So, cards on the table: It’s been a good couple seasons since we paid any kind of close attention to the ins and outs of “Desperate Housewives,” which we suspect puts us among at least a sizable chunk of the audience watching Sunday’s (May 13) series finale.
What we were primarily interested in was how the show would leave the four women who have been such a big part of the television landscape over the past eight seasons. The answer: In a pretty good place, for both the show and its characters. As subversive as the show loved being about the conventions of nighttime soaps, it always took the side of its main characters. Happy endings, with a touch of sadness, were about what we expected, and creator Marc Cherry and Co. delivered pretty nicely.
The big plot engine of the past few episodes — Bree’s trumped-up murder trial — ends less than halfway through the two-hour finale, thanks to Mrs. McCluskey’s totally fake but very hard to disprove courtroom confession. (More on her in a moment.) That leaves lots of room for a long goodbye to Susan, Bree, Gabrielle and Lynette.
Cherry wrote the second half of finale — and had a cameo as one of Susan’s movers in the final minutes — and he chose to wrap up not only the present-day stories of the four leads but also tell us where their lives took them after they left Wisteria Lane. Mostly, anyway — Susan, the first of the women to move, didn’t get a flash-forward.
In structure if not in emotional impact, it brought to mind the “Six Feet Under” finale a little bit. Mary Alice Young and the other ghosts of Wisteria Lane — Mike Delfino, Mrs. Huber, George Williams and Juanita Solis, among many others, had silent, white-clad cameos — watched Susan as she and her kids (and grandchild) drove away.
Lynette, who finally learns to live in the moment, realize what really makes her happy and gets back together with Tom (who likewise comes to his senses), accepts Katherine’s (Dana Delany‘s guest spot was delightfully tart) offer to run the U.S. division of her frozen French pastry empire. They buy a penthouse overlooking Central Park, where Lynette eventually takes her six grandkids — and yells at them when they get too rowdy.
Gaby, who got a big promotion at Cumberly’s in the finale (and pretty well botches it trying to save Renee’s wedding), launches a personal shopping website with Carlos’ help, which takes them to California and the Home Shopping Network, where they bicker into old age.
Bree finally understands that she can be loved for herself and not just for the home she can make or the picture of domestic perfection she permits. One of the nicer moments of the finale came when Trip tells her, “I don’t want to love an ideal. I want a person.” They move to Louisville, where she becomes active in local politics and soon is elected to the Kentucky legislature.
As for Susan, she passes on her house to a new resident — who will fit right into Wisteria Lane. New homeowner Jennifer is burying a secret just ahead of her husband and the movers, a fitting final shot for the series.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Mrs. McCluskey. She knows she’s dying, but to her final moment she’s the same feisty, secretly sweet woman we’ve known for years. The montage to Johnny Mathis’ “Wonderful! Wonderful!” had us a little misty, years away from the show or not.
“Desperate Housewives” was the biggest hit of the remarkable 2004-05 season, and it’s likely one of the last of its breed — the gotta-see-it, pop culture-bending nighttime soap. Network television doesn’t really play that game anymore, and that’s kind of a shame. But it was fun while it lasted.
What did you think of the “Desperate Housewives” finale?