Monday, April 2, 2018

REVIEW: 'Good Girls' - Ruby, Beth and Annie Expand Their New Business in 'A View From the Top'

NBC's Good Girls - Episode 1.06 "A View From the Top"

Overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work their new enterprise demands, the ladies decide to outsource. While their business flourishes, the women's personal lives spiral: Dean confronts Beth about her association with Rio, Stan discovers Ruby's been lying to him about her employment at the diner, and Annie's conscience catches up with her.

Good Girls is really committing to this money laundering scheme for Beth, Ruby and Annie. It's been an operation they've been involved in for a couple of episodes now. Of course, the last three episodes have still included beats where someone in the trio wants out of this life of crime. The show has been very noncommittal with its portrayal of Beth, Ruby and Annie as criminals. They have always seen this as something they needed to do in order to make ends meet. They would dip their toes a little deeper into a life of crime with Rio. But then, they would try to pull out due to some morality concern or the fear that they aren't getting enough for the work they are doing. That continues to be a concern here. It's such a lame recurring plot device though. This show should just have these characters committed to this decision that they've made. Beth is the one who forced them into this current arrangement with the money laundering. It still doesn't seem all that smart. If this fake money is good enough to fool the pen and the counting machine, why does it then have to be laundered? Is it just that much better to have the real money on hand because it's a way to work the system that leads to a payday for everyone involved? It still seems like a lot of work that could easily lead to them getting caught any number of ways. They could be flagged as recurring customers always returning products for large piles of cash. They could set off red flags with the kinds of big item purchases they make. They believe they are being smarter here by handling more money by recruiting more people to their operation. It's the show expanding its criminal enterprise. The trio are now running on a scam on this group of women under the guise of female empowerment. The message still holds true. But it also only really works in the end because of the game plan they decide on. Even then, it seems very likely that one of them will change their mind sooner than later.

"A View From the Top" is the episode where Beth, Ruby and Annie start letting people in on what they have been doing lately. They have to open up their world in order to run things efficiently. They create a story of employing people as secret shoppers. They hand over the fake money for them to buy items then return them in order to fill out evaluations on how pleasant their experience was in the store. It's all completely fake. But Beth is able to sell them on it - with a key assist from Annie who claims the highest earner of the year will win a new car. That's one motivational tactic that works. And of course, things quickly go awry when Annie brings in the security guard from the supermarket as a part of the operation. He is able to buy the items easily enough but they are stolen from his vehicle because the locks are broken. That immediately seems like a crushing defeat for the main trio. And yet, it isn't. They just have to be more creative in figuring out how to launder this money. It means creating a ruse in order to steal the same items from a different store to return with the receipt. It seems smart if the system doesn't flag the various bar codes associated with each products. That seems a little too complicated for them and the audience to worry about. It mostly just proves that these women are problem solvers when the situation demands it. They can hardly go a couple of days without running into some issue in their criminal lives. It's such a stressful time for them. But that's also the perspective the show has on that world and the true risks that come from trying to make a living at it.

Plus, there's the ongoing concern of Agent Turner investigating Rio and Beth's possible connection. He seems to be kept at bay for now. He is no longer acknowledging Boomer and the potential information he has pertaining to this case. But he does discover the missing vehicle abandoned at the bottom of the lake. His agents are able to fish it out and know that something more is going on with this family. And yet, it's still a situation that can be explained away through Dean's cheating and Beth's reaction to that. She was able to explain that Rio was just a one-night stand for her and she has never seen him again. She had that moment of weakness for him after learning about her husband's affair. And now, Dean can just say that Beth stole a vehicle from the lot for a fun trip to Canada with the girls and driving it into the lake was a way to further get back at him. He didn't know that when he filed the report that it was stolen. As such, it's all a big misunderstanding caused by weakness in this marriage. But Dean knows that something more is going on. He needs Beth to be more honest with him. It's so poignant when she makes the conscious decision to allow him to believe that she was taken advantage of by Rio. Dean wants to idolize and simplify his wife. He wants to believe that she foolishly got entangled in something she didn't fully understand or want because she was desperate. That would certainly make things easier on her. But pride ultimately wins out in the end. Beth needs Dean to know that she isn't stupid or helpless. She's the one who wanted this for her life. She is proudly working for Rio and earning more money for this family than Dean ever could. She's flaunting that in his face. She's being honest when he is not. Of course, that honesty could ultimately backfire too. That's just the risk she takes when she has this moment of standing up to her husband who has worked his way back into his life.

Beth is hardly the only one forced to be honest to the other people of this world. Everything has been moving so simply so far. Yes, problems have come up but they were all easily handled by the core trio. But now, they have ongoing concerns to be aware of. They kidnapped Boomer and tried robbing all of his grandmother's money. They didn't ultimately go through with that. But it's a big deal when Marion shows up at the store and runs into Annie. It's the lie starting to spin out of control. Annie has always been flaky and desperate. She's barely been keeping it together. She always acts recklessly. Her actions here could further be a part of that pattern. Seeing this connection between Marion and Annie is further proof to Boomer that these women are dangerous and a threat to his family. And yet, all it takes is one comment from Annie for Boomer's relationship with his grandmother to be completely destroyed. Marion feels sad for him because he has been lying about his entire life. She genuinely cares about Annie and all of the hard work she puts in to care for her daughter. She respects her as a single mother. She no longer respects Boomer because he is blaming the rest of the world for his problems while doubling down on his lies when confronted about them. But he's still very dangerous for Annie as well. He's trying to frame her as a drug addict. In that moment, it's absolutely terrifying because that discovery is bound to deliver a crushing blow in her custody case with Gregg. Meanwhile, Annie just wants to be honest with Marion. She wants to come clean to her about wanting to rob her. She wants to return the one figurine that wasn't destroyed by Rio. And yet, this honesty could also pose a threat if Marion ever talks about it with Boomer.

Finally, Stan learns that Ruby is no longer working at the diner. She was fired because she failed to apologize to the kid who burned himself a couple of episodes ago. It's the most furious he has ever been with her because this relationship thrives on the honesty between them. Ruby hasn't been honest this entire season. This relationship has always been painted as the happy and stable one for the show. But that only made things more twisted because of the amount of lies Ruby was telling in order to afford her daughter's medication. And now, she has no clue what to tell Stan. She's not as skilled at lying as Beth is. She doesn't know how to come up with a convincing story. And so, she tells him the truth. It's a variation on the truth though. It's the same story that Ruby tells the new employees working for the girls. She has started a personal shopping business that is already booming. She presents the stacks of cash to Stan and he immediately forgets about why he was mad at her. He is just so happy that this family is finally successful. He is so pleased that they now have money to spend. He wants to roll around in it and sniff it. This is the best news she could deliver to him. Money suddenly fixes all of her problems in her marriage. But it's also important to note that the show won't be in the money laundering game forever. Rio tells the girls that he doesn't worry about the feds because he changes his game repeatedly. He keeps moving up in the world which means working with new product every so often. So, he won't always be creating fake cash. Meanwhile, Beth comes up with the plan of only doing this for six months. With the amount of profits they get, that will be enough to cover all of their expenses and leave enough to invest in something legitimate for their futures. They just need a fresh start in their lives. They are doing it for themselves. They are buying into that narrative even though it seems pretty clear that the show won't let them out that easily.

Some more thoughts:
  • "A View From the Top" was written by Marc Halsey and directed by So Yong Kim.
  • It's absolutely horrifying that Dean is able to get his actual doctor to pretend that he has cancer just by promising him a new car. It's a deal that Dean tries to barter by promising a car that is new to his doctor. But it's so annoying that Dean thinks all of this will eventually win Beth back to being his loving and loyal wife. Their relationship has changed and he has yet to fully grasp that. But this lie may force him to stick with things out of fear of what could happen next.
  • Sara refers to Ruby's former boss as her uncle. Now, is there an actual biological connection there? Was Ruby working for her brother-in-law? Or was it just a casual term because of how close the man was to this family? It's an odd twist because he wasn't all that compassionate in the moment when he was demanding Ruby apologize to the student kid. In that moment, he was just her boss disappointed in her. He only has sympathy now after learning Sara was in the hospital.
  • Boomer was pretending to be engaged to Jessica Alba. That is such a ridiculous lie played for the comic relief. That's the position Boomer frequently operates in. And yet, the show should consistently view him as an ongoing threat to its protagonists. He is put in his place here with the exposure of this obvious lie. But he is quickly able to abuse his position of authority to plant drugs in Annie's locker too.
  • Also, why is a drug dealer with so much product and apparent cash working at this supermarket? Annie has always seen it as a crummy, minimum wage job. Is it just to make things convenient in explaining how Boomer gets these drugs? Or does the show seriously think this kid needs a cover story for why he has an expensive car and so much cash?
  • It's just a lot of fun watching Ruby and Stan perform a well-choreographed rap in order to cheer up Sara after she returns home. It's a moment of pure joy and levity that actually works. The balance of comedy and drama has always been a problem here. But in this moment, it's just great to enjoy this moment with this family in their purest form.