now-exposed affair. A whole summer, commercial breaks, and one-a-week installments can go a long way to dilute suspense and as a result, "Desperate Housewives"' return to TV in the fall of 2005 was received with less enthusiasm than its first time out had been. To be sure, there are problems in Season Two. For starters, the Mary Alice Young mystery had been entirely organic, emanating from inside Wisteria Lane. Its successor, the case of Betty Applewhite, arrives from somewhere else and thus feels disconnected until things begin to meld about halfway through. The fact that the riddle that had established the series had been seemingly solved so quickly was disappointing to many as well. Additionally, the seven central housewives spend most of their screentime in their own isolated storylines and characterization is less than consistent from episode to episode, with their personalities and motivations sometimes bent to suit the plot's need. Despite all that, though, the second season largely succeeds. Most of the missteps outlined above are corrected before the season's end and there's so much else going right that the ups outweigh the downs. Perhaps most importantly, the mystery of the Young family has not been forgotten, though the first season's resolution and the early part of the second suggest that it has. Mary Alice Young (Brenda Strong) isn't around as often but she's still providing clever and insightful narration from beyond the grave each and every time. Her family and their network of enemies -- Paul (Mark Moses), Zach (Cody Kasch), Felicia Tilman (Harriet Sansom Harris), Noah Taylor (Bob Gunton), and Susan's daughter Julie (Andrea Bowen) -- all arrive in due course and bring plenty of juicy drama with them. The characters grow immensely in the second season and their journeys are most compelling. "Desperate Housewives" benefits from one of the strongest ensemble casts on television. With a host of Emmys, SAG awards, Golden Globes, and even Oscar nominations among them, their talent shouldn't come as a surprise but it's difficult to sit through nearly fifty episodes in rapid succession, as I did, and not be impressed with their performances. That's true not only for the stunningly beautiful main cast, but also the supporting roles that are nearly as important to the story. The addition of Alfre Woodard, who commands a screen like few others, further enhances the roster. The show is neither entirely a drama nor a comedy -- it's most reliant on the conventions of the former but incorporates many elements from the latter -- and the cast capably performs on both ends of the spectrum. Of course, even a stellar cast can't save a poor script, but when good writing is given to great actors, the results can be spectacular. Save the few foibles of the second season that have already been addressed, that's the case thus far with "Desperate Housewives." At this point, it may be safe to say that creator Marc Cherry, who also does the bulk of the writing, is a creative genius. Few have so masterfully grasped the television drama and though his show is one that revels in flair and sensation, it centers around characters who are believable, accessible, fully realized, and rooted in reality. Two seasons of one show already put him at least in the company of contemporaries Aaron Spelling and David E. Kelley. Of course, his tele-visual roots are in comedy and those sensibilities are put to excellent use as well. Each episode manages to bundle emotion, humor, and suspense into one theme that unites the various stories told within, a feat attempted by many but rarely met with success. That it consistently ends with gasp-eliciting cliffhangers that lead to jaw-dropping revelations the next week is all the more gratifying. The show's most attractive quality, however, is not its story or its performances, but its tone. As already explained, the one-hour series blends comedy and drama, producing its own brand of dark irony. It must be noted that the series is not the tawdry sleaze-fest that its title suggests nor is it a condemnation of conservative suburban life. In fact, it's far more reverent to that lifestyle than almost anything else on TV. In poking at the silliness and hypocrisies of the painted-perfect life, the show also celebrates the upper middle class suburbia in which Cherry himself was raised. As he reflects on his own experiences in both appreciation and amusement, he invites his audience to do the same -- regardless of their background -- in the lives of his characters. By coloring in both the good and the bad in each role and parodying everyday social interactions, the noblest acts are made suspect and the most sinister deeds can unfold in jest. Fresh, funny, resonant, involving, and utterly contemporary, the show's magnetism is inescapable and its appeal undeniable. Just in time for viewers to squeeze in twenty-four episodes before the third season's ABC premiere, Buena Vista has released the The Complete Second Season to DVD under the inane moniker of "The Extra Juicy Edition". Don't let such silly marketing fool you; there's only one release of the second season on DVD and its contents are covered in detail below. A star () denotes my ten favorite episodes from the season. DISC 1 1. Next (43:12) (Originally aired September 25, 2005)The season picks off at exactly the moment in which the first season ended, with Mike entering his home, where Zach awaits him with Susan as a prisoner and a gun in his hand. The next day, Rex's mother arrives for her son's funeral, much to the dismay of Bree, who is still trying to come to terms with her loss. Lynette starts work but isn't there long before the demands of both motherhood and a career begin to conflict (complicated by a most unpleasant boss, Nina, who is portrayed by the delightful Joely Fisher). Gabrielle begins to get in touch with her conscience and pays Carlos a visit in jail. Meanwhile, the stage is set for a season-long Applewhite family mystery.2. You Could Drive A Person Crazy (42:53) (Originally aired October 2, 2005)The news that Rex received on his deathbed begins to show implications for Bree's life after his death while tensions between she and her mother-in-law continue to mount. Susan learns of a distressing development in ex-husband Karl's love life and stumbles onto the Applewhite mystery herself when she hears strange sounds coming from their basement. On the domestic end, Lynette seeks unconventional aid in an attempt to improve Tom's skills as a stay-at-home dad.3. You'll Never Get Away From Me (43:07) (Originally aired October 9, 2005)Each of the housewives are blind-sided by unexpected developments: Bree is accused of her husband's murder, Susan learns of Edie's planned performance with her daughter, John walks back into Gabrielle's life, and Lynette realizes just how much of a sacrifice her return to work is when she can't be on hand for Parker's first day of school. 4. My Heart Belongs To Daddy (43:05) (Originally aired October 16, 2005)Andrew feels threatened by George's relationship with his mother and devises a plan to extricate him from their lives, Gabrielle earns the defense of an angry prison mob when disrespected by an attorney, Lynette feels guilty when Parker creates a Mary Poppins-like imaginary friend, and Susan is confronted with a difficult decision that tears her between her love for Mike, her duty as a mother, and the well-being of a very confused Zach. 5. They Asked Me Why I Believed In You (42:58) (Originally aired October 23, 2005)When Bree learns that Rex doubted her as he died, she proceeds to the graveyard for a furious reburial. Meanwhile, Lynette feels awkward as Nina's hearty-party wing-man, Betty finally makes a major revelation about the man living in her basement, Susan learns her trusted friend and agent (Wallace Shawn) wasn't so trustworthy after all, and Gabriella finds that her husband's defense attorney is more interested in her than Carlos. DISC 26. I Wish I Could Forget You (43:07) (Originally aired November 6, 2005)Much to Tom's dismay, Lynette purchases an extremely expensive business suit to keep up with her coworkers, Bree begins to break into hives when intimate with George, and Paul Young finally resurfaces on Wisteria Lane, dropping a bombshell on Mike and Susan. 7. Color and Light (41:59) (Originally aired November 13, 2005)Some new friends accidentally bring a homemade adult video into the Scavo house, Caleb escapes from the Applewhite home and has a most unfortunate run-in with Gabrielle, Susan and Karl fan an old flame, and George attempts to move his and Bree's relationship to an uncomfortable level. 8. The Sun Won't Set (43:06) (Originally aired November 20, 2005)Bree slowly begins to learn George's true colors while Susan makes a truth discovery of her own: the real identity of her father. Meanwhile, Gabrielle copes with her family's tragedy. 9. That's Good, That's Bad (43:07) (Originally aired November 27, 2005)Lynette plays office politics, Susan attempts to contact her real father, Carlos is released and grows closer to God (not to mention a not-so-nice nun) and concerns Gabrielle, and Bree learns the devastating truth behind Rex's death at last.10. Coming Home (43:12) (Originally aired December 4, 2005)Gabrielle declares war on the sinister Sister Mary (Melinda Page Hamilton), Lynette finally finds a solution to her mother-worker conflict, a suspicious snoop catches on to Betty Applewhite's sneaky plans, and Susan unintentionally upsets her stepmother. DISC 3 11. One More Kiss (42:58) (Originally aired January 8, 2006)A strange death in the Applewhite house leads to the uncovering of even more secrets, Lynette is bothered when Gabrielle festively kisses Tom at a party, Bree hires a lawyer -- Karl -- to help combat Andrew's threats, and word of Gabrielle's affair with John gets out. 12. We're Gonna Be All Right (43:15) (Originally aired January 15, 2006)A bout of chicken pox in the Scavo home worries the never-infected Tom, ghosts from Gabrielle's past turn up to haunt her, Susan meets a new beau in the doctor's office (he's the doctor!), Noah turns back up in Mike's life, and Bree finds herself in handcuffs. 13. There's Something About A War (43:06) (Originally aired January 22, 2006)The Scavo marriage faces perhaps its biggest challenge yet when Tom applies for a new job in Lynette's office. Meanwhile, Susan's hesitation over his medical services sends Dr. Ron over the edge. Lines are drawn when Bree and Betty, and Gabrielle and Sister Mary both square off once and for all. 14. Silly People (43:07) (Originally aired February 12, 2006)In need of some immediate medical insurance, Susan seeks out a partner for a faux marriage. Gabrielle and Carlos meet a recently-freed Chinese slave, Xiao Mei (Gwendoline Yeo), and invite her to be a live-in employee. In the office, Lynette can't bear to see Tom degraded by their boss. 15. Thank You So Much (43:12) (Originally aired February 19, 2006)As she sinks further into alcoholism, Bree accidentally falls asleep while babysitting the Scavo children, who decide to liberate themselves from supervision. Meanwhile, Edie mistakenly becomes convinced that Karl is planning to propose to her at dinner. Continue to Page 2 >>

Desperate Housewives - Season 2


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