Friday, March 16, 2018

Good Girls

When I saw the previews for the new show Good Girls, I thought “Great, a TV series that should have been a movie.” How could anyone get a full season of television out of “hapless criminals rob a grocery store under a protection racket?” For whatever reason, I gave the first episode a shot, and before I knew it, I’d finished all three of the episodes that have aired. In spite of myself, I’m invested - and impressed.

Breaking Bad worked as well as it did because it started with a man who seemed relatable, in a situation so many Americans face. I’d also say it worked well because it was a drama. Good Girls takes a risk with similar subject matter in a comedic setting. What I love about the show is where it differs from Breaking Bad, through.

The show, true to its title, focuses on the issues that a group of three friends are struggling with. A mother living in poverty eleven years after becoming a teen mom, and trying to fight for custody of the gender non-confirming daughter her ex can’t seem to understand, a working class couple with a child suffering from a disease that can only be treated by a medication insurance won’t cover, and the suburban mom who thinks life is great until she discovers that not only is her husband cheating, but he’s blown all their money while she’s played the happy housewife.

All three need money fast. Their kids, their lives, everything is at stake. These are all incredibly American problems and, moreso, women’s problems. The show knows, without hitting the viewer over the head, that women are more likely to face poverty after divorce. The show knows that teen moms struggle long term in ways their male counterparts don’t. The show knows - and shows in heart breaking detail, how overburdened our healthcare system is, and how being black and poor means your doctor might not even bother to hear you when you speak.

The women in Good Girls don’t go traipsing into a life of crime because they’re bored housewives and need a thrill, they are desperate. In the second episode we see how insecure men confuse sex with power - through the eyes of the cheating husband facing the loss of his family, and through the eyes of one of the girls, who’s boss decides to use the knowledge of her crime to blackmail her into sex.

Even though the show is a comedy, the two scenes where he attempts to coerce sex from his employee are gut churning. The three friends continue to stand together and go deeper because the things on the line are unfathomable. Who could watch their child waste away waiting for an organ transplant? Who could let their friend be raped? Who could allow a dangerous criminal to show up at their friend’s home and interact with their children?

Some of my favorite crime stories feature hapless criminals, but the women in Good Girls aren’t hapless so much as inexperienced. Rather than counting on their lack of criminal experience for laughs, it pushes the characters further into trouble, backs them into a corner, and then delights in showing us how strong, fierce, and innovative they are.

It’s only three episodes in, and anything could happen, but I’m hopeful. The cast is great, the writing feels honest, and it’s a great crime story unfolding. I like seeing a woman led story dealing with real issues that can sill focus on being entertaining and funny while we contemplate what we would do if the American Dream fell in on is the way it has done to so many of our neighbors.

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