Is it possible to overcome a devastating loss and learn to move on without that person? That's part of the premise behind the seventh season of Lifetime's "Army Wives," which showed a group of friends dealing with the trials and tribulations of living on an Army base. The results may have been mixed, but the cast still pulls viewers in with their emotional stories and the ability to make them laugh at the same time.
"Army Wives" followed Denise Sherwood (Catherine Bell) as she dealt with being a working mother while her husband Major Frank Sherwood (Terry Serpico) was deployed. She was shocked when her friend Major General Michael Holden (Brian McNamara) involved her that his wife Claudia Joy suddenly died of heart failure. They bonded through mutual grief as they tried to say goodbye. Luckily, Denise had good friends to lean on in Dr. Roland Burton (Sterling K. Brown), Jackie Clarke (Kelli Williams), and Gloria Cruz (Alyssa Diaz) when things got to be too difficult for her. The impact of Claudia Joy's death was also felt overseas as well because Roland's wife Colonel Joan Burton (Wendy Davis) who remembered her fondly. Fort Marshall is also suddenly hit with some new residents that included Colonel Katherine "Kat" Young (Brooke Shields) who immediately clashed with the grieving Michael. Denise also has to deal with three very different Army wives (Ashanti, Torrey DeVitto and Elle McLemore) who need help navigating through the social politics inside Fort Marshall before they get into too much trouble. Will she be able to succeed or will she make some mistakes along the way?
In terms of questions, the show's season premiere posed some valuable ones, even though viewers were too stunned to think about them when it was revealed that Kim Delaney's Claudia Joy died off-camera. It seemed to come out of nowhere because last season's finale focused on a possible plane crash instead. The sudden storyline twist gave the sometimes underused McNamara more to do than being a mere supporting player, but the show should avoid pushing Michael too soon into a new relationship. The premiere paid a touching tribute to Delaney's character, but her character's exit dealt a shocking blow because Claudia Joy was the show's anchor. The show appeared to be angling to make Bell's Denise the new show anchor, but her character isn't quite up for the task just yet. Some sharper stories and fresher chracter direction might do the trick, but the season premiere continued to show cracks that started to suffer last season. Sure, the show still touched on some of its familiar touchstones, but it also started showing signs of storyline strain that pulled focus from the core group of friends. With Delaney and two other core character gone, the addition of four new characters only further indicated that the show's days were numbered. Only time will tell if the cast changes will help or hurt the show down the line.
As for breakout stars, McNamara and Bell were the season's early standouts because their characters were forced to deal with the shocking loss of Claudia Joy. Viewers were pulled into the season premiere from Michael's perspective as he found out about Claudia Joy's passing and the days following the news. The episode had many touching flashbacks, but the most memorable moment came when McNamara's Michael finally gave into his grief after seeing Claudia Joy's body for the first time. He didn't even have to say a word to convey the fact that he lost the love of his life and will never be the same because of it. Hopefully, the show continues to utilize McNamara in a credible way, but it won't be through pairing him off with new cast member Shields to do the trick. Bell, on the other hand, was tasked with the challenging task of taking over as the show's newly crowned female lead. Unfortunately, it's too early to tell whether she's the right choice. Bell's new leading lady status was best felt when she was comforting Claudia Joy's daughter and when she was bonding with her friends towards the end of the premiere. The show would be wise to bring back Serpico's Frank back to Fort Marshall to give Denise's story more weight and not have her spinning her wheels in the meantime. Let's hope that Serpico's return will be eminent for the sake of the show's future for better or worse.
"Army Wives" premiered on March 10th and airs Sundays at 9:00 PM on Lifetime.
Verdict: The show packed a major emotional punch in the season premiere, but the casting changes could prove to the show's undoing in the end.
TV Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)