OK, it’s not what you think. Desperate Housewives may not
be great television a la Prime Suspect,
Battlestar Gallactica, or yes, Buffy, but neither is it the trash the
title might have you imagine. It is soap
opera, yes, but with sharp writing, flawless performances and surprising story
lines that take soap opera to a new level.
That is not my point though. My point is that I have long suspected DH of harboring libertarian-minded writers on its staff – and this season’s finale may just have proven me right.
Earlier in the series, I noticed something that I thought was unusual in American television: a positive portrayal of private gun ownership. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I should note that I don’t actually own a TV, so my knowledge of what is out there comes from my own selection of Netflix and other rentals. But I don’t think I’m that far off on this.) One of the main characters, Bree, uses her gun first to protect her daughter from an intruder and when an overzealous ex-fiance serenades her with a truck-mounted sound system in front of her house, Bree blows the speakers off the top of the truck with her shotgun.
There are other hints too – such as Bree’s next fiancé declaring himself to be a libertarian ("I believe in minimizing the role of the state and maximizing individual rights!") -- but it is in this season’s finale that it all comes together. First: as she helps an undercover cop wire her tenant’s room in preparation for a drug bust, Gabbie starts to have reservations about turning in her tenant/friend for selling drugs. She stands up for her friend against the boorish cop’s claim that “drug dealer equals scum!”, and in the end, as the police are heading for her door, she does the right thing and tells the woman to run out the back.
Of course, in true DH fashion, the story does not end here. The tenant later calls to ask Gabbie to bring her the teddy bear she left in her room that holds great sentimental value. Gabbie rips open the bear to find $118,000 in cash. Gabbie tells her now-ex-tenant that she couldn’t find the bear, and the woman comes over (with violent intent) to get it. As fate would have it, she ends up getting shot in another neighbor’s hair-raising drama which we’ll get to later, but here’s the amazing thing: GABBIE KEEPS THE MONEY! For now, anyway – which means at least through the summer. Anyone who knows anything about the Rules of Television knows that one of the big ones has just been broken. Characters NEVER get to keep significant sums of money that they either earn, win, steal, or otherwise come into during the course of the show (and I’m sure someone will write in informing me of exceptions to this rule, but that’s my point – they are exceptions. Rare ones.) We’ll see what happens next season, but whatever happens to the money, DH gets points for having characters question the War on Drugs.
There is also a sequence in which Child Protective Services is portrayed in a none-too-sympathetic light, but I think it would be a stretch to try to turn this into a libertarian message. The real coup though comes at the show’s climax. And it doesn’t matter if this was written by a “libertarian” or not. In fact, whether or not there are “rEVOLutionaries” on the staff of DH is really beside the point. The point is that someone has made a really powerful statement about the strength of individuals and community in the face of the state. If you haven’t seen it yet you should stop reading now because my pathetic retelling won’t do justice to the way this plays out on the screen.
So (as you probably know) Katherine has something to hide about her “daughter” Dylan. Early in the episode, the other housewives are talking about her, saying she seems distant, closed off to them. Bree, who is Katherine’s partner in a catering business, defends her, but Lynette speaks for all the others when she says “…she’ll never be one of us.”
Meanwhile, Katherine’s abusive ex-husband Wayne has come back and wants to know what the secret is. Wayne kidnaps Katherine’s new husband Adam (played by Firefly’s Nathan Fillion) and beats him to a bloody pulp. When Katherine realizes what has happened, she reluctantly goes to the police. Oh, and by the way, her abusive ex-husband Wayne is a cop. Hence her reluctance.
We flash back to the last time Katherine was in a police station: 14 years previously, when she had gone in to report having been beaten by her husband. She says that she has reported him before but that when she called she was told that the paperwork had been lost. When she tells the officer the name of her assailant/husband, the officer advises her to get out of town. Her husband has a lot of friends on the force, she tells Katherine, and she can’t guarantee that one of them won’t lose the paperwork again. Katherine takes her advice.
Flash forward to the present, and Katherine is again in a
police station, this time reporting that
Katherine knows what she has to do. In order to convince her to come with her this time, Katherine tells Dylan the truth about her past, and Dylan runs off in anger. Wayne, having left Adam for dead in a warehouse, comes after Katherine and holds her at gunpoint in her home.
OK, there’s also a gay wedding.
Bree, with whom Katherine had been catering the wedding, and whom Katherine had abandoned at the last minute in order to skip town to get away from her abusive ex-husband/cop, is furious when she hears that Katherine is at home. She marches over and bangs on the door. In the background as two officers question a witness about the return of Gabbie’s drug-dealing ex-tenant, Bree is swept off the doorstep by Wayne who now holds her at gunpoint with Katherine. When Wayne threatens to shoot Bree, Katherine spills the beans: After she fled with Dylan all those years ago, the little girl died tragically in an accident at home. Knowing that Wayne would come after her, and knowing what he would do to her when he found out about their daughter’s death, Katherine adopted another little girl and raised her as “Dylan.”
As Katherine recounts her story, the not-yet-dead Adam
stumbles from the warehouse and commandeers a car. As Wayne prepares to murder his ex-wife upstairs, Adam plows through the wedding party
and bursts in downstairs. Wayne runs downstairs, we hear a thump and soon a bloody and bedraggled
Adam appears upstairs. Bree, Katherine
and Adam go down to find a disabled Wayne lying on the floor. Katherine holds
him at gunpoint while Adam goes to call the police and Bree tends to his
Sneering to the last,
Bree and Adam rush into the living room where Katherine
stands over the dead
As the police comb through the scene, Katherine sits
silently on her sofa. An officer asks
her again and again to tell him what happened but she remains silent. Outside though, her friends are talking. Bree gives her account of how Katherine
grabbed the gun from
The detective who played golf with
It is a beautiful scene. And it is a beautiful example of how individuals can defeat a seemingly all-powerful state simply by behaving as a community. It’s a lesson those of us in the freedom movement could all take to heart.