Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Review: 'Good Behavior' delivers a satisfying - albeit unspectacular - end to a solid first season

Some thoughts on tonight's Good Behavior finale, and the season as a whole, coming up after the break.

For all that I've enjoyed watching Good Behavior in its debut season, there has been an unending sense throughout that the series had very little idea of what it wanted to be, and opted to experiment with any possible thread to see what works. It began as a potential anti-hero story with Letty maybe trying to redeem herself by stopping Javier's latest murder; it then became a story about a contract killer keeping a random woman hostage as a partner; it moved on to being a family drama; and by the end of the season, it became mostly about Letty trying to gain custody of her son. Interspersed in all that is a weird romance story between the two leads, an addiction story (that wasn't really dealt with unless prudent to the narrative), Javier's desire not to get caught, etc.

Put simply, Good Behavior's overall storytelling has been a mess.

What saves the show is that each of these different plots - the aforementioned addiction story excepted - generally work in their own right, for various reasons. Letty's initial motivations for doing anything were non-existent, at best, but Michelle Dockery made it less noticeable. Javier's kidnapping of/partnership with Letty is helped by Dockery and Juan Diego Botto's interactions, plus the black comedy element. The family drama was almost certainly the most well-told story, particularly the Pereira family-focused seventh episode, which was a real gut-punch of an hour. Letty's quest for custody of her son was powerful through our connection to her, and, in turn, her desperation for it. And the romance arc came together far better when the show dropped the idea of either of them wanting to get out of the situations they were in.

So even when it felt like the show was becoming entirely schizophrenic and desperate to achieve complete tonal whiplash, and that I had missed two episodes' worth of development each week, each individual episode tended to be better as just that, rather than as part of a season-long story.

That's certainly the case for the finale, "All the Things", which did what it set out to do and did it in a strong way. Letty's decision to give up Javier to the FBI was inevitably going to take up the majority of the hour, with her hasty and determined backpedal also a sure thing. And once she got full custody of Jacob, the show was able to actually do that. Her desperation to save him makes a lot of sense: even putting aside the fact that she's responsible for his imminent danger, Javier is one of only two people who sees who she is and will accept her for it. While Estelle does, to an extent, now accept her daughter as this somewhat changed woman, their relationship has obviously been extremely troubled in the past - and, now that Jacob's father, Sean, is back in the picture and wants his son back, Letty can't be with her mother.

But perhaps more importantly is that Letty, much as she wants to be a better mother to Jacob, isn't capable of doing it by herself. Javier's role in her life has provided a comfort, and being with him made her life easier; not to mention that he's a good father figure. Though she could certainly try and build this new life on her own, it would work out better for everyone if she didn't have to. Her plan to get Javier back was impressively thought out (*) but her act to convince him to leave the hotel was less so. That she told him the truth isn't particularly surprising: though, ideally, she gets him to leave in a way that doesn't make him hate her, his being free is preferable to him being in prison irrespective of the circumstances.

(*) It should be noted that the part of her plan involving Christian meeting the FBI agent (played by the excellent Ann Dowd) for drinks led to a scene that was painful to watch. That was intentionally bad television at its most cringe-worthy.

What is surprising is that Javier not only changed his mind at the last second (conveniently off-camera) but decided to return for Letty. Arguably, this ending is too neat and perhaps even forced, but Good Behavior has done enough character work to be able to justify Javier choosing to forgive her mistake and be with her rather than be alone. The Pereira family episode, "The Ballad of Little Santino", made it clear that although Javier has spent his entire adult life with only his sister as family, it's less through choice than it was thrust upon him. Once he was given an opportunity to have something more than that, it was always going to end like this, especially after his entire family disowned him after learning his true career.

So by the end of "All the Things", Letty, Javier, and Jacob drove off into a potential new beginning, though the closing sound of a police siren will forever haunt them (*). Accompanied by a wonderful cover of "Go Your Own Way" (**), the final moments both wrap up the season in a way that could be a series finale, and leave the door open just enough that a potential second season could work. But, given the ratings, it seems unlikely that we'll get one.

(*) I'm choosing to assume that the siren wasn't actually meant for them - or, at least, not directly on their trail - and that it's simply an indication of how paranoid they'll need to be in this new life. If it is right behind them, then good luck getting out of this situation, I say.

(**) The Fleetwood Mac version of this song is so fantastic that the idea of a cover doesn't sit right with me. That being said, it wouldn't have fit tonally here, and the Lissie version is actually a great rendition in its own right, so I'm glad both that the cover exists and that Good Behavior introduced me to it.

Good Behavior has had its problems during these ten episodes, but I've enjoyed watching it and this was a satisfying closer.

What did everyone else think?

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