We’ve seen it on television time and time again; men acting out ridiculous schemes or fantasies while their wives diametrically oppose them, relegated to being the nagging voice of reason (dramatically a la Skylar White in Breaking Bad and comedically a la Carla in Scrubs are two examples). But NBC’s Good Girls tries to turn that trope on its head. This time, it’s the girls who are calling the shots.
The premise is simple yet intriguing. Beth (Christina Hendricks), her best friend Ruby (Retta), and her little sister Annie (Mae Whitman) are desperate and willing to do whatever it takes to support their families. Beth’s husband is cheating on her, and her house is in danger of foreclosure; Ruby’s daughter is gravely ill, perpetually in and out of hospitals while she waits on the organ transplant list; and Annie is a single mother working in a grocery store in the midst of an expensive custody battle with her ex-high school sweetheart (Zach Gilford), the one that got away. A bit of a wildcard, Annie suggests that they rob her place of work to solve all three of their problems at once.
Only halfway through the pilot, the women have successfully stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars from the grocery store vault. Why does a low-end grocery store have so much cash just lying around? Realizing the manager (David Hornsby, at his best as a deranged, manipulative creep) is laundering money for a local gang, Beth finds herself thrust into the criminal world, forced to repay her debts to Rio (Manny Montana), a dangerous, brooding gang leader.
While the brief 10-episode season was met with a lukewarm critical response, it was successful with audiences and quickly amassed a modest but passionate fan base. Additionally, the show was put on Netflix a few months ago in an attempt to expand their following further. Fans were happy to see Good Girls get renewed for a sophomore season, which premiered this past Sunday.
A lot of Good Girls’ appeal comes from its realistic depictions of complex, flawed women. It is hard to find even one dynamic female character on a primetime television show, so it’s a nice change of pace to see three great examples here at once. In a recent interview with United Press International, Whitman emphasized this, remarking, “It’s nice to see full women just being full people and not being perfect and not always having makeup on and not looking perfect when they wake up and sassing each other and doing the wrong thing and making mistakes.” Each of the main characters has agency and strong motivations, and that’s what makes it easy to root for them, even as they stumble through a newfound life of crime.
Rather than criminal violence, it’s the complex relationships between these women that drive the show. Hendricks, Retta, and Whitman are great actresses and they all compliment each other so well on screen — Hendricks nails the tense, dramatic scenes and Whitman is her perfect comedic foil. Retta also takes on a lot of the more serious scenes, proving her range far exceeds her past comedic work. Good Girls doesn’t attempt to make this friendship look perfect, though. Throughout the show, they all keep each other in check, attempting to find the balance between “calling each other out and loving each other so hard. It’s how real friends are,” Hendricks told UPI. These strong relationships seem to have spilled over into real life, as she later referred to her castmates as “the best in the world, they’re two of my best friends and amazing actresses.”
The women in Good Girls may not make the most well-informed decisions or worry about being likable, but it’s in the thoughtful treatment of their characters that audiences connect to them. Sure, not many people can relate to robbing a grocery store at gunpoint but the struggles each of these women face, whether it be cheating, overwhelming bills, or that pesky ex you just can’t seem to shake, have been resonating strongly with audiences.
As Season 2 kicks off, fans are looking forward to how Beth, Ruby, and Annie’s relationships progress as their families begin to piece together their secrets. In the Season 1 finale, Ruby’s husband Stan — a security guard with big dreams turned cop — confronts her about how she found a way to pay for their daughter’s kidney transplant. At the same time, Rio forces Beth to make a decision: kill her cheating husband or face the bullet herself.
How will Beth and Ruby respond to these intense predicaments? Watch Good Girls on NBC on Sunday nights!
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