A back-against-the-wall, financially struggling character, the heartfelt desire to protect one’s family and the last-resort decision to engage in some illegal activity to make ends meet. I know what you’re thinking — haven’t we heard this storyline before? Though it seems structurally very similar to the likes of “Breaking Bad” and “Ozark,” “Good Girls” sheds some new light on the antihero narrative and this time introduces a squad of staunch and steadfast anti-heroines, tasked with saving their crumbling families.
NBC’s latest comedy-drama follows a rag-tag group of floundering moms, who, against all morally-taxing inhibitions, rob a grocery store as a one-time ploy to provide for their children. As it is revealed that a local gang launders loads of money from the very store that the makeshift criminals chose, the moms may have just tangled themselves up in a huge web of lies and crime.Yet, through every twist and turn that the pilot episode takes, two things remain constant: the crew’s undying loyalty to one other and their fierce chemistry.
First up, there’s Beth (Christina Hendricks, “Mad Men”), the cookie-cutter housewife who discovers that not only is her scumbag husband having an affair, but also that he hasn’t paid the last three mortgages. Hendricks executes the shift from robotic homemaker to fury-filled, vindictive crook with ease, not passing up any moment to unleash some major side-eye and wrathful stares. Though, it seems at times that the storyline with her slimy, cheating husband feels more separate and singular, struggling to thread itself in among the overarching mood of the show.
Ruby (Retta, “Parks and Recreation”) grapples with the most heart-wrenching motive for robbery, as her daughter is gravely ill and requires an outrageously expensive medicine to regain some health. However, her character comes off as underdeveloped and is rarely given the opportunity or proper dialogue to engage with the superb comedic timing and clever wit that Retta is so capable of.
The self-elected leader of the group, Annie (Mae Whitman, “Parenthood”) almost seems to be taking on too many subplots within the series, as she is faced with a custody battle over her daughter with her rich ex-husband; a grimy boss with constant, undesired flirting; and being the mastermind behind the robbery blueprint. As an actor, Whitman has a lot of ground to cover, but amazingly she handles each situation and confrontation with sly humor, brash dialogue and an unnerving conscience. Whitman appears to be the stand-out of the show, carefully creating a complex, nuanced criminal out of a well-meaning mom.
The main obstacle that “Good Girls” encounters is finding and embracing a genre that truly fits. It appears that the show is undergoing an identity crisis of sorts as some moments seem extremely predictable, like your typical comedy, and others feature very dark, raw topics like rape, murder and financial instability. The line between what “Good Girls” is and what it wants to be is (as of now) blurred, and the potential for a jumbled and confusing plot line seems very likely.
It’s hard to tell how long “Good Girls” will be able to sustain its repetitive plot without feeling expired, or if it will even make it through a full season at all. There is such talent fused into the show, but unless the girls are in a scene together, the excitement and suspense fall short. “Good Girls” should focus more on the exploration of its characters and themes of female empowerment, and then maybe it has the possibility of holding its own on primetime.