“The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window” hit Netflix’s Top 10 in the U.S. after its release on Jan. 28, not out of merit, but likely because of A-list celebrity Kristen Bell’s presence.
The show hops on the recent trend of defying genre, bringing together comedy and high-stakes drama, much like Hulu’s “Only Murders in the Building” and Apple TV’s “The Afterparty.”
“The Woman in the House” diverges, however, by parodying conventional psychological thrillers. Even the title is a play on hit books like Paula Hawkins’ “The Girl on the Train” and A.J. Finn’s “The Woman in the Window.”
Bell’s character Anna (sound familiar?) is convinced she’s witnessed a murder from her window, but no one believes her because she falls into every possible trope there is: She’s suffered a devastating loss, turns to mix prescriptions with alcohol, is victim to ombrophobia and spends all her time spying on neighbors.
Though there have been recent cinematic attempts to comically portray a murder mystery, the blend of genres has never been done with psychological thrillers. Turns out, there’s a good reason for this.
In typical psychological thrillers, viewers follow the protagonist along, piecing together the puzzle. “The Woman in the House” subtly incorporates comedy and leads viewers in suspense, to the point where they may entirely forget the show is a spoof. Viewers become invested in the plot, only to be left disappointed because every big reveal is utterly nonsensical. It’s unbelievable event after unbelievable event, and no one acts like anything is wrong.
That being said, the subtlety isn’t all that bad. Humorous details include Anna’s unlimited supply of casserole dishes, her daughter’s ever-changing epitaph and the handyman who has been fixing her mailbox for the past three years.
There are a few moments, like the reason behind her daughter’s death, that will make you laugh out loud and then proceed to feel awful about yourself — though perhaps that’s the point.
In an interview for “TV Line,” Bell says, “I definitely leaned more into the authenticity [than the satire]. I was confused about how to accomplish this tone, because the first couple of episodes are much more sincere, and then once we hook the viewer with the suspense, the absurdity starts to kick in.”
Bell’s not the only one left baffled. There’s strong acting throughout, but the writing leaves something to be desired. The end product is funny at best and puzzling at worst.
With eight 20-minute episodes, each ending on a cliffhanger, the series certainly qualifies as binge-able. It isn’t too much of a time commitment and will surely keep you on your toes. The finale sets the show up for a second season, but it’s unlikely to come to fruition.
A better alternative is Hulu’s “Only Murders in the Building” — a show that brings plenty of comic relief, while also taking its plot seriously.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars