‘Good Girls’ Review: Pilot (Season 1 Episode 1)

Retta, Christina Hendricks, Mae Whitman ("Good Girls") | NBC

Good Girls is aggressively vying for a place in criminal herstory. Created by The Family's Jenna Bans and featuring a team of outstanding TV talents, NBC's new midseason offering is a female-centric crime dramedy that stars Christina Hendricks (Mad Men), Mae Whitman (Parenthood), and Retta (Parks and Recreation) as three moms who turn to bad behavior in order to salvage their lives and families.

Hendricks takes on the role of Beth Boland, a mother of four and committed wife to her less-than-faithful car dealer husband Dean (Matthew Lillard). After discovering that her co-pilot of two decades is cheating on her with his young employee Amber (Sara Paxton), an emotional breakdown and a reawakening of her senses leads to yet another disappointing discovery: Dean's been hiding the family's financial situation, and it's not pretty. Beth rightfully begins to reassess her compliance with the rule of men that has dictated her entire life.

Annie (Whitman) is Beth's younger sister and the mom to a gender non-conforming child, Sadie (Izzy Stanard). With a minimum wage job at the local Fine & Frugal supermarket and a better-off ex-boyfriend preparing to sue for custody of Sadie, Annie finds herself in a position where she could lose everything. She appears very loving and accepting of Sadie, despite having little to give her. Ultimately, she is determined to protect her low-income family by any means necessary.

Our final leading lady, and perhaps the most inspired casting choice of all, is Retta as Ruby Hill. Ruby is Beth's best friend and the protective mother of an ill daughter, Sara (Lidya Jewett). Without the means to pay for medical treatments that could cost upwards of $10K, Ruby is frustrated with the system at large and feels as though no one is doing their best for her daughter. She has a loving husband in Stan (Reno Wilson), which is a deviation from the other two characters' male relationships. Where Beth and Annie have problems with men in their personal lives, Ruby is seemingly dismissed by the men outside of her family. One of the most impactful scenes of the pilot is when Beth exhaustingly pleads time and again for a doctor's attention to her daughter's health. Retta is able to capture the emotional intensity of these scared, frustrated, and helpless moments so well. At the end of the day, with Beth and Annie on board, Ruby is ready to do whatever it takes to fulfill her obligations as a mother.

All this desperation leads these characters to robbing Amber's store for $30K and splitting it three ways. The good news is that the ladies got that $30K quite easily. Toy guns in hand, they manage to navigate their way in and out of the "one-time" job using Annie's familiarity with the store. The bad news is that it was actually closer to $500K when they counted the stolen money at home, give or take thousands. Determined to figure out a better solution soon, the women divide the money and plan to sit on it. Until they don't. Annie almost immediately spends nearly $100K on a Porsche and electronics, Beth bribes Amber with $5K to leave her husband alone, and Ruby commits the $10K+ for high-end hospital bills. Clearly, this shows they have no experience budgeting stolen cash, as well as poor decision-making skills that will inevitably get them into more trouble as time goes on. Shortly thereafter, they are let in on the secret that the store has been compromised by a cartel and is deep into money-laundering. They are visited by the guy in charge, Rio (Manny Montana) who demands that the stolen funds be returned. When they explain that they don't have all of the money, a season-long arc is established: Annie, Beth, and Ruby must continue to lie, cheat, and steal to pay back what they owe.

There are several additional complications introduced in the pilot. First, Stan informs Beth that he's been accepted into the police academy, which will make her participation in the illegal behavior more troubling. In addition to this road block, Annie's super identifiable "all you need is love" lower-back tattoo becomes her personal hell when her creepy boss Boomer (David Hornsby) reveals that he recognized her during the robbery and demands sexual favors in exchange for his silence. What starts out as an attempt at blackmail turns into attempted rape; that is, until Beth comes out of Annie's shower and threatens Boomer. The situation escalates into a violent fight, resulting in Boomer claiming that he would tell the police everything he knows. It's an edge-of-your-seat final scene, as you don't quite know how far the characters might go to try to stop the truth from getting out. Ultimately, Boomer lunges at Annie and Beth and trips, falling head-first into a glass table and looking all too dead.

Line of the Week: "She's an atheist who enjoys a jaunty bow tie."
Good Girls has a pretty entertaining pilot on its hands, and the stakes feel real. Although it shouldn't rub people the wrong way any more than past male-led crime dramas, the serious subject matter and tone might throw some unsuspecting viewers off. While its dramatic edge can't compete with AMC or HBO, it's not as comedic and network-friendly as some of the marketing material may have led people to believe. The casting almost promises something else, though what is given is good on its own. While Retta is primarily known as scene-stealer Donna "Treat Yo'Self" Meagle on Parks and Recreation, and Whitman is highly regarded for her recurring role as Ann on Arrested Development, the Good Girls pilot resides largely in a dark place that asks these actors to do a lot of heavy-lifting. The redeeming part in all of this is that these actors manage to pull it off more than they do not, especially Retta and Whitman. They each have their moments to lighten the mood with a quip or a reaction, but their earnest commitments to the characters' panic, frustration, and fear of their families being threatened – before and after the robbery – make the pilot pretty compelling to delve further into.

A strong selling point of the show is its sheer timeliness. Good Girls comes at a point in time when there's an active climate of female empowerment and movements like Time's Up. It's refreshing to see a female-led crime drama such as this on network television, and it's perhaps all the more resonant because of its parallels to the reckoning going on in the nation. That's not to say that the concept is mind-blowing in its originality, that it avoids every cliché, nor that the series is the next Breaking Bad by any stretch of the imagination. It's not, and if we're being honest, the exceptional cast is the primary reason to watch the show. It's also just fun to imagine the possibilities that could come of a few suburban moms thinking they're a bunch of Walter Whites. These women are doing it for themselves – no matter what the men in their life say – and, as of now, the men are on the sidelines while our protagonists figure out the next move. There's certainly a positive vibe about women aligning their power in this show, even if it's focusing on criminal behavior. I'm guessing that the empowerment of women will continue to be an intrinsic part of the Good Girls fabric going forward, and I endorse it. I endorse it fully.

The pilot does unfortunately burn through the planning and execution stages of the robbery quite rapidly, which might pose some story and pacing problems. Instead of the instant time jump between present day and three weeks prior to the robbery, I would've preferred some more deliberation of the crime before they all committed to it. It goes from 0 to 100 in terms of packing in a robbery, experiencing new luxuries, bringing in a cartel, pushing attempted rape, and ending up with a fairly significant death all in 44 minutes. It's highly entertaining, but perhaps a bit too much too soon for a show that already seems to have capped creative potential. There's likely only so many felonies they can commit before the premise tires itself out and they're no longer "good" girls... right?

Nonetheless, the rise and fall that these women experience as they get more than they bargained for is sure to be an intriguing ride. The chemistry between Retta, Christina, and Mae is palpable and worthy of viewers' attention, though the topics here might prove to be a bit much for NBC's audience.

Grade: B

What did you think of the 'Good Girls' Pilot?

Created with PollMaker

Share this

Related Posts

Next Post »