The title comes from a Desperate Housewives episode, a program that has exemplified to great effect the idea that evil doesn’t just come in the form of dictators, suicide bombers, corrupt governments, or disasters, but rather, that evil subsists among the ordinary and the mundane. It’s an every day occurrence and it walks among us, in the suburbs and the cities, as our co-workers, friends, neighbors, and even as our own family members. Those same universal themes are at the crux of my novel, Shades of Darkness, Shades of Grace.
An episode titled, “That’s Good, That’s Bad” perfectly captures this theme as nearly everyone on Wisteria Lane is confronted with acts of malice that force decisions, just as the Pierson family debates how to deal with a former family member’s brutal and continuous assault in Shades of Darkness. Ultimately, everyone makes choices of how to approach the evil within their lives, and none are without consequence.
For the Desperate Housewives, Lynette and Bree make the most difficult choices. When Lynette Scavo catches her boss, Nina, in an amorous embrace with a fellow co-worker, she tries to use the incident as leverage. Embarrassed, Nina asks what it will take to keep Lynette quiet. Lynette responds she wants Nina to be civil to her and her team. However, crafty Nina gets rid of the problem by firing the co-worker, Stu. Incensed, Lynette contacts Stu, letting him know that he can sue the company for sexual harassment. But her plan backfires, as the ad agency’s owner fires Nina and co-workers, fearing the company will go broke fighting the harassment suit Stu has filed. Only Lynette keeps her job, but not without the painful realization that it was her actions, righteous or misdirected, that caused this turn of events.
Bree Van De Camp’s conflict with evil comes in the form of George, the pharmacist she was engaged to. She’s discovered George is behind the injuries her therapist suffered when someone riding a bike threw him off a bridge. Now, the police are closing in on George, as they search his home for evidence in the attack. Realizing he’s backed into a corner, George checks into the hotel where Bree is hosting a fundraiser.
As the distraught George takes an overdose of pills, the police contact Bree with the news they have discovered evidence that George poisoned her late husband, Rex. Drifting in and out of consciousness, George summons Bree to his room. She tells George she can only forgive him if he admits to what he’s done. Defiant, George says that whatever he did, he did because Bree wanted him to. Then he asks her to please call an ambulance before it’s too late. Bree smiles her sweetest smile and tells him she already has. And Bree then makes her choice to sit and wait for George to die.
One might also ask who is committing the greater evil in these scenarios, as no one walks away scot-free. What’s clear is that evil makes its presence known in ordinary lives, whether it’s on Wisteria Lane, in the Twin Cities, or across the globe. As Kay observes near the end of Shades of Darkness, “. . . goodness and evil each present us with choices, and they are never as simple as they might appear.” Lynette, Bree, and the Pierson’s are all pushed by sheer malevolence to make difficult decisions and take measures they would otherwise never consider.
Those actions do have consequences, some more daunting than others. In real life, probably more often than we would dare think, evil sometimes not only drives a minivan, it takes a seat at the dinner table.