“The Woman in the House”: How a Casserole Dish Became an Unlikely Clue
Image Source: Netflix
“The Godfather” introduced oranges as a symbol of mortal danger in cinema. “The Sixth Sense” used red motifs to mark when the dead were trying to communicate with the living. And Netflix’s “The Woman in the House Across the Street From the Girl in the Window” transformed Anna’s chicken casserole dish into a major clue that pointed straight to the killer.
Rich, comforting, and creamy, Anna’s casserole dish starts out as an easy weeknight dinner that helps her get through the day after the death of her daughter, Elizabeth, and her divorce from her husband, Douglas. At its centre, the casserole is just heaps of noodles, cheddar, chicken, and canned soup. But it’s the dish itself – a quintessential white glass-ceramic painted with blue cornflowers – that acts as a harbinger for what’s to come.
Why Does Anna’s Casserole Dish Keep Appearing?
“The Woman in the House” opens with Anna making a chicken casserole in her kitchen. When she’s ready to pull the dish out of the oven, she reaches inside without any oven mitts on and freezes for a moment before screaming and dropping the piping hot dish on the floor, where it shatters into gooey shards of ceramic peppered with noodles and cheese. It’s in this moment that we first get a glimpse at Anna’s fragile state of mind.
When an attractive new neighbor named Neil moves in across the street with his daughter, Emma, Anna sees her chance to make a connection and whips up another casserole in an identical dish, this time remembering to put her oven mitts on before she pulls it out of the oven. But as she steps outside, a heavy rain starts to pour and the dish shatters, again, in the middle of the rain-slicked street as Anna passes out and collapses because of her ombrophobia, or fear of rain. Could this be a sign that she’s not meant to meet her neighbors across the street? It would be, if Neil didn’t help her up minutes later and carry her back inside of her house, but he isn’t the person she should be avoiding.
The next day, Anna whips up a third casserole in another identical dish and successfully carries it across the street. As a thank you, Neil invites her to stay for dinner and enjoy the casserole with him and his daughter. After the meal, she stays to read Emma a bedtime story and Neil hands back her freshly cleaned casserole dish. Caught up in Neil’s eyes and the subtle brush of his hand against her own, Anna misses the handover and the dish falls to the floor, shattering for a third time in the span of a single episode.
How Does Anna’s Casserole Dish Lead Her to the Killer?
As Anna digs deeper into Chastity’s murder case, she becomes suspicious that Neil killed her, convincing herself that he also must have killed his late wife, Meredith. To investigate, Anna makes a casserole as a show of friendliness and takes it with her to speak with Hilary, Meredith’s sister, under the guise that she and Meredith used to attend a pottery class together. “There’s so many layers to casseroles, just like there’s so many layers to a person,” Anna says in a voiceover. “But to connect with someone, you have to be willing to peel back those layers and show them what’s really inside.”
The casserole effectively helps to take down Hilary’s walls, giving Anna some useful information about Neil’s family. But the dish remains unfinished and Anna takes the leftovers back home with her. Later that night, with Rex, a murder suspect, hiding in her pantry and two police officers standing in her kitchen, Anna hesitantly heats up the casserole for Officer Walters. But the officers have to leave before Anna has time to serve any and again, the casserole remains unfinished. By the finale we realise that, while it may be a stretch, the unfinished casserole was a sign that Anna was looking for Chastity’s killer in all the wrong places (see: Neil and Rex).
On Elizabeth’s birthday, Anna brings a casserole to her daughter’s grave but quickly offers it to Neil and Emma when she sees them at the cemetery for Chastity’s funeral. “Life is for the living and so are casseroles” she says, a darkly ironic statement considering that, two episodes later, Emma would smash the same casserole dish over Anna’s head after revealing that she was the killer all along.
To prevent herself from becoming Emma’s next victim, Anna stabs her with a shard of the broken casserole dish, a symbol that she’s pinpointed the true killer once and for all. Are Anna’s casseroles just as “sh*t” as Emma said they were? Maybe. But they also act as a major clue hiding in plain sight, which makes solving this delightfully cheesy murder mystery all the more satisfying.