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It's a simple question, really. Why would a woman kill? And who would she murder? The man who did her wrong? The other woman? Perhaps a friend guilty of betrayal? To know the answer, you must listen to the woman's story. Discover her secrets. Only then can you understand the choices she made. You might condemn her. You might forgive her. You might think you'd have done the exact same thing. But for the woman who kills, only one question really matters. Does she get away with it?
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A dark comedy anthology series created by Marc Cherry of Desperate Housewives fame.

The first season focuses on three well-off and Happily Married women who live in different eras, but occupy the same Pasadena, California mansion and face a betrayal by their respective husbands, leading to a life being taken.

  • 1963: Beth Ann Stanton (Ginnifer Goodwin) is a docile housewife content with her role in society until she learns that her husband Rob (Sam Jaeger) is having an affair with a young waitress named April (Sadie Calvano). Beth Ann finds herself becoming more assertive as she works to end her husband's infidelity through befriending his mistress.
  • 1984: Simone Grove (Lucy Liu) is a wealthy socialite on her third marriage with Karl (Jack Davenport) after being used by her previous husbands. It turns out that Karl is no different when she discovers that he has been using her to conceal his homosexuality. Tired of the constant betrayals, Simone begins her own affair with a man who has long harbored true romantic feelings for her - her friend's 18-year-old son Tommy Harte (Leo Howard).
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  • 2019: Taylor Harding (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) is a headstrong and feminist attorney in an open marriage with screenwriter Eli Cohen (Reid Scott). While an open marriage would seemingly prevent infidelity from being an issue for the couple, problems arise when Taylor brings her bisexual mistress Jade (Alexandra Daddario) home to live with them and they find themselves falling in love with the same woman.

Season 2 follows the three stories set in 1949 Los Angeles.

  • Alma Filcott (Allison Tolman) dreamed of being in the garden house club until she accidentally discovered her husband's, Bertram Filcott (Nick Frost), horrible secret.
  • Rita Castillo (Lana Parrilla), a married rich woman of an elderly millionaire, is having an affair yet the thorn on her side her husband Carlo and soon enough her husband’s daughter Catherine (Veronica Falcon) are asking for her wrath.
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  • Dee Filcott (BK Cannon) was a waitress having an affair with Scooter (Matthew Daddario), an aspiring actor, but events became obvious that Scooter deserved nothing from her and the private detective Vern (Jordane Christie) is increasingly a good match.

Why Women Kill premiered its first season on CBS All Access on August 15, 2019. The second season aired on June 3, 2021.

Why Women Trope

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     Season 1 
  • The '60s: The first half takes place in 1963 with all the pastels, muted tones, large fins on cars, and the fashions of the era (bowling shirts, pucci style blouses, slacks for women, housedresses, hats). References to The Feminine Mystique, Andy Warhol, Doris Day, the Space Race and World Series are made.
  • The '80s: The second half takes place in 1984 during the AIDS Crisis, a Swatch watch makes an appearance, the women's hair is particularly contrived with huge shoulder pads, and jogging is more common with coordinated sweatsuits.
  • '50s Hair: Beth Ann starts out with a curly bob in the style of the decade while Rob wears his hair slicked. This is to showcase the beginning of Beth Ann's transformation from a mousy woman to someone in charge of her destiny.
  • '60s Hair: Sheila's beehive, Beth Ann's flip hair do, April's flipped bouffant, Mary's prim chignon. AIDS patient Jimmy's mother in 1984 is shown with hair that is a holdover from the 1960s.
  • '70s Hair: Beth Ann's hair appears as a simple bob that is parted in the middle of her forehead, but no less perky. Simone and Naomi are introduced with bouffant-like bombshell hair, Karl Grove in the Dry Look, April's daughter in Cindy Brady pigtails, and young Tommy with conservative and parted hair that reaches his cheeks.
  • '80s Hair: All the women have voluminous hair: Simone's teased curls (that become more conservative and face-framing, picture Karen Wheeler in 1983), Naomi's curly blonde edifice, Karl's waves, Amy's bangs, and Tommy's structured hair do that is no less maintained than Steve Harrington's.
  • Accidental Murder: Beth Ann and Rob's daughter Emily was killed through being struck by a car when she ran into the street chasing her ball. The driver is distraught at this.
  • Age-Gap Romance: Tommy is barely 18, and Simone is presumably in her late forties to early fifties.
  • Artistic License – History: Beth Ann claims her husband's murderer was put to death in 1973. From 1967 to 1977 no executions took place in the US, due to legal cases staying and then commuting them. His death sentence would have been commuted along with the rest.
  • Asshole Victim: No one will miss Mary's horrifically abusive husband Ralph.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Simone and Karl. Even with her finding out he's gay then having an affair, they bond when Karl has AIDS and Simone sticks by him through it all, including selling her belongings to pay his medical bills. In the end, Simone fulfills his wish to kill him and end it before he suffers too much with each confessing the other is "the love of my life."
  • Awful Wedded Life: A few examples.
    • Our main couples have their issues with infidelity with different endings. Beth Ann ends up getting Rob murdered after finding out he blamed her for the death of their daughter, which was indirectly his fault due to his infidelity; Simone and Karl stay as married friends and she nurses him to his death; Taylor and Eli resolve their issues by the end.
    • Mary and Ralph, due to Ralph being a Crazy Jealous Guy who has Mary meet his fists often and threatened to kill her if she ever left the marriage.
    • Sheila and Leo Mosconi joke about being like this, but have plenty in common due to their knowing-natures and shared sense of humor.
    • April's landlord and his wife. The latter is an unpleasant woman who pokes her head into business not her own and takes offense when April tells her off and tries to get her husband to kick her out. April then tells him that his wife is a horrible person and he replies "Yeah, I'm aware."
    • Tommy Harte's parents, his late father Edmund and mother Naomi, were said to be this as a postmortem Edmund voiced that his "bitch wife" inherited his millions and fears that she'll control their son.
  • The Beard: Simone learns she was unknowingly serving as one to her husband, Karl, who's a closeted gay man.
  • Becoming the Mask: Beth Ann initially befriends April, so that she can get closer to her and drive her away from Rob. But she soon starts to genuinely enjoy spending time with her and soon becomes invested in helping her.
  • Beware the Nice Ones:
    • There's hints early on that cheerful, prudish Beth Ann has more going on beneath the surface, but as the series goes on it becomes clear how close she is to snapping and becoming violent. Namely, she's the only one of the three who actually commits murder: Simone performs a Mercy Kill at her husband's request and Taylor kills Jade in self-defense, but Beth Ann actually sets Rob up to die and smiles as he does.
    • Even more blatant with Jade, whose cheerful demeanor hides her manipulative nature and the bodies she's left in her path.
  • Big Fancy House: The beautiful mansion all three women live in at one point is a focal point of the series.
  • Blackmail: Karl gets out of Simone threatening to throw him out by saying that he'll go to her friends and come out, humiliating her.
  • Bury Your Gays: Karl, who's gay, is voluntarily euthanized due to having AIDS. Bisexual Jade is killed by Taylor acting in self-defense. However, Taylor is also bisexual and lives.
  • Character Development: Simone starts the show as a Rich Bitch but decades later, she's become happy with a simpler life and dedicating herself to charity work after Karl's death.
  • Consummate Liar: Rob is this as later episodes reveal, with Beth Ann an giving him one last chance to confess to his adultery being the reason that their daughter died. He still maintains his lies, to which Beth Ann responds that "he's just made it easier."
  • Deadpan Snarker: For every period,
    • 1963: Sheila and Leo Mosconi, a mouthy Italian-American couple who have the gift of the gab and sharp wit to match. Sheila particularly has her own compilation of her lines.
    • 1984: Karl Grove, particularly with Simone and even his beloved stepdaughter Amy. Not to be outdone, he also has his own compilation.
    • 2019: Taylor Harding, especially in contrast with her heavy, Sassy Black Woman sisters.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • Rob is every bit as sexist as a typical straight, white cisgender man from the sixties, and Beth Ann doesn't think it unusual or have a problem with it. (Or at least, she claims she doesn't have a problem with it.) Sheila recognizes and calls out how chauvinist his behavior is, but her own husband deems it "militant" and reacts in amusement.
    • The segments set in the eighties depict a dated view of gay people — though, in Simone's case, she seems less angry that Karl is gay and more angry that he lied to her about it. Karl (and by extension Simone) is shunned and treated like a leper once his AIDS diagnosis is made public, which is as much compassion as he would have received from most people in the eighties (she's the exception).
    • The body shaming and dissonance regarding women's body image is in swing when Simone's daughter Amy breaks up (temporarily) with her fiance for seeing a girl she dislikes in the past and hooking up with her, complaining that the girl is fat (140 lbs) to which Karl snarks "Where did he find her, a circus?", and it seems clear that he is mocking Amy's values rather than the ex's weight.(Later in the series Karl mocks exaggerated weight standards in his gay community.)
  • Depraved Bisexual: Zigzagged. Jade, who's bisexual, turns out to be a serial killer, who targets her own lovers. However Taylor, one of those lovers, is herself bisexual and a nice, ordinary woman.
  • Disney Death: Eli seemingly dies from taking a knife to the stomach, but shows up alive a few scenes later.
  • Domestic Abuse:
    • Beth Ann finds out her neighbor, Mary, is being abused by her husband, Ralph. He gets so jealous, he gets mad at her for even talking to another man. She later tells Beth Ann that she cannot leave Ralph because he threatens her with a gun. April is the one who helps Beth Ann figure out Mary’s situation because she saw her mother being abused by her father growing up, and recognizes that Mary wears a lot of makeup to hide her bruises, from watching her own mom put on makeup to cover her injuries. After this, an historically accurate perspective on Domestic Abuse is expressed. At first, Beth Ann cannot believe that a man like Ralph, who is successful and well-off, could be physically abusive towards his wife. April responds that her abusive father was a doctor.
    • Jade gets Eli and Taylor to let her stay in their house because her violent felon ex-boyfriend Duke was stalking her. Later she kills him, and later still attempts to kill her own partners Eli and Taylor.
  • Easily Forgiven: April was infuriated when she realized who Beth Ann was, but got over it after she found Mary's false love confession letter, as it demonstrated Rob's serial infidelity. In the epilogue April and Beth Ann live together and raise April's daughter.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Beth Ann apologizes for her husband's foul language to her new neighbors. Said neighbor, Sheila, assures her, "We're from Brooklyn, we don't give a shit." Sheila later also snaps at Rob for treating Beth Ann like his maid.
    • Taylor argues with a condescending general contractor, and makes it very clear who's in charge, finishing with, "For the purposes of this, and all future conversations, my dick is bigger than yours." Her husband, Eli, then tells the worker, "Her dick is bigger than mine, too. You get used to it."
    • The pilot episode opens with each husband talking about their wives, and each recalls how they met their then-future spouses. Each story tells a lot about each of the main women.
  • Ethical Slut: Taylor and Eli practice polyamory, with rules to prevent their marriage eroding. However, they break them after both grow very attracted to Jade. Nonetheless, they are both moral, caring people who preserve their marriage. Jade also comes off this way until she's revealed to be a serial killer.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Simone might be starting an affair with someone who's barely legal, but she draws the line at anything actually illegal and promptly sends him home when he says he'll be 18 "in two days".
  • Forced Out of the Closet: Karl has no choice but to confess his homosexuality to his wife after she is given pictures of him kissing another man.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The women will kill someone by the end of the story. The only question is who, when, and how.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In the episode 4, Jade's ex Duke invades Taylor's home in order to get Jade, knocking aside Taylor and Eli until Jade surprises him and knocks him over the railing. As we learn later, Jade has killed multiple people, and her straightforward and brutal methods are from experience.
    • The episode 4 closer has the mortician mention the crucial mistakes every victim made: a tawdry affair, keeping dark secrets, and inviting a dangerous stranger into their home. By the finale, it's clear that each of these meant something other than what was initially assumed: Karl's affairs give him AIDS and Simone assists in his suicide, Rob's dark secret isn't the affair but that he let their daughter die, and the dangerous stranger in Taylor's home wasn't Duke, but Jade.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: All over the place.
    • Rob is cheating on Beth Ann with a waitress at the local diner. Whether the waitress realizes he's married is unclear. A major turn is Beth Ann discovering April was not the first as Rob has been cheating on her throughout their entire marriage. She gets this info from his secretary...who he was also sleeping with. This is portrayed unsympathetically and his wife Beth Ann at least somewhat sympathetically for arranging his murder in revenge.
    • Karl cheated on Simone with at least one man. Later, Simone begins an affair with a (much) younger man. Both are portrayed sympathetically (him as he's in the closet, plus contracted AIDS, her since she's neglected). Neither blames the other-they stay good friends.
    • Taylor and Eli's case is a bit more complicated, since they have an open marriage. However, they have some rules in place to make sure one spouse doesn't prioritize their hookup over the marriage — and it's all but stated that that is exactly what winds up happening. Both are portrayed sympathetically and the two stay together.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: April decides to have an abortion when she's gotten pregnant by Rob, who's married, saying she can't care for a baby alone. Beth Ann isn't happy with this, but mostly worried by her going to a back alley abortionist who might injure or kill her accidentally due to ignorance or the unsanitary conditions. She talks April out of it due to the danger.
  • Good Stepmother: Gender inverted with Karl, who has been a loving and constant father figure to Simone's daughter Amy. Simone is shocked when Amy goes along with her devout Oklahoman in-laws' demands that Karl not walk her down the aisle.
  • Here We Go Again!: The last couple as Eli and Taylor pulled out of the driveway as then one discovered an adulterous affair. She pulled a gun from the guy’s gun collection
  • Heteronormative Crusader: Most of Simone and Karl's friends react poorly after learning he's not only gay, but has HIV. He's shunned and quickly loses his membership in a club.
  • I Just Want to Be Loved: Simone has been through three marriages where none of her husbands were very loving, and hasn't had sex in years. Thus when Tommy shows genuine romantic interest in her, she caves against her own better judgment.
  • Informed Judaism: Aside from Eli mentioning it, there's no real sign that he's Jewish (aside from this being a common Jewish male first name). Justified as he seems to be a cultural/secular Jew.
  • It's All About Me:
    • Rob first states that his attraction to Beth Ann about how subservient she was to him and how she made his life easier. He never thinks when his behavior might embarrass or hurt her, and when she brings up that she might need to get a job or a hobby to prepare her for when he inevitably dies one day, all he cares about was if this might keep him from getting more delicious dinners from her and can't think beyond more about her being his widow.
    • Simone is very self-centered early on, to the point where she reacts to Carl attempting suicide by screaming that he won't get away with humiliating her with his infidelity. Over time, though, she grows more selfless.
  • Jerk-to-Nice-Guy Plot: Simone starts out as a haughty, shallow woman who's very rude to most people. However, over the course of the series she grows into a much nicer person, and even becomes a philanthropist.
  • Karma Houdini: Played with. On the one hand, Ralph does get the death penalty for murdering Rob and Jade is killed by Taylor in their fight after trying to kill Eli, and it's revealed that Simone "killed" Karl with his full consent. But all three of the wives murder someone and have no legal consequences, because they either weren't directly involved, it was the victim's wish, or it was self-defense.
    • Simone's assisting Karl's suicide was illegal in California at the time, and still would be illegal in most U.S. states, regardless of Karl's consent. Likely she would have had to have lied about what Karl told her the drug would do, and as she was upper class and not Black, and A.I.D.S. and homosexuality disreputable in the eyes of most police back then, the police very possibly would not have asked very hard.
  • Killing in Self-Defense: Taylor fatally stabs Jade as the latter is trying to kill her.
  • Likes Older Women: Tommy, who's just eighteen, pursues Simone, who is in her forties at least, with a daughter not much older than him.
  • Manipulative Bitch: Jade is slowly revealed to be one, manipulating Eli and Taylor to drive a wedge between them, then kill both. Beth Ann also turns into one, seeking revenge for Rob's adultery. She later manipulates a neighbor into murdering him.
  • May–December Romance: Tommy Harte is a product of such a marriage between his My Beloved Smother Naomi (who is hinted to be a Gold Digger) and his older father Edmund (who died at 57 prior to the series, likely when Tommy was younger); there was a family photo of a grade-school aged Tommy with the youthful and blonde Naomi with a graying and older man. Averted somewhat when the elder Harte revealed in a post mortem voiceover that his marriage with Naomi wasn't a happy one.
  • Mercy Kill: How Karl meets his end. He's dying of AIDS and doesn't want to become comatose, so Simone euthanizes him with his full blessing after a final dance.
  • Modesty Bedsheet: When shown in bed after having sex, female characters have the sheets carefully covering their breasts each time.
  • Ms. Fanservice:
    • All three leads are gorgeous women, but Lucy Liu's character seems to be the creators' way of saying, "Straight men, lesbians, and bisexual people everywhere... you're welcome."
    • Then there's Alexandra Daddario prancing around in short-shorts and a bikini. Notably, both Taylor and Eli consider her this in-universe.
  • Mrs. Robinson: Simone reciprocates Tommy's affections (though he's just eighteen and she's already 40, if not past it). Later, we see that she also has a personal assistant/masseuse who's also decades younger whom it's heavily implied she also has sex with.
  • My Beloved Smother: Naomi Harte, Simone's friend worries that Tommy is doing drugs and she coddles him. She almost goes so far as to kill Simone, only failing due to Tommy pushing her out of the way and Naomi getting injured. Naomi even tries to rip open his diary, only to be stopped by Simone, and later goes full Karen.
  • Murder by Inaction: How Beth Ann kills her husband. She and Mary hatch a plan to get rid of their husbands by making Ralph think Mary had an affair with Rob, igniting a fight between them. Then when the guns come out, Beth Ann tosses Rob a gun with all the bullets removed, letting him be gunned down by Ralph.
  • The New '10s: The third era of the season takes place in 2019 with references to the Women's March and Vice President Mike Pence.
  • Nice, Mean, and In-Between: The three leads. Beth Ann is the polite, accommodating nice one, Simone is the self-centered, angry mean one, and Taylor is the argumentative, caring in-between one.
  • Nouveau Riche:
    • Sheila and her husband Leo are hinted as this: coming from Brooklyn and setting up a successful line of laundromats in Pasadena. Played straight with the loud and rather tacky behavior but subverted as they are often the most loyal and honest characters in the story.
    • Simone, who grew up as the daughter of a Chinese-American laundry owner and became a Trophy Wife and Serial Spouse.
    • Taylor also falls under this trope, as having a middle-class childhood and becoming a successful and wealthy lawyer.
  • Obnoxious Entitled Housewife: This is a nighttime soap created by Marc Cherry centering on suburban women, which is bound to bring this trope up.
    • April's landlord's wife is a nosy woman who feels entitled to judge and stick her nose into April's business, when April tells her off for such behavior, the woman (offended) brings her husband and it turns out the husband shares April's feelings about the wife: that she's a horrible person.
    • Simone starts out as a demanding diva, only to reform as a person and focus on the needs of others. Her friend Naomi is a straight example, trying to intrude on her son's personal space and spreading rumors about Karl's health condition and sexuality and falsely saying Simone is molesting her Tommy (not true). These get Simone banned from the hospital and both the Groves banned from the Country Club they frequented.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Taylor's sisters, who openly dislike Eli, and Eli tells the dog Tea Cup that "they're terrible". Their relationship can be easily compared to Homer Simpson and the Bouvier Twins.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Beth Ann and Rob's daughter Emily died two years prior. It's made worse because Beth Ann blames herself, thinking she left the back gate open, through which Emily ran into the street chasing her ball, getting hit by a car. It turns out this wasn't her fault, but Rob let her believe it was.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Karl wants this with Simone and Simone isn't totally against it, noting that even if he didn't love her, he cares more for her than her other husbands. It's a long, bumpy road to it, but eventually he succeeds. So much that years after his death when Taylor and Eli inherit the house, she's still doing AIDS benefits in his honor.
  • Polyamory: Taylor and her husband have an open marriage, with two basic rules: no getting emotionally invested in their hookups, and no bringing their hookups back to the house. Both rules are broken within the first episode.
  • Posthumous Character: At the beginning of "I Was Just Wondering What Makes Dames Like You So Deadly", for each era we hear from a dead relative close to the protagonists.
    • Beth Ann and Rob's daughter Emily talks about how she knows her mother is unhappy but Rob doesn't know because she smiles all the time, and she fears her mother will do something terrible.
    • Tommy's father and Naomi's late husband talks about how unpleasant Naomi is and how she needs to lay off of Tommy because he's a grown man now. He hopes his son will push back against Naomi's smothering.
    • Jade's foster mother talks about how she hadn't seen her horrible death coming by house fire and that Eli will meet a horrifying end at the hands of Jade.
  • Really Gets Around: Eli, Taylor and Jade are all into polyamory, so they have larger numbers of sex partners than most people. Jade though seems to have more than either, especially threesomes (which only she had more than one of).
  • Sarcastic Devotee: Sheila Mosconi to Beth Ann. She will assist Beth Ann with her schemes, albeit not happily.
    Sheila: It's your mother's fault, clearly she didn't teach you the basics, like when you grow up, don't lie to your husband about cancer.
  • Sassy Black Woman: April's sisters, good Lord. They are snappy and funny and say sassy, cutting lines about Eli and their mother. Averted with the smart ass but more logical Taylor.
  • Serial Killer: Jade, real name Irene, has seduced and killed multiple people.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The opening theme is "L-O-V-E," one of the happiest and sweetest love songs around... played over cartoons of women murdering their husbands.
  • Spanner in the Works: In the finale, Beth Ann's plan to murder her husband nearly goes awry when April, having discovered Beth Ann's true identity, storms in to confront her and reveal to Rob how Beth Ann has known about them all this time. Luckily, it all ends up working out.
  • Stepford Smiler: Beth Ann's perpetually happy and content facade is to hide her pain from losing her daughter. Then the affair begins and it gets much worse.
  • Straight Gay: Karl is a stereotypical cultured, upper class Englishman who it turns out is a closeted gay man.
  • Straw Feminist: Sheila is considered one after the events detailed in You, Get Me Coffee but she is really an average housewife and is rather reacting to unfair treatment from a husband to his wife.
  • Sympathetic Adulterer: Out of all the cheaters in the series, only Karl and Simone are portrayed this way.
    • Karl has been in the closet for years, hiding his homosexuality at first for his own safety and reputation, and then out of loyalty to Simone, who he considers his best friend even though he is not in love with her.
    • Simone has has three husbands, including Karl, none of which truly loved her. Tommy, while much younger than she is, truly adores her. At first, she only sleeps with him to get back at his mom for knowing that Karl was cheating (though not with men) and keeping it a secret. But over time, she develops real feelings for him, and they even make plans for a life together before it’s all derailed by Karl’s illness.
  • "Take That!" Kiss: Beth Ann plants one on Rob as he dies, after telling him she knows he got their daughter killed.
  • Tragic AIDS Story: Karl contracts AIDS in 1984, when there was huge stigma toward sufferers (especially gay men like him) and a death sentence for most due to limited treatments. We see him visit a man dying from AIDS who he knows too. He decides to kill himself rather than suffer until the end. Later Simone euthanizes him at his request.
  • Threeway Sex: Taylor, Eli and Jade have a threesome together. Later, they meet another couple who Jade had sex with in a bar.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: A unique variation: in the final scene, it's shown how Simone meets an older Beth Ann when buying the house in 1974. Beth Ann is met by April's daughter, who she's helped raise as April is now becoming a singer on Broadway with Beth Ann joining her. Then in 2014, an older, wheelchair bound Simone gives the keys to Eli and Taylor, revealing she's let go of her material obsessions and dedicating her life to AIDS research while Tommy is now a famous painter. Finally, in 2020, Eli and Taylor give the keys to a new couple as they head off to a quieter life.
  • Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: Jade seems like a nice, ordinary woman at first (if an ethical slut), but she's later shown to be a manipulative serial killer.
  • You, Get Me Coffee: Sheila has a problem with Rob tapping his cup as a signal to Beth Ann to get up and pour him coffee and while Sheila doesn't tell him to try getting it himself, she does tell him that he can ask politely rather than tap the cup like Beth Ann is a servant. Sheila's husband acts apologetic and tries to pass off his wife as a "militant" who read The Feminine Mystique.

     Season 2 
  • '20s Bob Haircut: Alma starts off with a similar hairstyle to his, albeit more prim and plain, as befitting her image of "a frump" who hasn't updated her wardbrobe in the last 15 years much less 5.
  • Accidental Murder: Mrs. Yost died due to overhearing the Filcott couple arguing over the murderous keepsakes and Alma shutting the window down hard on her hands, falling into garden shears. In all likelihood, she would have called the police on them and directed them to the trash can.
  • Adult Fear: Dee realizes in mounting horror that her parents committed a murder (in fact, she really doesn't know the half of it).
  • Affably Evil: Bertram is a genuinely nice man who believes he's helping people by euthanizing them when they're in pain from incurable ailments. He's never less than compassionate and always uses painkiller along with the deadly drug he gives them. However, he doesn't ask if any of them wants his help but just decides on his own, making this murder and it turns out he's a Serial Killer, having murdered dozens.
  • All for Nothing:
    • When Rita tried to barge into the restaurant to tell everyone Alma is the culprit behind the murder spree, Alma killed her in a panic, failing to realize blood was splattered on her fur wrap. She doesn’t notice it until it was too late and she knew when she saw it, it was over. Even though Rita is now dead, Rita won in a fashion though not in the way Rita had hoped to survive the encounter with the murderous killer.
    • Bertram's attempt to turn himself in for Alma's sake. He took the fall for every death including his previous killings. It was all for naught anyway when Alma killed Rita with the bloody stole as evidence.
  • Asshole Victim: No one is too sorry when Mrs. Yost dies, least of all Alma after learning how Mrs. Yost looked down on her beloved flower garden. Carlos Castillo gets this too from his wife Rita, who justifies planning to murder him on the basis that he's a huge jerk.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Bertram's Serial Killer reveal. Initially, it looked like he would be pursuing an affair but as soon as Maisie felt faint and sedated he began to make the same euthanasia speech he gave on the dogs...
  • Beauty Is Bad: As Alma becomes more aggressive and manipulative, she goes from "frump" to a beautiful woman.
  • Berserk Button: Rita doesn’t like to be reminded of her former profession as a prostitute.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: The Filcott family.
    • Alma has no problem disposing of Mrs. Host’s remains and planning an alibi. She's increasingly violent and has a simmering rage.
    • Bertram is a serial killer yet beloved figure in town for his love of animals.
    • Dee has no problem standing up for herself regardless of setting and really loves crime stories.
  • Big Beautiful Woman: Both of the Filcott women.
    • Dee is a heavyset girl who is blonde and pretty with an expressive sense of style and secure in her own skin. Played Straight in that Vern and Scooter hold this opinion of her, subverted when Dee talked about how boys in high school would only see her in secret rather than in public for fear of ridicule, and vain Rita ignores the "beautiful" and young parts when she is aghast that Scooter would cheat on her with "a fat girl".
    • Alma starts out the series as a Plain Jane with "no beauty" but as she becomes more stylish and less of a "frump", Alma showcases a heavy hourglass figure and gorgeous features.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Scooter and Bertram survive their wounds via Catherine, who ran off back to Texas with her father's fortune. But Rita gets murdered by Alma before Scooter can reconcile with her, Bertram commits suicide, Alma about gives up and let's the police arrest her, she is disgraced for her crimes, Scooter starts a new life being able to move on from Rita's tragic death and achieved popularity through his almost being framed by Alma, Dee and Vern have a happy family life with a baby boy and Mrs. Yost's dog, and Alma loses her sanity imagining she is at a premiere of her own movie with adoring fans and not reporters and onlookers jeering at her as she is walked off to a likely death sentence.
  • Blackmail:
    • Rita has Scooter seduce Catherine so Vern can take photos of them while they're having sex to use so Catherine's disinherited and leave. This backfires however as by the time Rita confronts her with them Catherine's father has died (so he can't alter his will) and she's unmoved by the threat of disgrace with her family, saying she'll remain in California. In turn, she starts digging up dirt on Rita.
    • Rita's maid and cousin Isabel tries to blackmail Alma and Bertram with one of the aforementioned photos, which show Alma's presence the night Carlo as murdered. This also backfired on her resulting since Alma murdered her when Isabel breaks their deal.
    • Alma uses Joan and Grace's secret affair to get the garden club presidency with the threat of revealing it.
  • Brainless Beauty: Scooter isn't a complete idiot, but is rather dim-witted and gets along mainly due to being quite handsome (including attracting smarter women).
  • Break the Haughty: Rita after Alma framed her for Carlo’s murder. She wound up losing everything. While in jail, she even got to contemplate including Isabel.
  • Casting Gag:
    • This is the second consecutive season to feature a Once Upon a Time lead as one of the main characters.
    • Scooter, this season's paramour, is played by Matthew Daddario, the brother of season 1 paramour Alexandra Daddario.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Rita’s false stories of beatings. Rita knows this to be untrue. Unfortunately for her, her garden club pals took this to be true and Grace reported this to Alma during her visit. Alma used this as fodder to manipulate Bertram into killing Carlo.
    • Grace's affair. It was mentioned at the mid-point of the series by Rita. Alma didn't intend to know this affair before she tried to seek out Joan's affair and discovered it was with Grace all along.
    • Bertram’s suicide. It was brought up initially as he wanted to do that. It turned up in the finale with Bertram committing suicide.
  • Closet Gay: Joan and Grace turn out to be secretly into women (they're in a relationship).
  • Complexity Addiction: Played with. Alma initially has simple plans to no plans at all when it comes to her murderous tendencies. Her story about the Mrs. Yost incident is full of needless lies instead of saying the truth that could absolve them, instead only implicated them further.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Bertram in the penultimate episode, drinking himself day in and out for weeks. At this point, his wife worries far more about the garden club and her new lifestyle than him and their marriage (the last seen interaction between them was a shot of them arguing quietly in the kitchen and the final shot was Bertram reading the newspaper in the silence while Alma looks cautious); his daughter is avoiding them and he has his suspicions confirmed when she came to confront him. He saw through the lies his wife told their daughter and just took the fall because the love of his daughter matters more now than his wife who was willing to throw him under the bus, pinning all the blame on him. He wants to protect his wife but when his wife is this gleeful about throwing him to the wolves to protect her new lifestyle.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Rita humiliates Alma, gets Dee fired from her job, and destroys Alma's beloved garden all because Scooter cheated on her with Dee (who didn't even know about his relationship with Rita) and Dee paid Rita back in kind after she insulted her for being fat.
  • Domestic Abuse: Carlos Castillo abuses and humiliates Rita in front of guests (appearing naked) and in private, Slut-Shaming her. According to Rita, he also puts down Catherine even when they talk on the phone. Rita pulls a Wounded Gazelle Gambit when she tells the club women that Carlos would get drunk and hit her.
  • The Edwardian Era: When the flashback to Bertram's childhood takes place.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
    • Rita is quite a ruthless women, but she genuinely does care for Isabel. It turns out they're cousins.
    • Alma grows increasingly evil while the series progresses, but still loved her daughter and husband, although she starts to treat both worse.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Bertram might be a Serial Killer but he isn’t willing to kill for hatred or want a painful death. He was utterly shocked just how far Alma is willing to go for hate and spite, willing to use his emotions to do horrendous things like stealing the euthanasia syringe behind his back. He also refused to kill family as he was shocked Alma wanted to kill Vern, their son-in-law; it was enough of a push for Bertram to turn himself in.
  • Face–Heel Turn: The whole plot is basically Alma's Protagonist Journey to Villain.
  • Fatal Flaw:
    • Alma has plenty. Meeting Tom, her old flame, while in the middle of covering up a crime - in a crowded room of witnesses - paired with her lust for the finer things in life (stealing Mrs. Yost’s possessions as if it isn’t a red flag for investigators) and her desire to have friends moreover her idealization of the rich ladies’ club (which is shown to be nothing more but bored ladies gossiping true to Mrs. Yost’s words and backstabbing snobs) could bite her and Bertram in the ass. While her daughter gave some good advice of being selfish and indulge for once, the way Alma is going about it isn’t going to end well.
      • Thinking her plans are masterful when she Did Not Think This Through as on top of having lunch with Tom, she didn’t know the history enough of Mrs. Yost and Rita’s cleverness. Not only is the murder of Isabel unjust, but the murder will also make it obvious Rita is not Carlo’s murderer, especially when Vern was the only other person aside from Alma Isabel talked to. With Dee just asking Mrs. Yost’s nephew and the cops, she was able to put together the clues to her tearful horror.
      • It cost her everything. Her marriage with Bertram is completely destroyed. The attempted reconciliation with her daughter is full of lies and manipulation. Her Only Friend Grace was disappointed and disgusted in her for blackmailing Joan, threatening to reveal their relationship for a measly position in the club.
      • Her hatred against Rita. It proved to be her downfall as she was the one who killed Rita with blood splatter on her fur wrap, shocking the attendees.
    • Bertram’s love for his wife and his desire to quote save unquote more lives by murder. As much as he even hears a medical problem from someone tired about it all, he will go for the kill. In trying to make his wife happy, he will sacrifice even the homely things and theft.
      • His love for his wife cost him his marriage. He saw through the lies when Dee came to confront and still backed up Alma. He knows it's not the truth but still took the fall and at this point, he's at a Despair Event Horizon when his wife is far more worried about her new life than them.
    • Rita’s vindictive nature. She will go out of her way for revenge on anyone who crosses her, even innocent people who didn’t do it intentionally. She doesn’t care how much she hurts them as long as it's where it hurts.
      • Rita's vanity also does her in as she is shocked to find that Scooter would cheat on her with both a fat girl and fall for the middle-aged Catherine.
    • Catherine's hatred against Rita. She refused to listen to a reason that Rita could be innocent.
  • Foil:
    • Alma is frumpy and plain yet longs for the rich lifestyle the garden club offers. She is loved by her family yet her self-esteem is down the gutter unless she pretends to be someone else. She’s already committing crimes in that pursuit. Committing crimes is more reactive and often poorly planned as she often doesn't think of the consequences, only what benefits her. Alma tends to manipulate her loved ones when those loved ones all but pointed out their love and support should make her the happiest, not some silly garden club.
    • Rita plays up the Happily Married Grand Lady of the house and seems to have everything. She’s getting older and desires to be loved, as her prostitution days provided sex but not love. She wants to know she is being envied by others. She’s committing crimes to keep her lifestyle. Her crimes are not reactive with the exception of her revenge trips and more properly planned with all the angles covered and often she doesn't resort to murder unless she can make it work for her that the crime won't be pinned on her. Despite the vitriol between them, she truly cares for her family, Isabel, the only one she knows would always have her back.
    • Dee is the exact opposite of them all. She’s confident in herself, her body, and where she is. As much as Scooter had played her, she knows better now and knows she deserves better. The garden club was never her goal or even a desire. She's perfectly happy with the support and love of her loved ones. Despite her love of crimes, her discovery of Mrs. Yost crime was all about her sense of justice and solving mysteries as she was willing to let Vern solve Carlo's murder and prove Rita's innocence despite Rita making enemies out of her mom.
  • Frame-Up: Rita planned to murder her husband Carlo. Alma's plot got to him first, which she uses to frame Rita, along with planting the poison syringe used in Rita's purse.
  • Freudian Excuse: It turns out that Bertram was told to euthanize his mother at her instruction. Ever since, he's felt it was his duty to do the same for everyone with a painful, incurable disease (not bothering to ask if they want this though). His priest telling him he could be forgiven as well was taken by Bertram as his carte blanche afterward (although that wasn't the priest's intention).
  • Gold Digger: Rita. She was a former prostitute who married Carlo for his money and Carlo and Catherine know it.
  • The Great Depression: Flashbacks to Rita's past take place in this era, with the snappy hats and printed dresses. It becomes more noticeable when the new Mrs. Castillo is wearing a fancy gown in the bias cut. Dee was also born during the early part of the 1930s.
  • Hallucinations: Bertram hallucinates a lovely woman who he bares his soul to.
  • Happily Married:
    • Alma and Bertram. Despite the murders and Tom, Alma still loves him. Bertram even reacted in surprise when he saw Alma interacting in a very friendly way with Tom.
    • The season finale shows, that for all the troubles regarding her parents, Dee achieves a stable and happy family life with Vern and her new baby (and Mrs. Yost's dog).
  • Heel–Face Turn: Rita. She tried to pull this off near the end but it got her killed by Alma.
  • Honey Trap: Rita's plan for Catherine to disinherit and leave. Scooter was supposed to go and seduce her and Rita would have a detective snap photos to send in as blackmail. Initially, Scooter didn't want to go through with it but he quickly got into it when he met Catherine. This backfired as not only was Catherine not threatened, she went out of her way to discover who was Rita’s lover too. Scooter and Catherine reconciled after Catherine confronted him.
  • Hourglass Plot: At the start of the show, Rita is an immoral Villain With Bad Publicity who has good looks, money and shallow but numerous friendships with rich socialites like herself. She does wish her rich, emotionally abusive husband would die so she could move with her gigolo, whom she worries may not truly love her. Meanwhile, Alma is a dutiful and frumpy middle-class housewife who lives a life of boring drudgery but her husband and daughter love her deeply and she quickly makes a real friend when she tries to get out. By episode 9, Rita is The Scapegoat for the murder of Rita's husband (she's innocent, as she never could go through with it) and her affair has been discovered, meaning she's ostarcised by all and she loses her money, status, FalseFriends and fancy clothes. However, Rita has changed worldview and both her gigolo and her maid/cousin have proven that they actually love her, which she now values and wants to reciprocate. Even if that realization might have come too late and she may lose them both, she at least has solid moral basis on which to rebuild her life. Meanwhile, Alma has gotten everything Rita once had through a makeover and particularly bold and immoral social climbing. At the cost of her morality, her Only Friend, her husband and now either her daughter or her daughter's marriage.
  • Housewife: Alma fulfills this role, starting with aprons and outmoded dresses, tending lovingly to her home, family, and garden. Later after a dose of She Cleans Up Nicely, she takes on an appearance closer to the postwar image of a housewife (nipped in waist, full skirt, apron, full makeup and hair).
  • I Just Want to Have Friends: Alma wanted friends for so long she desired to be a part of the rich ladies' garden club. Part of it was her longing for the finer things in life.
  • I Just Want to Be Special: Specifically, Alma wants to be noticed. In the end, she doesn’t care if she was going to be executed, people see her.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Scooter. While he is a cheater and a liar, he still cared about Rita enough to give her money when she lost everything after being freed from prison. He also left the hospital immediately after being shot when he learned about Dee and their baby, offering to be there for both of them.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Alma increasingly became more malevolent as soon as burying Mrs. Yost in her gardens. Her dream to just be in the garden club motivated her actions the most moving forward as she is unwilling to let anything ruin that to the point of theft. However, her breaking point was when Rita's Disproportionate Retribution shut her out of her dream club. Now, her opinion is Murder Is the Best Solution as shown with the murders of Carlo and Isabel just to keep her garden club position as even Bertram knows her true reason for murdering the latter.
  • Karma Houdini: Catherine, who gets away with shooting Scooter and Bertram and trying to ruin Rita's life, before going back to Texas with her chauffuer with her inheritance. She isn't even seen in the finale.
  • Letting Her Hair Down: Catherine after Scooter starts to woo her.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Joan and Grace are revealed to be having an affair. They also happen to be very feminine in their presentation.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Dee is utterly oblivious that her father is a killer (her mom lies and says he was having an affair) and Mrs. Yost is buried in her mom’s gardens. Wound up discovering the body herself and was so horrified she was refused to be in the house any longer, quietly leaving without a single bye to her parents.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident:
    • Bertram makes it look like people he killed died from natural causes (he's a vet, therefore able to by his knowledge).
    • This has become Rita's goal in disposing of Carlo. She didn’t kill him at all though it was still her plan.
  • Manipulative Bastard:
    • Alma manipulated Bertram into killing Carlo, using Rita’s fake stories of beatings. Her grand plan was to pin it on Rita, planting the medicine herself while Rita and Isabel were undoubtedly drunk. She also called Catherine to tell her so-called witness statement. All for revenge.
    • She suggested killing Isabel to Bertram’s horror and he refused so she decided to kill Isabel herself. Using the marriage reconciliation as her cover, she stole the euthanasia syringe and when both Bertram and Isabel were distracted, she strike.
    • Alma manipulated Dee into not spilling the truth with no remorse, using her previous lie of Bertram's affair. What broke her hold on Dee was Dee asking the right questions about her mom's conversation with Scooter and realizing the horrible implications of what her mom wanted Scooter to do.
  • Meal Ticket: Rita’s husband Carlo Castillo was simply a means to get wealth and status for her.
  • Mercy Kill: This is how Bertram justifies his murders. All of the people he kills have some painful, terminal illness he doesn't want them to suffer from. This might be understandable... however, he never asks whether they prefer euthanasia (except in the first case), just makes the choice for them. He explicitly compares this with putting down sick dogs (he's a vet), while apparently oblivious to this being wrong at all, believing that it's compassionate.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Scooter is quite the handsome man, and he plays up his good looks to seduce Catherine, such as by stripping to the waist in front of her.
  • Mum Looks Like a Sister: Alma and Dee, as the age gap between the actresses in Real Life was 9 years, and while attempts were made to make Allison Tollman to look like a frump; many viewers thought she looked quite young to be B.K. Cannon's mother. Justified as Alma likely had Dee very young.
    • The many ladies of the Garden Club look glamorous with youthful looks, yet at least one of them is depicted as the mother of a young man in his 20s.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Bertram's former priest realizes with horror that when he told Bertram as a child that euthanizing his mother could be forgiven, then it was taken to mean (involuntary) euthanasia of other people was also okay, and he's killed 26 people since.
  • Never Suicide: Isabel is murdered and Bertram made this look like a suicide.
  • Nice Girl:
    • Grace, one of the members of the Garden Club who is kind and welcoming to Alma.
    • Dee is a sweet young woman as well.
  • Nice Guy: Private detective Vern. He treated Dee with genuine kindness and appreciated her strength of character.
  • No Hero to His Valet: Isabel, Rita's maid, has no issue with speaking her mind and pointing out how foolish or even dangerous Rita's scheming has become subverted in that Isabel is Rita's cousin all along.
  • Nosy Neighbor: Mrs. Yost she climbs the Filcotts' trellis to listen to their argument, only to fall down to her death by impalement from gardening shears after Alma accidentally shuts the window on the woman's fingers.
  • Obliviously Evil: Bertram at first does not see anything wrong with involuntarily euthanizing people who have incurable, painful ailments. He's just helping, in his mind, and doing them a favor. Over time after others' learn about this and try to make him stop he starts doubting however.
  • Obnoxious Entitled Housewife:
    • Much of the Garden Club is full of gossipy, judgmental socialites who look down on women dating younger men; Rita counts, as for all her glamour, she is very entitled and takes offense when being told the truth, even getting Dee fired because Dee told her off for calling her fat.
    • Mrs. Yost was one: snooty and rude to Alma's face and nosy.
    • As Alma becomes evil, she starts to abuse whatever privilege she has, targeting Joan for her affair with Grace (as homosexuality was looked down upon in the 1940s) and condescends to the African-American Vern regarding his profession. Even if it hurts those closest to her, like her husband, daughter, and friend Grace.
  • Only Friend:
    • Rita’s maid Isabel (and cousin). During that drunken rant, it was revealed they have known each other for so long that apparently they shot Rita’s previous husband and were paid well on insurance and they went on the run and changed their names before.
    • Grace is one to Alma, always supportive and respectful. The friendship fell down the drain when Alma betrayed her.
  • Only Sane Man: Dee out of her family is this. When she stops being locked out of the loop she often lampshades how ridiculous the whole situation is.
  • Pink Means Feminine: Nice Girl Grace is consistently seen in this color when she isn't True Blue Femininity. She is a highly feminine and peppy woman who adores dressing up and gardening. She is also the nicest member of the Elysian Park Garden Club.
  • Poisonous Friend: Rita plans to mentor Alma in all her manipulative ways. Subverted. She did not mentor her though their feud will definitely be continued.
  • Politically Correct History: Nobody bats an eye at Dee and Vern being together, or saying that they are. In reality, at the time in California attitudes were so violently racist toward interracial couples that even Sammy Davis Jr., a popular celebrity, had to marry a Black woman to protect himself from mob violence for having a White girlfriend. That said, Vern does deal with street harassment for his race and Alma condescends to him on her meeting with him, asking him if he works in blue-collar jobs.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Rita is one despite her quick revenge trips. Initially, she planned to kill Carlo and make it look like it was an accident but she realized it would cause too much trouble and not worth it. She knows that he has family who will miss him and attention would be drawn to her as the culprit.
  • Prequel: The entire season takes place before Season 1. Specifically, it takes place 14 years before the Stantons move into the manor.
  • Redemption Equals Death Just as Rita tries to make amends with Scooter and learns to appreciate the people who have loved her, she is killed by Alma when she confronts her about Carlo's and Isabel's deaths.
  • The Roaring '20s: The flashback to when Alma attended her senior prom takes place in 1926 and she promptly meets and marries Bertram during that time.
  • Secret Relationship: Joan and Grace turn out to be secret lovers who meet every Friday in a hotel.
  • Selective Obliviousness: Alma about the garden club and committing crimes. Bertram, Dee, and even Grace pointed out just how silly the club is at the end of the day. Even her willingness to commit crimes was pointed out by Bertram who was shocked by her cruelty. Dee got suspicious because of her mom’s nonchalance about the whole situation.
  • Serial Killer:
    • Bertram. Initially, he didn’t want to be one but when his first victim asked him to do it and he saw the peace on their face, he believed he found his calling. While he didn’t ask for consent from his next victims, he selfishly believed he was doing it for their sake. He killed 26 in total.
    • Alma. So far, she has killed two people, Carlo and Isabel. Even though she indirectly killed Mrs. Yost, the plan to cover up conveys an act that is not manslaughter or accidental death as Dee justifiably came to the conclusion her parents murdered Mrs. Yost with the clues she was given. In the end, she killed Rita, adding up to a total of 4.
  • Shirtless Scene: Scooter deliberately gets a stain on his shirt as an excuse to strip it off in front of Catherine, so she's enticed by his Carpet of Virility and muscular torso.
  • The Smart Guy:
    • Grace is one of the smarter characters as she was previously able to piece together Rita was the one behind Alma’s blackball. It had been hinted at after she left the club and Alma betrays her, she realized that Alma benefited the most from Rita going to jail thus was the one who must have killed Carlo. She didn't have the photo, just the knowledge of how far Alma is willing to go, uncaring who stands in her way.
    • Vern was able to put together the clues that Bertram and especially Alma were involved in Carlo and Isabel's murders. He has reasons to believe Alma was more likely to kill Carlo and Isabel based on his meeting with her. All this without the photos though those photos would definitely be found during the search warrant and would be used during the trial for Isabel's murder trial case.
  • The Social Expert: Bertram is quite sociable and likable in the community, an easy cover for his serial-killing.
  • That Man Is Dead: Bertram is regretful that his crimes caused his timid sweet wife to become this monster. However, Alma hates her past self so much that she revels in her evil and monstrosity.
  • Unholy Matrimony: Happily Married Alma and Bertram found it exhilarating covering up crimes and even reconciled over it. When committing the crime of the murder of Carlo Castillo, they were laughing and eating sweets in anticipation.
  • Villainous Breakdown:
    • When someone threatened to expose her with actual evidence, Alma becomes her old meek mousey self again with no hint of the so-called posh accent she adopted since Rita's destruction of her garden. It was only for a short time before we see her again with her more composed and speaking in the posh accent again, this time threatening death upon Isabel.
    • When Alma saw the blood splatter on her fur warp, she knew it was over and went home in silence. When Bertram asked her about the bloody stole, she broke into her old self momentarily, pleading. After Bertram's death, she waited for the cops to come in numbness.
  • When She Smiles: The dour Catherine, according to Scooter, has a very nice smile.
  • You Are Fat: Rita's most recurring insult regarding Dee.
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