Kristen Bell’s latest acting credits come in the form of a psychological thriller parody that’s just a little too proud of itself to be truly great. “The Women in the House Across the Street From the Girl in the Window” is, as the title begs you to notice, a joke about how many psychological thrillers are, in essence, exactly the same. As a psychological thriller lover, most especially in books but also in film, I obviously binged this entire show in a single weekend, and now I’m here to save you the time so that you don’t have to watch it too.
There will be minor spoilers for TWITHATSFTGINW (even the acronym sucks) below
I’m sorry that there will be spoilers. There simply has to be for me to write a review that does this show any justice. I will, however, not spoil the ending because if you are going to take the time to watch this show you deserve to not know who the killer is so that you can at least pretend to be surprised.
First let’s start with the name. Although it’s a mouthful, the name is pretty hilarious. What makes it even funnier is that our main character Anna (played by Kristen Bell) is constantly walking around carrying books like “The Girl in the Lake” and other such popularly named thriller books that seemingly need to have “girl” or “woman” in the title to sell. Wasn’t life easier back when searching “the girl…” would inevitably only bring up Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?
The rest of the show is a similar play on horror tropes. There’s poorly planted evidence that Anna becomes confused by, Anna herself gets accused of committing the murders, Anna puts together all of these clues that the detectives are somehow missing, and we even end with scenes where every single character comes up to Anna and apologizes, sealing a wholesome full circle moment for our main character and the people she interacts with. All of this was funny and cute, and it worked for the series. It worked because Bell is a phenomenal actress who knows how to not take herself seriously while still pulling off a range of emotions. She’s able to make it seem like she doesn’t want to be there while simultaneously shifting to give a realistic performance.
What the show did not do well was its portrayal of mental health as though it was also a joke. I know that this show was a satire. It was making fun of familiar tropes. But I don’t think that gives us an excuse to overlook the way that they treated mental health. Bell’s character is suffering from (I am assuming this based off of the clues the gave us in the show) some form of PTSD and depression after her only daughter was brutally murdered. Her whole life fell apart after that and she turned to drinking and pills, often mixed together, to cope. As a result of her drug use, she’s seen as an unreliable witness, everyone around her thinks she is imagining things– including the cops– and she even begins to question herself. I was okay with her having a parody of a mental illness because honestly most psychological thriller main characters are pretty fucked up, but the way that it was treated by the people around her felt wrong given the way that serious mental illnesses are still stigmatized today. Anna’s daughter died when it was raining, and as a result she cannot touch the rain. She can’t go outside when it rains or she fully collapses and passes out, but this was all played off for laughs. I don’t know, it felt off.
One thing that I did like is that the show did create an entertaining (if unrealistic) suspect chase situation. As the audience we knew that this was all just a big joke in some way, but the thriller aspect still felt real and I still found myself trying to put together all of the clues, even if they were not particularly complicated. The show had a good plot, and that combined with Bell kept me watching straight through to the end.
Other than that, the show was good but not great. There weren’t many laugh out loud moments except for when they made fun of an obvious trope. I feel like the show knew where it was going in the tropes that it wanted to make fun of and the main jokes that they wanted to land, but it didn’t add anything beyond that. This genre, especially with Bell at the forefront, had the potential to be laugh out loud funny in so many cleverer ways, but it just wasn’t.
This was a solid, middle tier TV show that I don’t think lived up to its potential but is still worth the watch, especially if you are a fan of the genre.