Finally, supporting actresses get their chance to be the leads in Good Girls. Starring Retta, best known as bougie bachelorette Donna Meagle on Parks and Recreation; Mae Whitman of Parenthood; and Christina Hendricks—Mad Men’s Joan Holloway—Good Girls gives its audience an exciting drama with plenty of humor sprinkled in.
Set in a suburb of Detroit, Good Girls follows the three women—all moms and friends—as they take hold of their financial and personal problems. Beth Boland (Hendricks) learns of her husband’s infidelity with a much younger employee, as well as his poor financial planning. Ruby’s (Retta) daughter has an illness that’s causing kidney failure, but the only thing that could delay the need for a transplant—an experimental drug that costs $10,000—is out of reach. And Annie (Whitman), Beth’s sister, could lose her child Sadie to her ex-husband and his new girlfriend in a custody battle. It all seems hopeless until Annie, a cashier, tells them about how easy it would be to rob the grocery store where she works. Brandishing toy guns and ski masks, they grab everything in the safe, expecting it to be around $30,000, but the haul turns out to be closer to half a million.
The show brings a comedic aspect to all the antihero series we’ve seen crop up in the past 20 years—think a lighthearted Breaking Bad, but no less badass. Creator Jenna Bans learned from the best, with previous writing experience on Shonda Rhimes’ Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal. It shows in Good Girls—these women are not to be trifled with, but they’re still complex. In the holdup scene, Beth yells that she’ll start shooting people if they fail to cooperate, but the next second asks a little girl cowering in the corner with her mother if she watches Doc McStuffins. Similarly, Ruby breaks down when she sees how the money she stole has given her daughter a higher level of care from the doctors. As she sobs, the doctor asks someone to bring in cucumber-infused water. Ruby, through her tears, asks for some lemon too.
Part of the fun of the show is spotting all of the other actors in the show from their previous roles. Matthew Lillard, probably best known for playing Shaggy in the live-action Scooby-Doo movies, shows up as Beth’s husband. The woman he cheats with is played by Sara Paxton, known to everyone born past 1994 as the actress who took over for Kimberly J. Brown in Return to Halloweentown, to collective disappointment. And Annie’s ex is fellow NBC alum Zach Gilford, Friday Night Lights’ backup quarterback Matt Saracen.
Good Girls also seems poised to deal with other heavier issues during its season. Annie’s daughter Sadie is working through her gender identity. Her hair is cropped short and she wears bowties to school. Annie’s ex feels that she should see a therapist, while Annie thinks she’s perfect the way she is. Toward the end of the episode, Annie’s boss forces himself on her. Beth yells that “every man in the world thinks he can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants.” (“Not all men!” you cry. Okay thanks, Todd.) It’s a nod to everything that’s happening in Hollywood and elsewhere right now, from #MeToo to #TimesUp, which will be interesting to explore in a small Midwestern town through the eyes of working mothers.
One problem with Good Girls is that it’s on network TV, unlike most of the shows in its genre (Breaking Bad aired on AMC, House of Cards was a Netflix original). How to Get Away with Murder has successfully pulled off the high-intensity drama on ABC, but Good Girls seems like it was scrubbed squeaky clean for the FCC. No one swears, despite all of this nonsense worth cursing about, which makes the dialogue seem a little manufactured. It seems like there’s a question as to how far they’ll go in this season, because for now it’s a little muted, and the plot is cerebral so that it doesn’t feel rated more than PG-13 right now.
Retta’s and Hendricks’s characters are spot-on, in roles neither has really played before—especially for Retta, whose last character Donna hated the idea of settling down and would rather have another Benz than two kids. Annie’s character seems the weakest right now, possibly because of the rise in characters like her on TV already—the super-fun cool single mom doesn’t seem that genuine. But after the first episode, Annie could be on a different trajectory that could make her more three-dimensional.
By the end of the episode, the stakes have been raised for all three of the mothers, who now find themselves in more trouble than in the beginning. From this jumping-off point, Good Girls seems ready to make a name for itself in the next cycle of new shows that will premiere in the coming weeks. And by giving these seasoned actresses—always the bridesmaids but never the brides—the starring roles that have been a long time coming, they don’t need to steal the show with some bit part. This time, they are the show.
Featured Image by NBC