Good Girls Season 3 struggles to shake things up
Sophie Davies | On 09, Aug 2020
Warning: This contains spoilers for Season 1 and 2. Not caught up? Read our spoiler-free review of Season 1 here.
When we last saw unlikely partners-in-crime Beth (Christina Hendricks), Annie (Mae Whitman) and Ruby (Retta), they believed they were finally free from gang boss Rio (Manny Montana). And they believed this with good reason, since it was Beth herself who shot him and left him for dead.
Instead of using this opportunity to make a clean break and end their dalliance with organised crime, we learn at the outset of Good Girls Season 3 that the three women have chosen to set up their own operation and are producing counterfeit money at a stationery shop where Beth now works. After all, there are still bills to pay, with Beth’s family unable to afford their mortgage payments, Ruby’s daughter needing medication that isn’t covered by their health insurance, and Annie struggling to make ends meet as a single mum.
As somewhat expected, the women’s new independence is short-lived, because Rio is soon back on the scene and wants a piece of their operation. Unfortunately this is where the show starts to feel like it has taken a step backwards, as we’ve more or less returned to the way things were before. The writers of Good Girls seem to have backed themselves into a corner by creating a villain that they just can’t face killing off – perhaps more because the smouldering criminal has become a fan favourite with certain sections of the audience than because he is an essential character to the show. It’s difficult to shake the feeling that Season 3 could have been more interesting if Rio really had been gone for good, the women had continued running their own enterprise, and a brand new enemy had been introduced to spice things up.
Eventually, a new threat is introduced in the form of an FBI agent, played by Lauren Lapkus, whose interest has been piqued by the counterfeit money. She manages to hone in on Ruby thanks to a specific nail polish used in the money’s recipe, and it looks like Season 4 (which has already been commissioned) will involve her trying to get close to the group to gather more evidence. It’s an intriguing prospect, but the show’s pace would have benefitted from introducing Agent Donnegan earlier in the season (as it stands, she makes her first appearance at the very end of Episode 8) and bringing her story forward.
The central trio remain a key strength of Good Girls, but some of their individual storylines also add to a sense that the show is treading water. Beth is still making questionable decisions, biting off more than she can chew, and trying to mend a strained relationship with husband Dean (Matthew Lillard). Annie, who has a history of pursuing unsuitable men, starts having therapy (a promising development), but she simply falls for her therapist and ends up trying to seduce him away from his girlfriend.
Ruby’s story is the most compelling this time, as we see what happens when crime becomes increasingly normalised in her household and other family members begin to follow her example. Her previously very moral husband Stan (Reno Wilson), now working as a bouncer in a strip club, starts stealing cash from the sleazy parties that the strippers are hired to attend, and even turns down an offer to return to the police force. Demanding that “one of us has to be good”, Ruby must come to terms with a new dynamic in her marriage, where she can no longer feel like her husband’s good deeds balance out her bad ones. Their daughter also begins to sense that there’s something unusual about the way her mother earns money and commits a crime of her own (albeit a fairly minor one), because if her mum is allowed to bend the law then why can’t she do the same?
Although it is available to UK viewers on Netflix, it’s worth taking into account that Good Girls is actually a network TV show in the US, airing on NBC. Therefore, it doesn’t have any of the graphic violence or language that many other crime shows have. Combine these network TV rules with the “suburban mums” angle, and the show generally feels quite light – which means that when something more brutal does occasionally happen, it can be rather jarring. One such incident occurs around halfway through Season 3, when an innocent character is cruelly murdered, and not long afterwards the body needs to be dug up for a fairly gruesome reason. While this would be almost business-as-usual in an edgier show such as Breaking Bad or Weeds, it feels out of place here, and the incident isn’t really treated with the weight it deserves beyond a few episodes later.
Season 3 of Good Girls had to be cut short due to the pandemic, meaning it ends rather anticlimactically after 11 episodes (there were supposed to be 16). The makeshift finale could have perhaps done with a disclaimer explaining this, because the average Netflix viewer won’t be aware of it (Season 1 had 10 episodes and season 2 had 13, so 11 doesn’t seem that unusual) and some might feel underwhelmed by the ending as it is. Here’s hoping that the arrival of Agent Donnegan in the women’s lives will be enough to tempt viewers back for the next season, and that it will prove to be worth it. Although it’s still likeable enough, Good Girls could really do with a shake-up if it wants to keep us invested.
Good Girls Season 1 to 3 is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.