Good Girls Season One Review

I am here to talk about TV.

When I heard the premise of the show – some ladies committing crimes – I was all okay. When I found out about the cast, I was all okay! This show has an all-star lineup of people, almost all of whom played significant roles in some excellent shows. And Matthew Lillard, for some reason. Here’s a list of some other shows this cast had roles in, just off-hand:

Mad Men
Arrested Development
Parks and Recreation
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Friday Night Lights
Fargo

There are others, but you get the point.

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The three leads absolutely work together. I can completely see Mae Whitman as Christina Hendricks’s younger sister, the former’s coping, vulnerable snark coalescing over a few more years into the latter’s pointed wit. And they all work well with their primary home lives: Ruby with her husband and children, Beth with her semi-estranged husband, and Annie with her daughter*.

All three of them – Hendricks, Whitman, Retta – are capable of leading this show as needed. Any disappointment I have in them only stems from missing Donna Meagle, really. Hendricks probably gets the best scenes, and she makes the most of them – her dramatic moments are what stand out more than anything.

The supporting cast is great. I mean, you have Zach Gilford – Matt Saracen^, after all – showing up for a scene here and there. Lillard is good, Reno Wilson is solid as Ruby’s husband. That man plays wounded as well as anyone in this cast. Alison Tolman is great in a small role too.

I’m really impressed by a couple actors in particular. David Hornsby – Rickety Cricket himself –  plays Leslie, Annie’s boss in her legitimate cashier job. He’s very much the show’s villain and damn, is he ever good at it. He’s committed to being unlikeable and petty, and it’s frightening how realistic his insecurity is. Pete Campbell would be proud of Leslie’s brand of weaselly anticharisma.

The other one is Manny Montana, who plays gangster friend Rio. He’s maybe the best part of the show – a committed criminal who isn’t purely selfish. I enjoy his easy, professional demeanor, and that the show alludes to his past but lets his composure speak for him. He and Hendricks have, far and away, the best chemistry of any two people on the show. They have some very good scenes together; basically anytime they talk ‘business’ it’s a highlight. “Go home, Elizabeth.”

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The show is very well assembled. There are some great musical choices. Law enforcement has a presence – all of this criminal activity doesn’t go unnoticed. The challenges of trying to pay the bills and trying not to get caught – or killed – feel serious.

And yet, there’s something missing. The show is fun at times, but I’m not sure it ever qualifies as funny. The consequences are real, and they drive the characters’ actions, but I’m not always sure they seem like genuine possibilities. But the greatest problem seems like a lack of direction. The three leads feel like people with real lives, and the crime hangs over everything. I’m just not sure how these things all come to a head, outside of the FBI coming down on them, and that hasn’t really been a major part of the story.

I feel like some of this is my perspective, and specifically having seen shows with strong serialized stories, that it’s difficult not to want more development out of this one.

Maybe this will change. Plenty of shows have shaky first seasons and go on to become very good shows. This is already a good show. I’m not sure it’s a great show. I enjoy spending time with the characters, and its emotional stakes certainly aren’t lost on me. But I still want more from it, and much as I like the show, I’m not convinced it’s going to get there.

Here, enjoy a picture of Retta and Mae Whitman smiling.

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*There’s a good article about the character of Sadie here:
https://www.bustle.com/p/annies-daughter-on-good-girls-is-exploring-her-gender-identity-its-a-pleasant-surprise-8322547

I’m not really the person to speak to this, but I think the show is handling Sadie well, and the conflict between her parents’ differing opinions on the matter is entirely realistic.

^Don’t get me started on Friday Night Lights. I am not realistic in my love for that show.