I went into Netflix’s series, The Woman in the House Across the Street From the Girl in the Window, with some skepticism. First of all, the title is ridiculous, and from the trailer, it looked like it was trying to be Rear Window which, let’s be honest, nothing else can be. It also looked interesting because of the premise. It really reeled me in with its unreliable narrator hook.
What the Unreliable Narrator does for the story
The concept of an unreliable narrator has been around for years, and it it one that still works. It revolves around the main character, who is untrustworthy for one reason or another, so you need to be skeptical about what he or she tells you is going on or what you see through their eyes. There are plenty of stories with unreliable narrators, such as The Girl on the Train, Gone Girl, The Woman in the Window, and Fight Club.
Because of this, the grand mystery is whether what the narrator is telling you is actually happening. Anna, played by Kristen Bell, drinks a ton of wine and mixes it with her medications. So when she witnesses the murder of a woman across the street, you doubt her, just like her neighbors and the police doubt her. The unreliable narrator adds an intriguing layer to any thriller or mystery story.
What’s interesting about The Woman is that it’s not meant to be taken as a serious thriller, but there are some parts that will make your jaw drop – some of it is so outlandish that it’s more like a parody of the genre. It straddles that line in a skillful way to keep you guessing.
With the early-onset mystery and the unreliable narrator trope, it’s difficult not to get sucked in. The murder and doubting the witness has shades of Rear Window as well, but it is even more complicated and convoluted.
Both will get you all mixed up and confused, which is really the point of the mystery. There are also hints of gaslighting, for instance, with Anna often hearing and seeing things that others easily dismiss, such as her neighbor’s suspicious behavior or another neighbor being out to ‘get’ her, so she begins to think she’s going crazy, which just makes us question her more.
The twists are also pretty out-there, and you won’t see most of them coming. Plus, with being in Anna’s head, you’re never quite sure which twists are real and which aren’t. Without giving anything away, something else that feeds into this theory is a tombstone, whose inscription changes each time Anna visits the grave. There are a few instances where what happens is so implausible that it often feels like parody instead of the tragedy it otherwise would be.
It also keeps you guessing when it comes to the killer because we pivot to different people along with our unreliable narrator. Sometimes her train of thought actually makes sense. The problem is that we really have no idea what’s actually happening, so it makes it that much more compelling to watch.
You can watch all eight episodes of the miniseries on Netflix. This number may increase, depending on if another season is ordered. The final episode presented a complete story, but with a twist at the end that could be expanded into a new season.