Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Why Women Kill’s enviable female rivalry heats up

If only this show was just about Allison Tolman and Lana Parrilla

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Photo: Nicole Wilder/Paramount+

For a show with such a unified sense of style—nary a misstep when it comes to costumes, decoration, or overall setting—Why Women Kill has a tough time tying together its various storylines. (Yes, I say that under a picture of one of Rita’s many rooms, this one filled with stuffed wild cats, so on the nose that I loved it.) Part of the “problem” is that its two female leads—Allison Tolman (Alma) and Lana Parrilla (Rita)—are so sensational, that any scene involving the two of them is such a treat, it just leaves the viewer wanting more. Last week, Rita and Alma opened up to each other about the surprising wants and insecurities they have in common. But that brief truce was dashed when Rita realized that Alma’s daughter Dee was the same woman Scooter cheated on her with. We saw Rita’s cruelty reach devastating new heights this episode, and while Alma isn’t at her same strength level yet, we can likely look forward to Alma stretching her newfound evil wings over the latter half of the season.

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But the showdown between Alma and Rita is such a high point, all the other storylines can’t help but pale in comparison. Watch Tolman as Alma marches into Rita’s dressing room clutching the upper hand for only the briefest of moments. Parrilla’s Rita, like a true master villain, toys with her like the cat with the proverbial mouse, letting her enjoy her nanosecond of power before snatching it all away. Sure, Alma probably still has the upper hand—revealing Rita’s affair with Scooter would undoubtedly be devastating to her on a number of levels, including financially and socially, no matter who the source is—but the formerly typical housewife is not yet savvy enough to realize this. So when Rita threatens her right back—promising to put her husband’s practice and her daughter in peril—Alma’s resolve crumbles almost immediately. It’s devastating, but far and away the most enjoyable scene of this Why Women Kill episode to witness, thanks to both captivating performers.

Especially since, knowing what we already know about Alma, she won’t stay down for long. Jack Davenport’s narration of Alma remembering that she’s married to a serial killer is downright chilling, and bodes well for the rest of the season as we’re bound to see Rita Castillo finally get her comeuppance, hopefully in painful, drawn-out increments.

Unfortunately, Why Women Kill’s other plot threads just aren’t that compelling. The most grievous offender is Vern and Dee’s love story. Nothing against the actors/characters, who are both really appealing. But this relationship would have meant so much more if the two hadn’t been thrown together almost immediately. It would have been more effective to have Dee become Vern’s girl Friday in the office, or something, and have their actual feelings develop over time. As it stands, because there’s no real foundation to their relationship, it just feels hollow.

Almost as pointless was Bertram’s visit to his old priest, played by Gilmore Girls Chilton headmaster, Dakin Matthews. Yes, Bertram’s backstory with his mother certainly helps to explain why he developed such a disturbing hobby, in almost a heartbreaking manner. But what was the visit to the priest intended to serve? Would Bertram, who otherwise seems like a reasonable man, really expect his former advisor not to freak out over the news that he’s murdered over twenty people? Although it was helpful to have the priest point out that Bertram’s efforts are only fulfilling his psychotic needs, even if his victims are longing for release. Hopefully Alma’s new vengeance scheme can help Bertram fulfill those urges on a somewhat lesser level. 

Scooter and Catherine are almost as much of a snooze as Dee and Vern, although there was a faint glimmer of an actual connection there. Much more intriguing was Carlo’s Scrabble message, indicating another possible threat for Rita.

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Because we’ve seen how vindictive Rita can get in this episode: Her destruction of Alma’s garden—aided by a slow reveal—was almost shocking in its cruelty. Which should make Alma’s forthcoming revenge (and possibly Carlo’s) even sweeter over the second half of the season.

Stray observations

  • Favorite frocks: really have to pick one for both Alma and Rita this week. Oddly, so much attention was paid to Rita having to make her own fuchsia dress at the initial garden party in episode one, when she had this coral sequined stunner presumably already hanging in her closet? It was amazing, which somehow made her humiliation at the luncheon even more acute. But rivaling even that ensemble was Rita’s teal robe with the enormous sleeves: I long to live in a world where this would be actual at-home loungewear, preferable whilst smoking a cigarette out of a holder.
  • And all the ladies at the luncheon looked impeccable as always: Costume designer Janie Bryant is once again just hitting it out of the park here.
  • Speaking of the ladies, I really want to know who Grace is having an affair with. There aren’t really any options out there for her right now, right? Hope we get to see that play out over the remaining five episodes.
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