Life can be pretty tedious for a healthy woman living in a middle-class district. Unless something shocking happens right in front of her home. And that’s what occurs to Anna (Kristen Bell), protagonist of The Woman in The House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window, a dark comedy playing with mystery’s clichés.

Created by Rachel Ramras, Hugh Davidson and Larry Dorf, the series was originally titled The Woman in the House. Arriving on Netflix in January 2022, it became the series with the longest title on the platform.

Murder or vision?

After she divorced her husband Douglas (Michael Ealy), Anna lives alone and tries to overcome their daughter’s death. She drinks lot of wine, often accompanied by a handful of pills she takes to control panic attacks and ombrophobia (the fear of rain). She starts seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, though, when Neil (Tom Riley) moves in the house in front of hers. Neil is a charming widower, father of Emma (Samsara Yett) and, unfortunately, in a relationship with Lisa (Shelley Hennig).

Due to her abuse of drugs and alcohol, many people don’t believe that Anna is hearing strange noises in the area. Nor when she affirms Lisa has been murdered right in front of her window. While everybody tries to persuade her it was just a hallucination, Anna decides to investigate on her own.

A two-faced story

The Woman in The House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window belongs to different genres, of which explores most of clichés. On a hand, it can be seen as a mystery. It follows the path traced by Sharp Objects and Gone Girl, but above all Hitchcock’s Rear Window. On the other hand, the series was originally created as parody of the movie The Woman in the Window. As such, it also resembles comedy in shaping both the characters and the tone.

At a first glance the series could look like any other parody, which usually make fun of famous stories. However, somewhat distant from the classic Scary Movie, the satire isn’t about the narrative, but about the structure. In this sense, it turns out to be much more similar to mockumentaries such as What We Do in the Shadow. Starting with a ridiculously long title, the series emphasizes any cliché to create an absurd consequence of events. The basic structures of thriller and mystery are filled with comedy contents. And the result is a parody that mocks rules, more than narrative.

Moreover, some scenes recall overused stereotypes of the thriller. It’s the case of “the moment when something happens out of the window” or “the dark basement”, until a final cliffhanger that leaves the story open for a second season.

A life between thriller and comedy

Most of the elements in the series have no plausibility whatsoever. Anna faints any time it rains, her hair and make-up remains always impeccable and she owns an indefinable number of identical casserole dishes (that constantly smash on the ground). Every line sounds surreal and the acting is full of clichés. It would be nearly impossible to find any sense in it were it not for the energy and expressivity of Kristen Bell.

Bell reached fame thanks to playing the role of teenage detective Veronica Mars. The series not only proved to be a cornerstone of teen drama, but it collected the heritage of neo-noir, too. The actress projected some signs of this character on Anna, and succeeded in creating a housewife investigator. Some of those traits were also in The Good Place, where Bell performed the cunning Eleanor. The latter had an influence on the dark comedy side of the series, too. Even though Eleanor has a natural instinct for sniffing out deceits, she remains a funny character.

The fascination for macabre

With her performance in The Woman in The House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window, Kristen Bell shows she’s interested in dark, comedic satire deep-diving. After years between mystery and comedy, she assimilated their exact rules to the point where she can play with them, as she admits in an interview for EW.

“I’ve meditated somewhat on why I like very dark things, and I think it might be because my brain is actually struggling to figure out how something that bad could happen”

Kristen Bell, EW