Monday, March 12, 2018

REVIEW: 'Good Girls' - Beth, Ruby and Annie Go to Canada for an Intense Adventure in 'Borderline'

NBC's Good Girls - Episode 1.03 "Borderline"

Beth, Annie and Ruby bite off more than they can chew when they agree to help Rio smuggle contraband. Ruby deals with a so-called family friend from her church. Annie prepares for a visit with a social worker that could help determine the fate of her custody battle with Greg.

It has taken two episodes full of complications for Beth, Ruby and Annie to repay the debt they collected from the supermarket heist. They went into that job with the pure intentions of using the money to help their families. Instead, it has sparked something surprising and new within each of them. They have struggled to give the money back to Rio because they already spent some of it. They used it to improve their lives. But now, their lives are being threatened if they can't pay back this criminal. He seemed willing to forgive their debt in full because of the unwanted attention their deaths could bring to this business. But he also had a different idea in mind too. He wanted the girls to do a job for him up in Canada. As such, "Borderline" features that adventure. It's the latest crime of the week that the girls have to commit. That has quickly become the procedural nature of this series. Every week requires them to do something new and illegal. Of course, this episode also presents them with an opportunity to get out of this life altogether. They do manage to pay the debt back in full. But then, the show very wisely reflects back on the lives they are currently living. They've had to place all of their attention on this money and the criminal elements. But now, they are seeing the cost of all of that. They are still facing real financial problems. Life is good for some of them at the moment. But there's the creeping suspicion that it won't be this good for very long. As such, it's fascinating to see what that stirs in the women. Some are desperately holding onto what they have in the hopes that they will one day lose it very soon. But then, Beth has a very surprising reaction that will keep the premise of the show going even if it may alienate her from Ruby and Annie for a little bit. It was all completely necessary for the overall story of the season. But it's also fascinating to see just how quickly the show is getting to this aspect of its premise.

This turns out to be a lifestyle that Beth enjoys. She feels confident and in charge when going out on these missions. Sure, the pressure has been very high with life-or-death stakes attached to them. Her life fell apart in a moment. She was suddenly the one in charge of her household. She was the one making all of the decisions about what was best for her children. She felt the pressure to get the family out of debt. And now, those problems still exist. Dean is still lingering on the sidelines waiting to reconcile with his wife by showing just how devoted he is to the family once more. The mortgage still needs to be paid. When faced with freedom from Rio and the debt, Beth suddenly feels an emptiness in her life. It's notable that she feels this after the trip to Canada where she is unable to persuade someone to do what she wants through a convincing lie. That has been one of the most entertaining and compelling aspects of the show so far. Beth has a quick wit under pressure. She is able to come up with convincing lies in the heat of the moment. But now, she doesn't know what to expect from this venture to Canada. She is wondering if she should just turn the car around. She doesn't know how to persuade the guy to hand over the packages that Rio wants. She's not successful in this mission. Neither is Annie. She tries to play nice and it backfires on her. Instead, the true hero is Ruby. She succeeds only because she brought a gun to the meeting that she unexpectedly fires at the guy. That's what leads to success. It's played for comedy but the show doesn't shy away from the real consequences of this action either.

This trip across the border also highlights the precise business that Rio is running. It turns out to be counterfeiting money. When Beth, Ruby and Annie examine the packages they are bringing back to the states, it appears to be nothing more than wrapping paper. There is nothing else in the boxes. But when Beth turns one over, all of the fake money suddenly appears. Upon delivery to Rio, they see the full operation that he has running. He employs a ton of people. He really is the man in charge of this operation. It's in that moment where Beth sees a change in herself. In this moment, she finds it difficult to speak up for herself to ask if the debt is forgiven. She believes Rio is talking to her through his conversation with one of his other workers. She walks away but gets the courage to walk back and demand a straightforward response. It's a powerful moment because it's her standing up to the man who has been controlling her life for the past two episodes. She understands what he is doing. She has seen his business. She has power in her life. Afterwards, she suddenly feels a void. She is suddenly faced with a life she doesn't recognize or how to emerge from it as a better person. It's lonely and isolating to her. Dean comes to her saying that it's a financially smarter idea to stay together. He is still madly in love with her. She doesn't feel the same way. Now, her passion comes from this criminal lifestyle. As such, it's not surprising to see her return to Rio in the end. She returns ready to strike a new relationship with him. Of course, she also realizes that she no longer has control. His business has already packed up and left. He's very smart that way. And yet, she still delivers a message that is heard loud and clear.

However, it should be fascinating to see how Ruby and Annie react to Beth's news. They were celebrating this weight be lifted off of them. They were so happy to no longer have Rio in their lives that it made them completely forget everything else currently going on. Of course, it was only so long before the reality of their lives started to sink back in. Annie had a deadline she needed to meet. She needed to be home at a certain time in order to meet the social worker evaluating her home for the custody case. She needed to step up and be a good mother to Sadie. Now, the audience sees how caring and loving she is. She literally sleeps with her daughter all the time because she cares so much about her. It's clear that Sadie wants to stay with Annie as well. They enjoy making fun of Greg's life with his new girlfriend. They have the same mentality towards the world. And yet, this episode further proves just how irresponsible Annie can be. She is operating under the assumption that she just needs to get home in time to meet the social worker. She doesn't feel the pressure to present her home in the best way possible. Instead, that responsibility falls onto Sadie. She's the one home all alone cleaning up and making snacks. She's the one trying to make a good impression. But that's not her responsibility. She is just suppose to be the kid being looked after and loved. Annie has the love but still struggles to care for Sadie. It takes both Annie and the social worker a long time before noticing the cut on Sadie's finger. It's enough to seriously question whether this is a stable and safe home. That's the new hurdle Annie will need to deal with. It's absolutely heartbreaking when Sadie asks her what could possibly be more important than maintaining this relationship. Annie cares for Sadie but couldn't be there for her for reasons beyond her control.

This episode basically proves that the show is so much better at the dramatic moments than the comedic ones. There are a couple of really broad scenes that just seem a little too ridiculous and undercut the tension of the main story. That happens with how Ruby reacts to shooting a man in the foot. It's a nice intimidating move for the girls to get what they came for. But it takes her by surprise and she convinces herself that she just severely injured this man. Of course, it's then not a big deal because she is somehow quickly able to forget about it after returning to the states. Similarly, it's just odd and random when Annie is forced to talk with her social worker through the car's speaker system as the girls are drowning the vehicle in a body of water. Again, it's a moment played for the humor. It's absolutely outrageous. Annie is so naive in thinking this wouldn't trace the theft of the vehicle immediately back to her. But it's weird because the audience can inevitably see what the outcome of all of this would be. Ruby and Beth kept telling Annie she wouldn't be late for her appointment. But that's what was always going to occur. At least, that story is still moving. Ruby struggling with someone at her church telling Stan that she donated the money for their daughter's new medication is a little lackluster. The show is yet to find the right balance with personal stories when it comes to Ruby. Stan is yet to be all that memorable of a character. His marriage to Ruby isn't well defined. They are happy. But that's not all that exciting to watch at the moment. But the moment when Ruby is counting her daughter's pills is enough to suggest that a return to a life of crime is imminent in her future.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Borderline" was written by Jenna Lamia and directed by Kenneth Fink.
  • Beth, Ruby and Annie steal the vehicle for their Canadian adventure from Dean's car lot. They do it without asking Dean for it. Beth has gotten used to ordering him around. And yet, she doesn't want too many questions about what she's up to either. However, the car is still reported stolen and will probably be discovered at some point. That's just going to be an ongoing concern.
  • It's still a little too difficult to take Dean seriously. He desperately wants to be with Beth again. She's frustrated that she wasted 20 years of her life with him. He believes that he can just work his way back in by saying all of the right things and doing more for the kids. That's the bare minimum he can do. The other is be more responsible. He doesn't have smart financial instincts nor does he have security cameras to protect his business from robbery.
  • Boomer keeps on lingering around Annie. He's still the creepiest character on the show because he almost always has malicious intentions. He is spying on the women who hurt him and kidnapped him. He is trying to figure out what they are doing. That's bound to come back to hurt the girls at some point. But it's also just going to be so satisfying to see him get what's coming for him too.
  • In the premiere, Boomer criticized Annie for not checking for counterfeit money right away. And now that she knows how big the market is in this area, she does so. It appears to pass the test. And yet, it's unclear if that is money from Rio's operation or not. If so, it proves that he has found a way to cheat the system which could be huge for this market.
  • Ruby stands up in church to testify about the generosity of the woman who "gave" the family ten thousand dollars. Now, Ruby is grateful for her even more generous offers of time and money. It's her forcing this woman into a corner because she knows the truth about where the money came from. Again, it's not all that interesting of a story. But it could also be welcoming this woman further into Ruby's life.