Watching the season finale of NBC’s breakout dark comedy Good Girls was certainly an experience. The show has been so good, I was expecting to just love it and wait for season 3. But as the writers told us before the season began, season 2 was deeper, darker, and more fascinating than season 1. Like many others, I started the show by bingeing it multiple times on Netflix, then watched in sequence when season 2 began this past March on NBC. The show follows the lives and blunders of a group of best friends: one Detroit housewife and two working class mothers, Beth, Annie, and Ruby. They come across as totally relatable despite the outrageous situations they find themselves in. The pilot episode shows the women robbing the grocery store where Annie works due to dire financial straits they are all experiencing. The robbery actually goes well, but they inadvertently also robbed a drug dealer named Rio who was using the store to launder his money.
In season 1, the show immediately showed us what it is about: friendship, crime, and family – decisively in that order. Beth and Annie are sisters and Ruby is Beth’s best friend but protective of Annie too. Annie, the youngest of the group and former teenage mother, is raising a transgender son, Sadie, one of the most tender and truly innocent characters on the show. While she is often painted as the most irresponsible character, Annie is a wonderful mother. So is Ruby, played by the insanely talented Retta, married to Stan and in the healthiest romantic relationship on the show. Beth, for her part, is a horrible mother. But a great criminal. We learned this halfway through season 1 when the women are forced to continue to commit crimes when Beth becomes addicted to something she actually loves: being a drug dealer.
In a Good Girls roundtable in January, Christina Hendricks, Retta, and Mae Whitman spoke to Jessica Shaw about Beth’s truth, what I believe to be the foundation of the show. On her idyllic life as a housewife and mother of four, Hendricks says of her character Beth, “I don’t really like being a mom and I’m so good at it. I like this other thing. It’s scary to think that something else is bringing me a tremendous amount of joy.” This is so crucial to me –seeing a woman on television embrace a choice that is a bad choice, and instead of stopping, she doubles down.
Before last night, I was annoyed with how selfish and irresponsible Beth was, constantly risking the lives and freedom of her friends and children, all while playing a dutiful housewife, constant baking included. Then I realized I was just jarred that Beth made a choice to embrace something she loved, an autonomy we often don’t see in women who are the heads of families, onscreen and off. As Beth steamrolled through last night’s finale, making terrible choices, we see the last and worst one: shooting her mentor, lover and boss, Rio, instead of FBI agent Turner who has been stalking her criminal activities. This choice was a shock for fans, as Rio is not only a central character, but Manny Montana has played the role beautifully. Beth clearly fell in love with Rio and Rio may have fallen for her, but refused to admit it, gaslighting and ignoring her in the weeks leading up to the shooting. Last night, Rio put his gun in Beth’s hand, like he did at the end of season 1, when he eventually shot her husband Dean because she was unable. This time Beth turned on him, accused him of ruining her life (kinda…I guess), saved Agent Turner and sacrificed Rio, leaving him to bleed out. While he’s probably not dead, their relationship will clearly never be the same. The way I see it, Beth fell in love with Rio around the same time she fell in love with dealing drugs and being in a gang, especially times where she acted as a gang leader in training. Rio failed to satisfy her ego the way crime did so she tried to take him out.
Speaking of Rio, while he is likely not dead, I feel compelled to point out why we are all so in love with him despite the fact he is a criminal and bully, often not acting out what he threatens but his vibe being scary enough for the other characters to be afraid. Last December, Manny Montana spoke to Angie Martinez about Good Girls. On his portrayal of Rio, and why he doesn’t play him as a growling stereotype, he keeps it simple: “He has to be intimidating with these girls, but there’s a charm to it…is every hood dude mean all the time? Every hood dude I knew was laughing, charming. That’s what I wanted to bring to him.”
I can’t wait until season 3!