Not another 'Good Girls' breaking bad: Can Christina Hendricks save season 2 from fatalistic cliches?
Three overworked, underpaid, underappreciated suburban moms - played by Christina Hendricks, Mae Whitman, and Retta - are at the heart of this drama, which just arrived on Netflix.
What happens when women, with loved ones depending on them, are desperate, in need of a miracle, and pushed to the edge? They break bad. Quite literally. In what seems to a straight lift-off from the pages of a certain Walter White's guidebook (a chemistry-teacher-turned-drug-lord), Netflix/NBC dramedy 'Good Girls' gives a whole new feminist spin to the good people seduced into the world of crime story, with a generous amount of help from the show's leading trio - Beth, Annie, and Ruby.
Three overworked, underpaid, underappreciated suburban moms - played by Christina Hendricks ('Mad Men,' 'Fist Fight') Mae Whitman ('The Duff,' 'Parenthood'), and Retta ('Parks and Recreation,' 'Girlfriend's Guide to Divorce') -are at the heart of the heist drama, which recently arrived on Netflix. The story is simple in a beautifully complicated way. What begins as a battle for these women to make both ends meet while tending to their primary duties, as mothers, spirals into a whole different zone when their financial crisis is bolstered by a personal one. Especially on Beth's end.
Matthew Lillard's Dean, also beth's pig-costume-clad husband, serves as the fuel for this crisis. On the surface, Dean and Beth appear to be one happy family-of-four but 'Good Girls' showrunner Jenna Bans doesn't waste much time in shattering all these illusions - enters into the mix, the stunning Amber (Sara Paxton), the model for Dean's car dealership and his secret affair in office. The knowledge of the love rat dons upon the ever-dedicated wife in a rather dramatic fashion, involving a baseball bat, Dean's stuff, and a very, very angry Beth.
From here on the 'Good Girls' plot is a predictable pattern only broken every now and then by the brilliance of the main cast. While Beth's domestic issue sparks the fire, Annie's critical monetary condition - anticipating a nasty custody battle - and the helplessness faced by Ruby in the wake of her daughter's failing health acts as the fuel. Together, the trio conjures a plan that they were laughing over just a few scenes back - as their unserious plan takes shape, these three decide to rob the local Fine & Frugal departmental store.
Annie provides the intel, Beth the courage, and Roby packs on muscle power. In a true 'Breaking Bad' style, the plot unfolds with the rather ordinary mothers from suburban Detroit gearing up to be sucked into the world of the gritty underworld. If Hendricks' icy-cold Beth shepherds this team of desperate homemakers, then Rio (Manny Montana), the kingpin of the world of counterfeit currency is their bible, teaching them every know-how that is required to master the art of crime.
However, the transition from these ladies' day jobs to their after-dark antics comes to a full circle only when they decide to strike again, robbing the grocery store a second time to get Rio, a crime mafia breathing down their spine, arrested. And all of this, within the course of first 10 episodes alone.
How does 'Good Girls' season 1 fare?
In bits and pieces, throughout the duration of the first season, 'Good Girls' is laced with potential. The cast is terrific, their performance hits the nail right on the head, and this is not even the best part about the show - episode 10 'Remix' serves the ultimate cliffhanger with Rio and Beth - whose potential for a romantic arc has been strongly hinted upon - coming face to face, with a loaded gun between them, deciding the fate of the two.
'Good Girls' showrunner Bans calls this point the "final moment" where Rio puts "his money where his mouth is."
“Alright, if you’re a boss, this is how it works. You don’t just try to get someone arrested; you take care of them and that’s how you move up,” he says leaving Beth with one tough decision on hand - whether to kill Rio and take his place as the new kingpin or to shoot his cheating, lying husband Dean, who until the last moment duped Beth by faking his cancer.
"It’s the ultimate game of chess at the end and we’re left on that question: Does Beth have what it takes to shoot someone at point-blank range? Is she a murderer or is she a normal person just thrust into insane circumstances?" teases Bans, reiterating the exact questions that are in our minds. Whether or not Beth will take a completely ruthless turn - sending 'Good Girls' off its comedic genre - is up in the air (although there's nothing more we would love to see than Hendricks don dark shades and a mean pout as she launders money), but one thing is pretty apparent - the fate of season 2 hangs by the thread.
A major criticism against the show is it's convoluted graph, from comedy to heist to crime thriller, the plot makes such swift (and seamless) transitions that one may confuse the flow of the narrative for lack of direction. But that's not the case, at least that's what we hope.
Beth, Annie, and Ruby are born out of a sudden onslaught of mommies-day-out, girls-gone-wild stories (in the past two years along movies like 'Bad Moms,' 'Mother's Day,' and 'A Bad Mom's Christmas,' that established there is an appetite and market for these characters.) Overexposed and overused as it may be, with the addition of serious crime and an incredibly talented Hendricks, 'Good Girls' can still turn the table on this genre, wiping out all criticisms when the show returns for season 2.
What do we want to see in season 2?
Hopefully, Beth will pull the trigger (and fingers crossed, it's Dean). Good riddance we say! And even better is her partners, Annie and Ruby, completely embrace the path that they have set on. It can't be one foot in and one foot out the situation for these ladies. Completely dehumanizing these "mothers" could be the brilliance this show is in dire need of.
And while Beth and Dean serve as the face of romantic-devastation, a perfect and masterfully crafted foil to these two is the relationship of Ruby and Stan. It's a poignant moment of realization when Stan, an officer in the Detroit Police Department, confronts his wife about her criminal undertakings - reminding her about the one thing it will take to make him walk out of his marriage. As for Annie, it has been a real struggle so far, having been nearly raped by her boss. Just because she doesn't have a family to deal with, it would be unfair to undermine her pain and misery.
'Good Girls' needs to stick to its comic style but at the same time need to throw in some real drama, undoable deeds, and a crime boss for good measure - and may we recommend Hendricks for the position!