We need to talk about ‘The Woman in the House Across the Street’

This eight-part Netflix series was built to be binged

Brad Keefe
"The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window"

A snowed-in weekend feels like a perfect time to talk about the phenomenon of how streaming has changed our brains.

We didn’t always binge shows. Now it seems it’s all we do is tear through content. Only a handful of shows have really brought back that sense of “I can’t wait to see what happens next week.”

And that’s OK because it’s also led to a new artform in limited series that are built to be binged.

Netflix’s dropped some juicy binge bait last week with “The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window.”

The eight-part Kristen Bell vehicle is a darkly comic spoof on a certain brand of literary crime thrillers. It’s gotten mixed reactions from critics, and also left some viewers confused as to exactly what the hell it’s trying to be.

I think that’s probably because there are three audiences for something like this, and as someone right in the middle of that Venn diagram, I think “The Woman in the House” is kinda brilliant.

Bell plays Anna, a divorced woman heartbroken after the death of her young daughter. She drowns her sorrows in wine (a lot of wine) and stares out the window to … the house across the street.

She’s intrigued by her handsome new neighbor, Neil (Tom Riley), but her light at the end of the tunnel may have a dark past.

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“The Woman in the House” is obviously a parody with that title. The parody usually takes form in a more deadpan play off the tropes of this genre. It often feels like you’re watching an accidental “so bad it’s good” Lifetime movie.

Sometimes it pulls back the deadpan mask and goes full-bore “Airplane!” style silly. It’s not a laugh a minute pace, but I can tell you I might have frightened the neighbors belly-laughing at the reveal of how Anna’s daughter died (won’t spoil it, but it’s an early reveal).

So, yes, a child’s death is a punchline, and it’s hilarious. They are plenty willing to go dark and over-the-top.

So, we have deadpan parody, ridiculous parody, and a third audience that may be what those who really love this miniseries have in common.

It plays off the ridiculous tropes of these crime thrillers, but it’s actually a pretty decent one as well.

It’s not a movie making fun of people who like trashy beach novels. It’s also for them. It’s almost a love letter to them, the way “This Is Spinal Tap” came from a genuine love of the brand of rock star it parodied.

There are genuine thrills as Anna starts to wonder what is reality. There’s some great twists and red herrings, even as they wink to the ridiculous tropes.

There are relatable characters (the classic nosy neighbor) and situations (the prevalence of Instagram stalking as mystery-solving device).

Some who found the laughs too spread apart have wonder if this should have just been a movie. Absolutely not.

The episodic cliffhangers are part of the delight. The ridiculous layers of the mystery unfolding don’t need to be condensed.

Because this is a Netflix production, and it’s built to be binged. 

If you hit the sweet spot of the audiences I described, you’ll probably love this as much as I did.

If you’re on the fence, give it a couple of episodes to get a feel. It’s not like you have something better to do this weekend.

“The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window”

Now streaming on Netflix

4 stars out of 5