Monday, April 16, 2018

REVIEW: 'Good Girls' - Beth, Ruby and Annie Return to Their Regular Lives After Rio Closes Off Business in 'Shutdown'

NBC's Good Girls - Episode 1.08 "Shutdown"

Rio's feeling the heat from the FBI investigation, so he abruptly shuts down operations, cutting off Beth, Ruby and Annie's money supply. Their attempt to go back to being ordinary housewives is short-lived when Mary Pat puts the financial squeeze on them - forcing the three women to commit another heist.

Good Girls has featured many moments where it seemed like Beth, Annie and Ruby are getting out of the criminal life. Sometimes, it feels like their own choice. They are deciding not to further pursue these endeavors. Other times, it is plot complications from that world that disrupts this business. There has never been a great rhythm of consistency in the narrative this season. It has always felt like danger was lurking around every corner - with it being either Rio, the FBI, the girls' respective families or Mary Pat. The season has pulled the girls further and further into this lifestyle until they came up with a plan to get out after six months. That always seemed unlikely because this is a television show where the premise is these three women committing crimes each week. That was just a way for Beth to rationalize what they were doing. She volunteered Annie and Ruby to work for Rio again even after paying off their debt. They have formed an official partnership with him. Beth believes she is a boss now because she is trying to negotiate terms while continuing to push for more responsibilities. It has always been very precarious. One wrong move could easily ruin all of this for the girls. They could all be sent to prison. That would forever change their lives and ruin their relationships with their families for good. And now, "Shutdown" is revealing that Beth, Ruby and Annie actually enjoy this criminal lifestyle. They crave it because it gives them a sense of fulfillment that they don't get when working legitimate jobs. Yes, it is terrifying to see what the potential consequences may be and the many ways they could get caught. They are always just barely thinking ahead. They are very impulsive. But they support each other and understand that this is something they all desperately want right now.

In the early going, it seemed like Beth was the criminal mastermind of the group. She was the one who could really excel when breaking bad. There would always be limitations for Ruby because she has law enforcement in her home and can thus get glimpses into what jail would actually be like. She's forced to deal with the reality of what could happen to her and her friends. Meanwhile, Annie is always just spiraling out of control just barely keeping it together. She definitely has good ideas on occasion. The follow through has always just been more difficult for her. Beth is the one who ultimately decided that they should rob the supermarket. She was the one who pushed to do more jobs for Rio. She kept forcing for more and more counterfeit money. And now, she's the one who suggests that they commit another crime in order to pay off Mary Pat. This is a really depressing time for the girls because Rio has shut down all of his businesses because the FBI is building a case against him. It's completely unclear if he knows that one of his boys was picked up and talking to the feds. The audience is constantly aware of it and how much information he could provide to Agent Turner. Right now, it's just important that Rio is shutting down operations while also stealing back all of the cash that he gave Beth, Ruby and Annie. That's a terrifying thought. He somehow knows exactly where they kept their respective stashes of money. It's also just crazy that the girls thought they were being smart with where they hid the money. But it's mostly just an excuse for the show to place the three of them back into their mundane realities where they are just scraping by. That doesn't really feel genuine. It's a convenient way to set up their big decision in the end with just how far they are willing to go as criminals.

The episodic plot of "Shutdown" is mostly fine. Beth, Ruby and Annie don't have the money to pay Mary Pat. A month goes by where they are simply working minimum wage jobs. Well, Ruby and Annie are. Beth is just getting an allowance from Dean because the used car lot is apparently successful now. But they still are only able to scrape together two thousand dollars. That's not enough for Mary Pat. She needs them to stick to their agreed arrangement. Otherwise, she'll go and file a police report with Stan. She makes that threat very clear to Ruby. Meanwhile, Rio knows that Beth is feeling the pressure right now because she didn't take care of this problem. Last week she couldn't hand over a name to him because she couldn't leave those children without any parents. She had sympathy for what Mary Pat was going through. But now, she comes across as the antagonist who threatens everything that Beth, Ruby and Annie have worked for. They still have next to nothing to show for it as well. They have taken so many risks. And now, it is all just casually taken away from them. Of course, they are much smarter as criminals. They are able to rob three day spas at the same time in the hopes of selling the drugs on the street. They just have a problem in finding a contact who can actually move the product. That's where Dean surprisingly comes in. He is able to unload the containers to his doctor faking his cancer and get the appropriate money for the girls. It paints him in such a flattering light that Beth is willing to tell him everything that she has been doing lately for the good of her family. That will still be a mistake because he's still lying to her. But it definitely makes their relationship more complicated.

And yet, this latest criminal job has some extreme personal consequences for Annie. She is the one who suggested targeting these businesses as a way to stick it to Nancy. She doesn't like the way that Gregg's girlfriend is always moody and condescending to her. The show has never made Nancy a character worth investing in. Gregg has had a more nuanced relationship with Annie because they are the parents dealing with Sadie all of the time. Nancy has mostly just been in the background. She's a symbol of wealth and stability for this family. But Annie just doesn't like her for general reasons not anything personal or specific. It's because the show hasn't invested in introducing Nancy as a meaningful character that it was easy to be swept up in the moment when Annie and Gregg had sex again. That was clearly a mistake that they realized immediately. Annie doesn't mention robbing Nancy's businesses as a way to get her out of Gregg's life. She is not trying to get back together with him so that she doesn't risk losing Sadie. But she does have to live in the aftermath of robbing someone and causing her a great deal of stress and pain. It's only after the girls rob the spas that the show introduces Nancy as a multi-dimensional character who has a complex relationship with Annie. It's then that she shares that she has been taking hormone injections in an attempt to get pregnant with Gregg. That makes him sleeping with Annie as this huge betrayal. Annie can no longer stomach to stay in this environment even though it means having to walk away from Sadie for the time being. She no longer sees this as something that Nancy deserves. She doesn't want to be the reason this family unit breaks apart even though she's the central problem most of the time.

But again, all of this highlights just how desperate these women actually are. They are just hoping to get enough in order to make something out of their lives. There has always been the hope that it could become something more legitimate. But now, there is the crushing realization that they are now criminals for the rest of their lives. They feel the stress to get the money to Mary Pat in time so she doesn't go to the cops. But she is also an accomplice now because she knows that the girls are involved in something shady and criminal but opted to extort them for money. It shows that both Mary Pat and Beth are similar. They are both women forced to do what they need to do to support their families. The stress is a little more present for Mary Pat. She is just so casually menacing. But she does get her money. Beth has a nice chat with her about the realities of this lifestyle in an attempt to get her to accept it and move on. That's not the case though. She'll be an ongoing concern for the girls. And so, they'll need Rio to get the business up and running again very soon. That's then tied with Ruby visiting Stan at the police precinct and realizing that the young man who was recovering at Beth's house is the arrest that Stan made. She learns that he is talking with the FBI about Rio. She tells the girls that too. As such, they come to the decision that they need to inform Rio and let him do what he needs to do to protect his business. Beth rationalizes it by saying that it's him or them. They cannot go down now. He knows who they are and that they are important to Rio. He could ruin all of their lives. They weren't willing to let Rio take care of Mary Pat by killing her. And now, they are fine with that option being used here because the threat is much more extreme and severe. That's a crucial turning point for the show and these characters.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Shutdown" was written by Mark Wilding and directed by Nzingha Stewart.
  • Sara is caught stealing items from the mall and selling them to her classmates at school for a profit. She believes it's something that girls her age just do. She believes it's what she needs to do to stop being picked on because she has an oxygen tank. But it's also a moment where Ruby needs to be the tough parent who may overreact because she sees her daughter as a criminal just like herself.
  • Of course, that's what then makes it so amusing when the police officer scares Ruby straight much more so than she does for Sara. Ruby arranges this for her daughter so that she never acts out like this again. The officer doesn't think there is a problem to worry about. Ruby may be making a big deal about nothing. But it's clear that Ruby gets the lesson about the realities of prison and is immediately frightened.
  • It's absolutely crazy that Annie is able to get back her job at the supermarket working for Boomer. It's so belittling for her to have to submit herself to the man who has abused her in so many ways this season. He has jeopardized her custody case by planting drugs on her. He just wants her to be the pleasant and subservient women he wants all of his employees to be. She can't abide by that - nor should she. And yet, she needs the job for the money.
  • Annie also believed that she had the drug contact who could help them unload the products they take from Nancy's day spas. It's the same guy whom Boomer bought the drugs from to frame Annie. As such, it's clear that almost everyone at work knows the more successful side gig this guy is running. But it's also crazy that Annie doesn't confront him about selling those drugs to Boomer.
  • It's so toxic that Beth is starting to forgive Dean now because he is helping her. He is completely fine with the secrecy of her new work. He just wants to know whenever he can help her. He is a crucial asset here. It's still crazy that this doctor is willing to do so much for him. He's bound to lose his license at some point. But Beth telling Dean the truth about what she's doing is bound to come back to hurt her at some point. Letting him in could only make it more inevitable that someone will leak the truth to the feds.