Good Girls continues its own niche as a wonderfully entertaining piece of work.
Debuting on NBC in 2018, Good Girls has remained something of a best-kept secret over its three seasons on the air. Although it has been given a prime piece of exposure, by having its international rights snapped up by Netflix who make the series available to binge upon the completion of each season in the U.S, it’s hard to shake the feeling that more people should be talking about it.
On the surface, it has always looked like a network television-lite take on the Breaking Bad formula with the gender roles flipped and with three central characters as opposed to one. Appearances can be deceptive and if you’ve given the series something of a wide berth, then you might want to change your mind and give it a chance. Because even though its storytelling is contrived and you might have to suspend your disbelief at various points, it proves hard to resist when the writing and performances are as entertaining as this.
Being an American network show means that Good Girls will never quite be able to go as far out in terms of content in the manner that Breaking Bad did; there is no image here as shocking as the grisly demise of Giancarlo Esposito’s Gus at the end of that show’s fourth season. But what Good Girls manages to do every bit as well, and which Jenna Bans and her talented writer’s room have grown increasingly brilliant at doing, is taking their core cast of characters and putting them into increasingly entertaining high-pressure situations and letting the story develop wonderfully. Stop and think about it for too long and chances are the series might very well fall apart in your hands. But with each season running for around eleven to thirteen episodes (this third season comes in at eleven instalments) and fitting into a forty-five minute run time, the series never outstays its welcome and is a brilliant confluence of thriller, comedy and character drama.
For all the entertainment to be had with this trio of characters falling further and further into the realm of crime, it’s the scenes they have with their families that can make the most impact. While Christina Hendricks is without a doubt a big draw for a show like this, what with her Mad Men cache, it never once becomes a one-woman show. Much of the best work is frequently given to Parks and Recreation‘s‘ Rhetta and Arrested Development’s Mae Whitman. Of course, both actresses have done so much more outside of their comedy work, but they are most famous for their appearances and catchphrases in two of modern American television’s best comedic series of this century, but here they show how there is so much more to them with roles that balance comedy with tremendous drama. Not least this season, as Rhetta’s character Ruby must deal with the ramifications of her daughter picking up on her criminal habits, while Mae Whitman’s character Annie goes to therapy to sort out her life.
The scenes of these characters at their homes and the dramas they deal with regarding their relationships with their families and with each other, would be more than enough for a witty, funny and dramatic NBC comedy-drama the likes of which frequently litter the network’s schedules. But the criminal element, which began in season one with the characters rubbing grocery stores and which has now turned into a money-printing operation, gives it a brilliant juicy flavour not least with regards to the relationship between Christina Hendricks’ character Elizabeth and the series’ resident antagonist Rio (Manny Montana).
The first two seasons saw the audience bear witness to a slowly intensifying chemistry, with Elizabeth almost on the verge of going full (breaking) bad, but which saw her turn a gun on Rio in season two’s final moments and pull the trigger. This season deals fully with the fallout of her decision and a continuation of that intense pull between them, not least during one strangely erotic moment when Rio watches Elizabeth print money in a moment that is charged with so much sexuality that it comes as a shock to realise that there is literally no physical contact between the actors in question.
Good Girls is quietly carving its own niche as a wonderfully entertaining piece of work. For all the genre and pulp elements going on here, it’s very much a slice of television dealing with characters that are having to survive in a post-2008 world that was nearly brought to the brink of economic collapse.
Elizabeth tries to get pregnant during one pivotal episode after lying to Rio about being pregnant so as not to be killed in revenge. Upon discovery of her many, many discarded pregnancy tests, her husband Dean (Matthew Lillard in typical Matthew Lillard form) tells her that the reason they shouldn’t have another child is that they can’t even afford the ones they already have. It’s a tremendous moment that sums up everything about the series in one brilliant swoop.
Three seasons in, the series is showing no signs of losing traction, and while this season was somewhat curtailed by the Covid-19 crisis, a fourth season is in the works. On the basis of this season, it’s eagerly awaited.
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