TV REVIEW: Good Behavior 1.01 “So You’re Not An English Teacher”

First things first, I honestly had no intention of ever watching this show. I’d seen previews for it across several different channels back home, but beyond recognizing the lead actress as someone from Downton Abbey (another show I’d never watched), I never put much stock into them. It seemed like the typical ‘woman makes a big mistake that she tries to atone for to be better in the eyes of her son‘ type show — which sounds like an oddly specific trope, now that it’s all there — and while I love a well-done show exploring family ties and the sacrifices people will make to preserve them, I brushed Good Behavior off.

So thank god the full first episode played as an ad on a YouTube video I was trying to watch (a video of a song I’d heard and liked on Shadowhunters, of all things, which I have every intention of reviewing in the future, thank you very much).

I can’t tell you what drew me to keep watching rather than skip the ad — other than curiosity, plain and simple. I saw that the ad was around fifty-something minutes long, and thought, ‘that’s strangely long for an ad.’ But if I had to pinpoint it, it was that easy, random access that was so tempting, that made me think: well, I’m already here, why not?

(For what it’s worth, this isn’t an isolated incident, either; Epix released the first two full episodes of their new series, Berlin Station, on Twitter. Like I said, of all things, I know. Of course, the show stars Richard Armitage, so I was already more than willing to watch — he’s my all-time favorite actor — but it was so convenient, I literally dropped everything I was doing to watch two hours of that man run around Berlin and play spy. Tip to showrunners, just saying.)

If you’ve seen the trailers, then you’ve likely already got the gist of the overall premise of the show. Michelle Dockery plays Letty Raines, a woman who has been released from prison for good behavior, and who, unsurprisingly, kicks that habit aside in favor of reverting back to the con artist ways which played a role in why she landed behind bars in the first place. In doing so, however, she overhears a man by the name of Javier (Juan Diego Botto) meticulously planning a hit on the wife of another man, who was incidentally the one to order it.

Appalled, Letty spends the majority of the episode using her skills to prevent the hit from happening — all while she struggles not to give in to the temptations of drugs and alcohol in the hopes that if she does right, she’ll be allowed to see her son, Jacob (Nyles Steele), for the first time in two years.

It sounds very cut and dry (as it appeared when I’d initially decided I wasn’t interested), and it isn’t a hard watch in the least — but it’s so much more than what it seems. There were moments I held my breath, every muscle in my body tensed up, waiting for the inevitable — and there were moments I smiled to myself or laughed out loud, even a few I genuinely teared up at. Almost as easily as breathing, Michelle Dockery plays a strong and seemingly fearless at the same time she is lost and uncertain. My only criticism was how left-field her desire to help a complete stranger came, but then again, it was the first episode and they probably needed to establish that she isn’t actually an awful person, just messy. Then again, it’s probably common decency to worry about another human being’s life, right? (Sorry, this election has me all kinds of confused when it comes to how too many people these days regard human life, but you know. There were good policies, though.) (…Okay, but where?) Nonetheless, her conflict and frustration are palpable, and the way the show’s world seamlessly builds itself around her performance is impressive.

No wonder she won three Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe, right?

(I think I’m also more than a little fascinated watching characters who are such complete messes try to do things and screw up, despite their best intentions. Enjoying that sounds so terrible it’s almost hilarious, but it makes me feel better about my screw-ups (which, again, I’m terrible) and they’re fictional characters, so there’s really not that much harm in it. Right?)

You aren’t given all the answers — there was a twist towards the end that I’m still wrapping my head around — but you are given just enough to keep you going, to keep you watching and waiting with bated breath for more. You just have to be the one to give the show itself a chance, as I learned.

Who is Letty? Why did she try and play hero, when so much of what she does inside of her hotel room tends towards self-destruction? Who is Javier (besides the obvious tall, dark, mysterious hit man — and okay, he’s pretty too)? What exactly is he capable of? Good Behavior begins officially airing on November 15 at 9/8c on TNT — starting with the first two episodes, so you won’t even have to wait as long as I will to hopefully find out the answers to those questions.

My rating thus far, on a scale from 1 to 10, is…

7/10

And in the meantime, I think I’ll go watch Downton Abbey.

Featured image courtesy of TNT.

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