“The Woman in the House Across the Street From the Girl in the Window” (we’ll call it The Woman in the House from now on) is a razor-sharp parody of the “upper-middle-class white woman in peril” genre.
“The Woman in the House Across the Street From the Girl in the Window” – we’ll call it “The Woman in the House” from now on; is typified by books like “The Girl on the Train” and “The Woman in the Window”.
The series’ proceedings find anchoring in the ever-charming Kristen Bell; coming off some of her best work as Eleanor Shelstrop in “The Good Place”. This eight-episode series walks an interesting line tonally. It varies between out-and-out satire, taking some of its elements more seriously. It definitely has the potential to become a little confusing.
The Mindset of the Show
Kristen Bell plays Anna, a grieving recently single artist. She lives in a large, well-appointed house in the suburbs. She makes a lot of chicken casseroles, fears the rain, mourns the loss of her daughter.
Her daughter when, in one of the show’s most ridiculous twists, dies when a serial killer eats her. This happens in prison, where the daughter goes to work with her father – a forensic psychologist. That pretty much sums up the mindset of this show. It isn’t afraid to show close-up stabbings or use a ventriloquist’s dummy as a significant plot point.
After a hunky, British widower and his daughter move into the house across from grieving mother Anna, her interest is at first friendly. As she befriends the daughter, she develops an attraction for the father (Neil).
Once the father’s girlfriend enters the picture, in typical style for the genre, she is killed while Anna observes. After calling the police only to be told she’s been seeing things; reinforced with the viewer as she drinks heavily and mixes alcohol with pills, the mystery deepens. Neil is further implicated in more violent crime, and Anna does some amateur sleuthing.
This show mercilessly pokes fun at the most prominent and silliest cliches of this subgenre. They are still rising in popularity over the past decade. The relentless wine drinking/pill-popping, the untrustworthy imagination, nosy and suspicious neighbours. The cliched, dramatic pose, and of course, the ludicrous, stretching-the-bounds-of-believability plot twists.
However, the overall tone of the series can be a bit inconsistent. At the same time, there are several apparent moments of satire throughout each episode, these contrast with many instances of the material being played relatively straight.
This can lead to a bit of dissonance as an audience member, as it walks the line between humour and taking itself seriously. Perhaps this is a function of it being a series, where a lot of the filler would be scrapped if this were a two-hour parody film. It’s funny but can also feel a bit bogged down by its broader genre obligations, and as a result, it is not as amusing as it could be.
“What The Hell am I Watching?”
This dissonance has led to some confusion with wider audiences, leaving many to question the exact intent of this series. But this element is also what makes it compelling viewing, as in making their precise intentions somewhat obscure to the audience, the writer and director make the viewer do a little extra work to figure out what’s coming up.
Overall, your enjoyment of this show will probably depend on two factors. Firstly, whether or not you’re a fan of Kristen Bell. Personally, I’ve been a fan since the very clever mystery series Veronica Mars. Fans of that show will probably get a kick out of seeing Bell back ‘behind the magnifying glass’. Even if Anna is a far cry from Veronica.
Another is your overall patience for this genre, as while it is a parody of it, it leans on its conventions to tell the story as well. It’s tricky to anticipate the plot twists as one isn’t sure whether they’ll go in a serious or silly direction. However while some people may find this tonal shifting confusing, I found it compelling – and perhaps more than a straight up-and-down example of the genre, this uncertainty leads to an extra layer of keeping the audience guessing. Once the story lurches to its completely shocking, unpredictable conclusion, I was left with my jaw on the floor but thoroughly satisfied with the time I’d invested.
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