This post contains SPOILERS for episodes 1 and 2 of ABC's Mistresses.
Two episodes into the new series Mistresses, and it's already opened up many areas of intrigue in the lives of the four lead women. On first seeing the previews, I mistakenly thought it would be the exotic lives of women that were accomplices in extramarital affairs with rich men. In reality, the women involved in the show each have stable lives and good careers of their own; they are not necessarily the “other” women. They are, instead, all affected in some way by a relationship outside of the ones they are supposed to be in.
The opening scene is deliciously shot, showing one couple hard at it in an office, their activities obvious with flashes of skin and sounds of pleasure. Meanwhile another woman (Milano) walks into a bar and starts chatting up a handsome man sitting near her. The hottie introduces himself as Harry Davis, said with a swoon-inducing Aussie accent. They end up in what could possibly be a hotel room, with things looking very favorable for even more steaminess early on. But just as suddenly, the heat veers off as Harry mentions ovulation and the proper angle for fertilization to this woman he just picked up in a bar. Huh? It appears she is not a just a midday rendezvous, but actually his wife, Savannah Davis. Fortunately, the office scene is still alternating with this one and going strong, balancing the heat there with the sudden chill of sex-for-a-purpose-only. What started off with such promise between the Davis’ quickly devolved to set the stage for the issues the married couple are having. This was an interesting reminder of the varied purposes that sex can have in everyone’s lives.
Led by Savannah (Savi), played by Alyssa Milano, the group of friends are reunited to a degree after the death of Thomas Grey. Savi and her husband are apparently trying to have a baby and with that initial encounter we see the tension between them clearly in their awkward lovemaking and a subsequent visit with a doctor that delivers bad news about Harry’s sperm. Harry is no slouch in the looks department, add to that his exotic voice and the fact that he’s a chef (there’s just something about a man that can cook, right?), he’s the one man that we’re sure won’t be cheated on. But guess what? The pressure of the baby-making-only agenda has taken its toll on these two beautiful people and the strain finally pushes Savi into the arms of her co-worker. As the first episode ended, we see her sprawled across a desk at work, with the bare, muscular back of her fellow lawyer, the equally handsome Dominic, looming over her (in a very good way.) The show could have made this one a close call; there may have been time for Savi to rethink her actions, but the second episode shows her intense emotional reaction to what obviously saw fruition.
We meet April, played by Rochelle Aytes, in a store, trying to suss out who is uttering the words, “Aw, baby,” in a Barry White like baritone. Turns out it’s a ringtone on her phone that indicates another single person is in her vicinity (an app added by Joss). April is a widow and has yet to get back into the dating scene. Her story twists as she expresses concern to her friends that she thinks whenever she's about to move on, she gets a phone call with no one on the other end. She believes it’s her dead husband calling from beyond the grave to stop her. This notion only lasts for so long, though, as Savi gets the number traced to a sketchy looking motel. Things quickly spiral further as she discovers the woman that initially wrote off the call as her son messing with the phone, admits that she was in love with April's husband and was pregnant with the previously mentioned son when he died. April, also mother to her late husband's child, is now left questioning every memory she ever had. Still suspicious, she begins to look for clues that might help her cope. Someone should tell this woman that she’s most likely opening a bigger can of worms than she probably bargained for, but that would be bad for the viewers’ pleasure right?
Karen is a psychiatrist and has the outward appearance of the consummate professional, with a slightly cold, clinical demeanor. Yet it was this character having an affair with a married man (Thomas Grey played by John Schneider) at whose funeral she rekindles her friendship with Savi. To complicate matters, she admits to her friends that she prescribed “lethal doses of narcotics” which, from the looks of things, the deceased's wife Elizabeth (Penelope Ann Miller) helped to administer to hasten his death. While Karen struggles with her conscience and wonders whether she has any right to grieve for the man that she loved and lost, the poop hits the fan. Savi's firm has been drawn into Thomas' death (he was the founder of the firm), as the insurance company is looking into why his wife refused the autopsy. Throw in Thomas's twenty year old son, who knows his dad was having an affair but not the woman's identity, and his obviously growing crush on Karen, there is a whole big mess for this poor woman to dig herself out of.
Joss, juxtaposed to the other, more serious characters, embodies ideals of free love and experimentation. She tells her boss, Mac (whom she is sleeping with, of course), that under no circumstances is he to leave his wife for her. This is in reaction to his comment that he’d love to wake up with her in the morning. His words bring about the question of whether he’s just saying it, thinking that all women need that promise of commitment to be involved or if, in fact, the roles are reversed and the man is the one longing for Joss, and while she is insistent on playing the field for as long as she can. She does use her influence to aid in her career with the boss, capitalizing on whatever influence her wild abandon has on him. It culminates in an offer from Mac to buy her an apartment, fully prepared to set her up as at least one of the mistresses I had been expecting from the beginning. This notion is shot down, not immediately, but definitely upon comparison to the half of a lesbian couple who is completely honest in saying she's happy to let her partner pay for everything, therefore acquiescing the decision making to the bread winner. Joss calls BS to this, of course, but it gives her enough of an awakening that she refuses the apartment and opts to live in Savi's boathouse....for free.
Knowing the premise for the show involves a fair amount of sexy goodness, it was easy to ship these characters, some in multiple scenarios. Dominic's interest in Savi isn't just a surface attraction; there is definitely more going on in his mind. Karen's emotional connection to Sam's dad might lead to something even darker for her with Sam, but I could see something happening with the insurance investigator (Gary Dourdan) to make her legal woes disappear. April made two attempts to start dating a newly single dad, but chickened out on the first attempt and found out about Miranda just before the second try at a first date. Whether ‘third time is the charm’ or if her life becomes consumed with finding out the truth about her husband becomes the main focus, she'll still have a lot on her plate. Joss proves the most adventurous effort at shipping. I sensed a modicum of chemistry between her and Harry, Savi's husband, but while she may have open ideas about love and sex, they may not align with messing with her family. There was, however, undoubted sexual tension between Joss and Alex, particularly when Alex demonstrated her knowledge of Japanese bondage rope tying. As an honourable mention, there's something going on in a knowing look I detected from the hostess at Harry's restaurant. It may turn out that she's just his biggest fan, but maybe there is more to this story like having his very own stalker or previous indiscretion
I'll admit, there were a few times I wanted to scream, “Predictable!” at my TV but I'm hoping they can bring some additional excitement and more interesting plots as the show progresses. What struck me as favourable was the portrayal of life’s intricacies and the situations the women found themselves in, either by their own involvement or as a result of their partner’s transgressions. The questions asked by all of the women regarding why these things have happened/ are happening illustrates the show’s intent to not necessarily make light of cheating in anyway but look at the emotional and consequential ramifications. There are still a lot of answers to be found and, I’m sure much more room for expansion.
Who else has watched? Will you stick it out at least a few more episodes? Have any of you seen the UK version? Does it measure up? Which of the story lines sounds most appealing or has the most potential for growth?
Jackie Lester imagines a day when she can make a living as a writer. Until then, she reviews eclectic books at My Ever Expanding Library and lives in small-town Ontario with her daughter.