Netflix TV review: Good Girls Season 4
Written by Arthur
In its fourth and unexpectedly final season, Good Girls is kept afloat by its charismatic leads, but the storytelling feels repetitive. Although the finale teases a new shift in the power dynamics, it’s too little too late for the show, which has now been cancelled by NBC. Season 4 sees suburban mums Beth (Christina Hendricks), Annie (Mae Whitman) and Ruby (Retta) continue to find themselves in over their heads as criminals. As has always been the case in Good Girls, the trio are constantly committing crime after crime to cover both their bills and their tracks, all while trying to avoid being either caught by law enforcement or punished by the gang to which they answer. The difference this time is that, although the three women still flounder and make questionable decisions under pressure, crime has by this point become a more routine part of their daily lives. At the outset of the season, Beth and husband Dean (Matthew Lillard) have set up a hot tub business as a front for money laundering and bribe a safety inspector to keep it open, while Ruby and Stan (Reno Wilson) start grifting to sell fake designer handbags. When the women are commanded to take charge of a strip club for money laundering purposes, they’re more concerned with what their cut will be than anything else. However, as crime has become less remarkable in the lives of Beth, Annie and Ruby, it has also become less exciting for the audience in turn. Compared to Season 1’s grocery store robbery and its escalating consequences, there are so many criminal activities going on throughout Season 4 that it can sometimes be difficult to keep track of who is up to what and who is on whose side. Beth’s hot-and-cold relationship with gang boss Rio (Manny Montana) – who perhaps should have exited the show to mix things up back when Beth shot him and left him for dead in the Season 2 finale – also falls into a pattern of repetition. She fluctuates between wanting to turn him in, kill him or sleep with him so many times that, rather than having a sense of thrilling unpredictability, it all starts to feel a little tedious. New threats to their professional, and occasionally romantic, partnership arrive in the form of Secret Service agents who convince the women to turn informant in an attempt to bring Rio down, as well as Nick (Ignacio Serricchio), a corrupt councilman who’s related to Rio, but it never feels likely that any of them will truly lure Beth away from her smouldering “gang friend”, as Annie and Ruby still insist on calling him. The end of Season 3 signalled the arrival of Agent Donnegan (Lauren Lapkus) in the women’s lives, going undercover to investigate the money laundering operation and their possible involvement in it. After initially investigating Ruby, Donnegan soon realises that Beth is the ringleader, but finds herself facing higher-ups who don’t believe that a “soccer mom” could be responsible for all of this. They choose to hone in on oblivious Dean instead, continuing a common theme of the show – that the three women are frequently able to get away with their crimes because they’re underestimated by everyone around them. Incidentally, a highlight of the season comes when Donnegan has to disguise herself as a local mum, and it would have been fun to see her have more interaction with Beth, Annie and Ruby throughout. In the finale, we’re presented with what turns out to be a fantasy sequence in which Beth, Annie and Ruby have all moved away to start new, crime-free lives, but quickly learn that they can’t outrun their problems. Ruby is suddenly in need of money when her daughter becomes ill again and Annie’s son is struggling at a new school, while thrill-seeker Beth is simply bored without risky criminal activities to occupy her. Far from the crucial decision that started their descent into crime, they’ve now reached a point where they can’t simply make a ‘fresh start’ and unlearn the way of life they’ve become accustomed to. The finale’s conclusion (post-fantasy) reflects this, with newly elected councilwoman Beth informing Rio that “you work for me now” and Ruby being forced to choose between her family and her friends, while Annie is framed and subsequently arrested for a crime she didn’t commit. It’s a shame that Good Girls wasn’t allowed to wrap things up with another season, but it’s perhaps fitting that the story ends with mixed consequences for the struggling-mums-turned-messy-criminals – and that Beth, who was always the most ruthless of the group, ultimately rises to the top at the expense of those around her.