At the start of Why Women Kill season two, Alma Philcott was a regular, ordinary housewife, fortunate in the fact that she had an adoring husband, a devoted daughter, and a picturesque garden to bring her happiness. For many people, that would be enough—but how many people are really content with what they have? “The grass is always greener” adage has a tragic result in this case, but there’s an (unsubtle) message in this TV season of the dangers of striving for too much, for always wanting more, for not taking the time to enjoy the current moment. Scooter mentions “small dreams” to Dee this episode, and that phrase sounds sad, but is it really?
After all, by the end, Alma has completely unravelled not only her own life, but the lives of everyone around her, including her loving husband, and her arch-enemy. It’s like a Shakespearean tragedy over here. Yes, as Dee points out, acceptance into a garden club does not seem like a likely motive for murder. But Alma’s transformation, ultimately, was a result of being ignored for so many years. She was aided, I still believe, by the reveal of her husband as a serial killer, which opened the door into a world of macabre crime that the original Alma never would have considered as an option. With only her dreams to give her solace, Alma took extraordinary (and extraordinarily evil) steps to make them a reality. At the end, she is unrepentant: “I don’t regret what I’ve become. I regret what I was.”
But Bertram’s crimes were well-planned, and meticulously thought out—Alma gets caught because she is too reactive. Trying to frame Scooter for Vern’s murder was never going to work out because no one would believe that Scooter was in any way as murderous as she was. What’s worse, Bertram, as the more moral partner in their marriage (despite his body count), recognized that killing Vern would make their daughter extremely unhappy, and was able to place his family’s survival over his own. Alma is so cutthroat by the end that she barely considers Dee’s possible devastation over the loss of Vern (although this exchange was pretty funny: “Kill him? He’s family!” “Only an in-law”). Alma has her eyes on her ultimate prize, and can not be swayed.
Not even a formidable foe like Rita stands a chance against her. The showdown between the two dynamic leads was as delicious as I’d hoped last week, even if I can’t help but wish that Rita was able to escape with Scooter to New York instead of being dying in a blood-soaked alley. She was just such a great character (and performance!) who had finally recognized that her own life had taken a completely wrong turn. But, we can’t say that Rita wasn’t warned, as Alma plainly states, “Women like you always underestimate women like me.” When Rita then announces her plan to blow Alma’s cover wide open, and turns her back on her to march right into the Chez Magnifique (ha) and tell the world what Alma really is, she gets stabbed in the back. Rita underestimated Alma to the end, to her ultimately fatal detriment. And murderess Alma, the subject of now so many scandalous headlines, finally gets all the attention she had longed for for so long. It may be a sad ending (and we were warned as well, thanks to Jack Davenport’s narration from the very beginning), but a very nicely tied-up one.
Finale grade: B-
Season grade: B. I did miss the intertwining storylines of Why Women Kill’s clever first season, but Allison Tolman and Lana Parrilla were so great that I could not help but get sucked into their reversal-of-fortunes plot. And the show was unfailingly gorgeous to look at, with the spot-on period detail, and Janie Bryant’s always-genius costuming.
- Bit of a cheat, wasn’t it, to have it look like both Alma and Rita’s partners died last episode by way of Catherine’s bullets, only to have them both miraculously survive and waltz out of the hospital the very next day?
- This was another great line, as Bertram tries to talk Alma out of shooting Vern herself: “Think of what all that shooting and escaping will do to your hair.”
- Favorite frocks: Have to give it up for the complete role reversal indicative in the final wardrobe of our two leads. Rita is in a putty-colored suit (kind of snappy with its multitude of buttons, but still) while Alma has claimed Rita’s former signature color, red, in a one-shouldered evening gown, glamorous waves, and that white fur stole that turns out to expose her in the end.
- I was unreasonably happy to see Mrs. Yost’s dog on the bed in Dee and Vern’s apartment in the show’s final moments.
- Some nagging loose ends at the end of this season: I really thought Alma’s former school flame was going to show up again, and Catherine just up and disappears? I know Rita mentioned her, but it seems odd that we wouldn’t have just a final shot of her and her creepy chauffeur off somewhere.
- I didn’t know that the name of the club was the Chez Magnifique, hilarious.
- I also did not realize that Matthew Daddario (Scooter) is the brother of Alexandra Daddario (Jade last season). And it’s taken me all this time to figure out that last season featured Once Upon A Time’s Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and this one has the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla).
- This was a fun show to follow this summer, thanks for reading! If you’re curious about diving a bit deeper, I have an interview with Why Women Kill (and Desperate Housewives, and Devious Maids) creator Marc Cherry posting later today about some of the thoughts behind this season’s arc, the influence of Sunset Blvd. on the ending, and most importantly, his favorite soap as a kid.