Monday, March 5, 2018

REVIEW: 'Good Girls' - Beth, Ruby and Annie Try to Raise Money While Dealing with a New Complication in 'Mo Money, Mo Problems'

NBC's Good Girls - Episode 1.02 "Mo Money, Mo Problems"

The women struggle to come up with the money they owe the gang - which, in this case, means robbing yet again. Annie's fight for custody takes a major hit. Beth tries to navigate life as a single parent. Ruby's concerns for Sara's health escalate.

Things escalated very quickly for Beth, Ruby and Annie in the premiere of Good Girls. It didn't take long in that opening hour for them to get into the supermarket to rob it. That was the inciting incident that would come to define all of their stories moving forward. It was the three of them breaking bad for personal reward. In the aftermath, they've been struggle to maintain a sense of peace and normalcy as each problem that has popped up has only created more problems. It was a familiar pattern that was still effective to watch here because of the performances involved. And yet, the show may also be rushing too quickly with the illegal things its central trio get into. At times, it feels like the show just wants Beth, Ruby and Annie to do some new, precarious crime in each episode. That would give the show a solid procedural hook to it while still having enough time for the personal stories as well. But the premiere also ended with the apparent death of Boomer, the manager of the supermarket who recognized Annie as one of the robbers. It was a dark moment. It came right after he attempted to rape Annie in order to keep quiet about the robbery. In the moment, it felt rational for Annie and Beth to try to kill him. And yet, they weren't directly responsible for his death. Beth hit Boomer on the head with a glass of wine. He tripped as he came back into the room and fell into a glass table. It was an ominous final note for the premiere that pushed the two characters into needing to cover up a murder. That's not what they wanted from this mission. And yet, it was the consequence they would have to deal with.

As such, it's somewhat disappointing to see that Boomer is actually still alive here. He didn't die from that fall into the table and lack of proper medical attention. The women aren't compromised that way by being murderers who have to deal with the body. Instead, they are kidnappers trying to decide what to do with their still alive prisoner. Beth and Annie's big idea is simply to hide him out in the backyard treehouse. It's miraculous that they got him there in the first place all the way from Annie's apartment. But he's tied up there and Ruby is soon brought in on all of the craziness. She notes just how ridiculous and unsustainable all of this really is. They don't have a longterm plan for all of this. They are just spinning around trying to stay alive in the face of an intense amount of pressure. Boomer doesn't know the threat they are under from Rio and his crew. Annie points out that Boomer is nothing more than middle management who wouldn't know why the supermarket has so much money stored in its vault. He's not important. But in this moment, he is. He abused his power and tried to exchange sexual favors with Annie. And now, he's a prisoner. He's being treated harshly. He is vengeful and spiteful. But the women enjoy making him suffer as well. They don't physically hurt him any further. They just have to use their words to prove that they are the ones with all of the power here - even if they are indecisive about what the grand plan actually is.

Plus, Boomer isn't the main concern here. Sure, he's a big component of how the lives of Ruby, Beth and Annie have spiraled out of control after they robbed the store. But the pressure is much more intense and time sensitive when it comes to Rio's threat. He actually holds power and influence. He could easily have the three of them killed if they don't find a way to repay what they stole from him. They have tried collecting the money back up again. But they are still short. This episode attempts to combine the two main stories by having the women try to ransom Boomer to raise the money they need to pay off Rio. He has a grandmother who doesn't believe in banks. They try to arrange an exchange but they keep getting her answering machine. As such, they assume that she isn't at home. But there's no fun in that. The show enjoys the hilarity that comes from these characters having to think quick on their feet. When they are caught trying to break into the apartment, they need to come up with a convincing lie quickly. Fortunately, Beth has proven herself very skilled at that. She was able to get the shoppers to listen to them as bank robbers. And now, she is able to convince Boomer's grandmother that they are simply volunteers from Medicaid to help her with whatever she needs done in her apartment. It's a lie that happens so naturally for Beth. And yet, it's Beth who ultimately can't go through with this plan - even though grandma is pretty racist. She can't steal from an old lady who has lived a full and happy life just because her's is in danger now.

As such, Beth, Ruby and Annie are resigned to their fates as people walking to their deaths. They are making plans for how their families will live on once they are dead. Ruby spends her time just making tons of lasagna for her family in the middle of the night. Stan is perplexed by her behavior but is able to get her to come back to bed with him. Beth is assuring her daughter that whenever moms go missing they always come back to their families. She also tells Dean that she no longer needs him to do anything around the house. It is no longer his responsibility considering he couldn't pay the mortgage. And yet, he only truly gets the message once he notices that she has stopped wearing her wedding ring. Of course, he just suspects that it's sitting somewhere in the house collecting dust. In reality, she sold it in order to try to raise the money for Rio. She still failed in that endeavor and now doesn't have the ring should Dean ever manage to work his way back into the family. Meanwhile, Annie just shows up at her ex's house in the middle of the night in the pouring rain. It's quite an image that further props up her identity as a complete mess who can't be responsible for anything. She has been fighting him for custody of their daughter because she believes she's a good parent. In this moment, she's telling him everything she wants done for their daughter in the coming years. It's her giving her advice and her willingness to accept the new custody arrangement. But that's also a decision that will come back to hurt her once it becomes clear that she, Ruby and Beth aren't dying right now.

Of course, the trio was going to find a way to survive. The show just wouldn't be killing off its leads at this point. It's important for them to spiral further into this complicated and criminal mess. They come up just short of raising the funds for Rio. And yet, Annie inadvertently finds a gold mine in the figurines that she stole from Boomer's grandma. They present their case but it isn't enough for Rio. He's furious. It's an intimidating moment of power and destruction. Once again, it is up to Beth to bring all of the various threads of empowerment in the episode together in one speech. She talks about how people will notice and care if they die. They will start an investigation. This is a crime that will be carefully examined. That could bring attention that Rio doesn't need right now. Perhaps that is enough to convince him not to kill the three of them. But it seems more likely that he has the inspired thought to recruit them for whatever job he needs done abroad. As such, he approaches Beth later to show that he still plans on being a part of her life. Meanwhile, the situation with Boomer resolves itself with Annie just collecting blackmail on him. It's a decision that means he'll be an ongoing concern for the narrative. He won't be a prisoner any longer. He'll just return to his job and keep quiet to the police. Annie is threatening to expose him for sending lewd images to a minor. Boomer buys it in the moment. But he really shouldn't. Annie would be a really reckless parent to take that picture of Boomer and then send it directly to her daughter. The show proves that she doesn't. But it also feels like only a matter of time before Boomer discovers the truth and attacks again. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "Mo Money, Mo Problems" was written by Jeannine Renshaw and directed by Dean Parisot.
  • It's surprising how much the plot where Beth, Ruby and Annie kidnap Boomer and try to ransom him is played for comedy. It threatens to turn that character into comic relief which is not the position he should have on this show. He should be a threat the other characters are constantly worried about because he's a horrible person who wishes to have power over these women.
  • The show gives an update on just how seriously the audience should be concerned about Stan becoming a police officer. Here, a time frame is stated. He has six months before he is officially on the job and receiving the department health insurance plan. As such, that's six months to fuel Ruby's need to pay for her daughter's medicine. But it also means he won't be the one actively investigating the central crimes either.
  • How much time should realistically be spent on the husbands and ex-boyfriends who are completely clueless to what's going on? It's a nice flip of the script of the roles women typically play in these shows. And yet, I already have very little patiences for scenes that solely feature Dean as he realizes just how huge a mistake it was to cheat on his wife and plunge the family into debt.
  • Of course, it's also necessary to have the men around because then there is the explanation for who is watching over the children. That shouldn't really be a concern because only two of the children actually exist for plot purposes. Ruby and Annie are motivated by their children. Beth's still don't really exist. They just go around as one singular group. But there's also no reason to fear that these women are irresponsible parents just because they are being forced to leave the country for whatever Rio has planned.
  • There's a running story about Beth not knowing how to fix the television and it being a metaphor for her having to learn how to be the head of this household. Dean feels the pressure to provide and take care of the maintenance of this house. And yet, all it reasonably takes is a night for Beth to read over the manual and understand how the television works. It's not that difficult.