If the unnecessarily long and on-the-nose title didn’t make it obvious enough, The Woman in the House is a satire of cliche those domestic thrillers that seem to continue being churned out year after year. The series follows Anna (Kristen Bell), a grief-stricken woman who begins obsessing over the handsome new neighbour until she witnesses a murder… or at least she thinks she did.
It’s one thing to assume that something is a satire from the title, but it’s down to the series itself to actually convey to its audience that it’s not meant to be taken entirely seriously. The Woman in the House seems to struggle with its identity, as if it wants to be a satire of the domestic thriller genre but can’t seem to break away from actually becoming what it’s trying to poke fun at. The satirical elements are certainly there from the first episode, but they’re so lightly sprinkled around that if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you won’t notice them. If you were to go into this series without understanding that it’s a parody beforehand, you’d be able to go through at least the first half of the season without even questioning a single thing that happens. That’s absolutely a failure on the series’ part. It feels like the writers have tried to tread this line between serious and comedic, easing people into the satire with each episode. This really doesn’t work, since it creates a number of tonal shifts going into the latter half of the season that would be jarring for many.
Going into the last 3 or 4 episodes, the comedic elements begin to take a slightly stronger grip on the story. It becomes more obvious that it’s playing into the satirical side of things, but it may be too little too late. Aside from the final episode embracing the craziness and delivering some obviously comedic beats, it never gets to the point of being a straight satire. It would have been better off embracing the satirical side very early on and doubling down in it – though I feel the writers went with the dual serious/comedic approach to not turn off mass viewers who’d turn away from a straight satire. Either way, despite the focus and tone wavering through each episode, it’s still a decent watch that finishes stronger than it starts.
The story itself does well to keep you guessing, giving you questions that make you want to stick around and find out the answers. However, I never really felt excited to continue or eager to move to the next episode. Of course I was interested to see where things would end up, but there’s a number of subplots and narrative detours throughout that just make it feel a little longer than it all needed to be.
As far as the cast goes, Kristen Bell is awesome as the deadpan, obsessive, largely house-bound woman who continues stumbling into trouble. She’s the saving grace of the first half of the season, really holding things together when the story isn’t the most engaging. She contributes to much of the humour through some straight-faced one-liners and has a couple of key dramatic scenes throughout. As a protagonist, it’s very easy to get on her side because Kristen is just so likeable, and her interactions with the rest of the cast are fun. Speaking of the rest of the cast, there’s not too many standouts. Tom Riley has some good moments as the new neighbour, but plays the role exactly how any other similar actor could have done. Mary Holland actually lights up the screen a little when she shows up, she brings this joke-filled positivity that’s very welcome.
In the end, I enjoyed The Woman in the House overall – it had a bit of a rollercoaster of a start, not really grasping exactly what it wanted to be, before delivering some solid entertaining content in the lead-up to the finale. The satire was good, although it never really played a significant role until the latter half, which leads to the early moments drifting into becoming part of the genre it’s supposed to be parodying. Despite its woes, at under 30 minutes per episode, it’s a very easy that you can smash out in a single weekend, or a single night if you’re game.