Susan loses Mike, Lynette goes corporate, Gabrielle punches a nun, and Bree bottoms out. Season 2 of "Desperate Housewives" has plenty of laughs, and you'll also be reaching for the Kleenex. But the new family on the block (Alfre Woodard as Betty Applewhite) is an obvious plant that borders on silly. Thankfully, Paul and Zach Young return mid-season to inject a genuine creep factor.
The darkest, juiciest bits are Bree's. She's widowed, drinking way too much wine, and dating Rex's murderer. And, oh, is she cold. Her disposal of George, while justified, isn't pretty. (That's two passive-aggressive murders on her conscience.) Her relationship with AA sponsor Peter has some human warmth, but her son puts a quick end to that. (Peter's a sex addict, and Andrew beds him to spite Bree.) Bree's dark year ends on a bright note: Orson Hodge comes to town. Of course, he runs over Mike Delfino and leaves him for dead, but that's Susan's problem.
How many corners are there in a love triangle, again? Susan manages four -- no, five (a love pentagram?) -- this season. First, there's Mike, whom she and Edie spar over until Susan gives Zach Young money to go find Paul in Utah. Then Karl, Susan's ex, shacks up with Edie, even though he swears he still loves Susan. Susan tests the waters and spends an afternoon in Karl's arms. When Edie finds out, she torches Susan's house. (After all, Susan burned down Edie's place.) By season's end, Susan is ready to let Mike back into her life. But Mike's lying in the street, battered and broken.
Lynette swims with the sharks in her new advertising career, but Tom isn't doing too well as Mr. Mom. He wants a job at Lynette's agency, but she's not sure he has the right killer instincts. Tom proves her wrong by buddying-up with her boss, Ed, who ends up telling Lynette about Tom's many secret trips to Atlantic City. Lynette tails Tom there and watches him enter another woman's house. But Tom doesn't have a mistress; he has another family, thanks to a pre-Lynette fling. Tom and Lynette adopt new daughter Kayla and pay off Nora, the kid's mom. But Nora takes the money and buys a house down the street.
After Gabrielle miscarries, she starts thinking she might want to be a mother after all. But when Carlos is paroled, he's not so interested in Gaby anymore. He's seen the light, thanks to Sister Mary (blond, beautiful, hungry for a man), whose testimony got Carlos off for good behavior. Gabrielle sees Sister Mary for the black widow she is, and the two wage a hilarious war that ends in a fistfight ... in the middle of a cathedral. Her nemesis gone, Gabrielle tells Carlos it's baby time. They try adoption, but social services isn't keen on the Solis family dynamic. Accusations of statutory rape (Gabrielle) and a slave-labor conviction (Carlos) will have that effect. They adopt privately, but the birth mother changes her mind and takes the baby back, crushing Gabrielle. Finally, they make a deal with their maid, Xiao-Mei: Xiao-Mei will be their surrogate, and they won't report her to the INS. Everybody wins!
So far, so good. But then there's Betty Applewhite. Why drop Alfre Woodard (love her) and her idiot man-child in the middle of things? Of course, having a crazy black man on the loose does come in handy for the writers: Caleb triggers Gabrielle's miscarriage. Plus, having Caleb hound Danielle is a great way to drive Bree completely nuts.
And don't forget the big twist: Caleb turns out to be the GOOD son! It was handsome-hunk Matthew who offed his old girlfriend. By season's end, it takes a SWAT sharpshooter to save Danielle and Bree from murderous Matthew.
We finally get back to Paul and Zach Young ... HALFWAY through the season. Felicia Tilman puts Zach in touch with his grandfather, Noah, who promises to leave his entire empire to Zach. Desperate to bring Paul to justice, Felicia chops off her own fingers and bleeds all over a fake murder scene to frame Paul for "killing" her. Paul begs Zach to get money from Noah for his defense. Noah refuses and threatens to cut Zach out of the will. But Zach takes his inheritance a little early, by turning off Noah's respirator.
What do you think of Season 2? Did it break new ground? Or drive off a cliff?