The show is not called ''Desperate Husbands," and so we've always known that the men of ''Desperate Housewives" were fair game. We've known that series creator Marc Cherry could eliminate any of them at any time without altering the show's core cast and concept. But still, it was a hard moment in last night's finale when we learned that Rex Van De Kamp had died in his hospital bed. And that moment wasn't made any easier knowing that Rex (the likable Steven Culp) had passed out of the world wrongly believing that his wife, Bree, had murdered him.
Such was the pathos and tragedy of the season ender of ''Desperate Housewives." It was a dark but satisfying finish to a year of mysterious events on Wisteria Lane, a finish that successfully tied up the loose ends established way back in the pilot episode with the suicide of Mary Alice Young. It also left a few new mysteries on deck for next season, including the possibility that Bree will fall into the arms of the psychotic pharmacist responsible for the death of her husband -- if, this being a soap opera, he is truly dead. We were also left wondering if Mike Delfino is the father of Zach Young, and we met some highly suspicious new neighbors, played by Alfre Woodard and Mehcad Brooks.
The Mary Alice mystery wrapped up, as we learned conclusively what we'd been piecing together for a few weeks now. Mary Alice and Paul Young had bought a baby named Dana from a drug addict named Dierdre. They then moved to Wisteria Lane, where they changed their names and raised the baby as Zach.
But we also learned something new: When a violent Dierdre came to reclaim her child three years later, it was a desperate and defensive Mary Alice -- not Paul -- who murdered her with a knife. The Youngs then buried Dierdre in a toy chest beneath their new pool, but not before Zach saw the dead body. Dierdre, of course, was the woman whose death Mike Delfino had come to avenge.
There were guns pointed in the episode. Mike was poised to shoot Paul for having killed Dierdre, until Paul told him Mary Alice had done the deed. And an enraged Zach, aware Mike was planning to kill his father, held Susan at gunpoint as he waited for Mike to return. At the end of the episode, we see Mike walking into his home, unaware he's about to be confronted and possibly shot.
The finale quickly caught up with the other two housewives and their melodramas. Carlos finally discovered that Gabrielle was having an affair with John, and Lynette learned that Tom has decided to become a stay-at-home dad. ''You are going back to work," he tells her, furious she toyed with his office politics.
None of the many twists were delicious in that distinctly ''Desperate Housewives" way. The hour set out to provide answers, without the show's trademark black comedy, and that's what it did. The only true signature touch had to do with Bree, who is polishing her silver when the doctor calls with news of Rex's death. Naturally, before she breaks down in tears, Bree completes the task at hand.
Matthew Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com.