There has always been something a little political about NBC’s Good Girls. At a time when women all over the country are saying “Time’s Up,” the dramedy shows what happens when three middle-class-ish, supposedly harmless moms take “enough is enough” to its most extreme limit. “Most extreme limit” in this case means robbing a grocery store at faux gunpoint and then finding yourself caught up in gang drama. But the show’s first few episodes felt a little uneven, jerking between the nuanced realities of its characters new, scary normal and near slapstick comedy.
Thankfully, Good Girls came into its own with Monday night’s “Borderline,” by being its most quietly subtly political story yet. The show took shots at the ideas of a Mexican border wall, and it’s likely most of the viewers at home didn’t even realize they were being schooled.
The third episode of the women-behaving-criminally-badly series follows our three leads — Ruby Hill (Retta), Annie Marks (Mae Whitman), and Beth Boland (Christina Hendricks) — on a trip across the border to do some business for gang lord Rio (Manny Montana), who is signaled to be Latinx. Rio, fans will remember, is the man the trio actually stole from during their primere episode grocery stick-up, since he has been laundering money through the store for an unknown amount of time. By pulling this job for the crime boss, the women’s hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt will be forgiven.
When you pair what we hear about gangs, drugs, and “not the best people,” from the President of the United States with the fact Latinx Rio floated the idea of forcing the ladies to break out their passports at the close of last week's “Mo Money, Mo Problems,” it seems pretty clear our heroines are headed to Mexico in this episode. After all, the installment is called “Borderline.” But, you know what they say about assumptions.
Instead, the women are heading to Canada. Yes, the Great White North of public health care, overly polite people, and, a white majority is where all of Rio’s criminal businesses are apparently filtering into America from. It makes sense, since Good Girls takes place in Michigan, which literally shares a border with Canada, but sometimes stereotypes are more powerful than obvious facts. It’s so obvious, even the dramedey’s cast was shocked they were headed north in support of Rio’s shady business.
“I think that’s the surprise of it,” Ruby’s portrayer Retta told Refinery29 during a New York City interview. “Because I was like, ‘I thought we were going to Mexico!’ I legitimately thought we were going to Mexico. I appreciated the juxtaposition of us trying to smuggle out of Canada.”
The juxtaposition of “Borderline” is pretty extreme. This is a show where women who pay taxes, cheer on their kids at suburban soccer games, and go to nice Christian churches every Sunday have to head over to the supposedly “better” version of America and go pick up a package for a crime lord; the kind of crime lord who had someone hold a loaded gun to Beth’s head just last episode. While there, Ruby ends up shooting a man in the foot. It’s a purposeful signal Mexico isn’t the only place one can classify as a den of iniquity, but the American government is only planning to throw a fence around one of these places. Can you guess the major difference? Hint: it’s the general expected skin color and first-language of the populace.
That’s why the twist of what Ruby, Annie, and Beth are smuggling seems so appropriate. While the women believe they will be picking up something glaringly dangerous like drugs — which is in line with a large chunk of society’s general attitude towards Mexico as a whole — it’s a package that seems totally innocuous: Christmas-themed wrapping paper. Yet, the cutesy object turns out to be far more sinister than anyone could have expected, in the same way a trip to Canada ends up being just as crime-friendly as one to Mexico supposedly is. Once the women take the “wrapping paper” to Rio’s warehouse, they realize the smuggled goods are actually counterfeit bills. The paper's true purpose is only revealed once you strip away the Santas and snowmen.
It’s the ultimate metaphor for using the Canadian border for crime.
Network television is at its best when it helps broaden its audience’s worldview without bashing them over the head with progressive ideals more conservative audiences might balk at. That’s why shows like Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder are so quietly revolutionary. This way, everyone can accept a small change to their perspective while being wildly entertained by the murderers row of talent that is Hendricks, Whitman, and Retta.
If Good Girls continues to prove there’s a lot more than meets the eye to the archetypes we take for granted — nice suburban moms, the inherent virtue of Canada, wrapping paper — the series could be more than good, it could be great.
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