September 3, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Mistresses”


MISTRESSES faced some challenges in its 3rd season.  Two were interrelated:  for budget reasons, the network and studio decided to relocate the production to Vancouver, and that prompted marquee star Alyssa Milano to disengage from her contract.  Season 3 didn’t really suffer from these changes, since Milano’s character Savi had a relatively weak role in the previous season, and since Mistresses is mostly shot on soundstages anyway.

The bigger problem this season was the plotting, which lost quite a bit of the frothiness and humor that had originally made the series a guilty summer pleasure.  There was a lot of death around, and not particularly the fun kind.  Karen (Yunjin Kim), who had suffered through a terminally ill lover’s condition in Season 1, had temporary satisfaction from her “throuple” with Alec (Ed Quinn) and Vivian (Sonja Bennett), but things got very serious fairly quickly, and by the end of the season she was back in the intensive care ward, watching over Vivian as she succumbed to rapidly advancing cancer.  Along the way, she became pregnant with Alec’s baby, which opens up some plot areas for a potential Season 4, although they would seem likely to take the show even farther from its original tone.

Joss (Jes Macallan), in between star-crossed love complications with Harry (Brett Tucker)–originally Savi’s husband and Joss’s brother-in-law–became embroiled in a convoluted murder that involved wacko Calista (Jennifer Esposito).  Esposito’s performance was so eccentric as the erratically narcissistic fashion designer that while she successfully obscured the issue of whether Calista had killed her cheating husband and framed Joss for the crime, she also unbalanced the show’s style.  Joss, who had been the most buoyant character on the show, found her role darkened considerably (but not deepened), and the show’s prison sequences demonstrated that the producers had watched both too much and not enough of Orange Is The New Black.  The season finale, written by US series creator K.T. Steinberg and directed by John Scott, went darker and weirder still, as Calista appeared to be headed for a suicide in her cell, and it turned out the murderer was Calista’s male assistant, who was dressing in her outfits and living in her house, and who was last seen holding a gun on Joss.

The only character to have a straightforward romantic storyline was April (Rochelle Aytes).  Even that was uneven:  her brief liaison with the principal of daughter Lucy’s (Corinne Massiah) school seemed strongly to imply that he was going to end up as some kind of authoritarian monster, but then he just fizzled out of the show.  That was OK, though, since Aytes had great chemistry with Rob Mayes, who played Marc, the initially irresponsible but steadily maturing soulmate living under her nose (he was the uncle to the boy April’s dead husband had had with another woman) but whom she was too blind to see until the season finale.

That finale did a capable job of wrapping up some stories while keeping others in motion for a possible renewal, but Mistresses just wasn’t as breezily escapist as it used to be.  The ratings have it very much on the bubble, and its fate probably depends on how much scripted fare ABC wants next summer (although it should help that The Whispers is unlikely to return, Astronaut Wives Club was designed for a limited run, and Rookie Blue seems to be ready to pack up its bags).  This season seemed oddly to accentuate the guilt and neglect the pleasure it was meant to provide.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."