Dear TV Writers: Your Fear of the Moonlighting Curse is Killing Your Show

What is the Moonlighting Curse, and why is it such a big deal to television writers? Read this in-depth look at the crippling phenomenon and find out!

Getting Rid of the Stigma: Mental Illness in Young Adult Fiction, by Megan Mann

In this piece, Megan brilliantly discusses the stigma of mental illness in literature and how some young adult novels are helping to change the landscape for this discussion.

In Appreciation of the Everyday Heroine

A mask does not a hero make. In this piece, I discuss why it's wrong to dismiss characters without costumes or masks as superheroes.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Jenn’s Pick: 10 Underrated TV Actresses [Contributor: Jenn]

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You don’t have to be a television aficionado to know that being in the “golden age of television” can feel simultaneously exciting and overwhelming. Where there used to be only cable networks to choose from, today’s options for entertainment are vast and diverse. From YouTube original series to an array of streaming platforms, it seems like there’s scarcely a place you can’t watch television.

And since the TV landscape is jam-packed with talent, sometimes actors, actresses, and series get a little lost in the shuffle. There is just so much television and not enough time. (For instance, I just started watching Schitt’s Creek, a series I barely hear anyone talk about!)

But since here at Just About Write we value women as much as we value pop culture — if not more — I thought it’d be nice to talk about some unsung heroes of television: these underrated television actresses. Though I think all of these women deserve accolades, most have given performances that have been brilliant and yet also flown lower under the radar.

So let’s celebrate ten underrated television actresses, shall we?

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Hilary Duff
Younger (TV Land)


I grew up in the 2000s, so of course I loved Hilary Duff as the title character in tween comedy Lizzie McGuire (shout-out if you also remember the movie and/or can quote it by heart). So when I realized that Younger starred Broadway star Sutton Foster and an actress from my childhood, I knew I had to check it out. Hilary is consistently impressive in the series, navigating Kelsey’s desires for love, power, and friendship. She’s a young woman who’s trying to thrive in a career where men dominate. She’s a young woman who’s trying to figure out the complexities of friendships, loyalty, and relationships.

And Hilary not only portrays this struggle but also the heart that Kelsey has behind it all. She’s not a mean girl. She’s not a diva. She’s a woman who is compassionate and kind, but tough and fierce. She’s not afraid to stand up for her beliefs, but she also messes up. Hilary really nails the emotional moments Kelsey experiences too with such genuine and heartfelt emotion. I’m grateful Younger exists to continue to showcase Hilary Duff’s talent!

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Alison Brie
GLOW (Netflix)


I’ve loved Alison Brie since Community. Annie Edison was a go-getter, driven, perfectionistic — in essence, a lot of the things I am. In GLOW, Alison plays a character who shares a lot of the optimism that Annie Edison had but she also brings an incredibly real, raw depth to her performance as Ruth. There are some really powerful scenes in season two where Ruth breaks down, and you can palpably feel the pain, anger, and heartbreak.

Alison Brie is deceptive in the best way possible — she’s able to perfectly portray innocence and enthusiasm. But then she can hit you with an intense display of vulnerability and emotion. It’s something she navigates incredibly well and leaves you reeling. Not to mention the fact that Alison Brie is an immensely funny person too with impeccable comedic timing. I can’t wait to see her continue to tackle the emotional nuances of Ruth in the new season of GLOW.

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Kimrie Lewis
Single Parents (ABC)


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Watch Single Parents on ABC as soon as possible. The show was thankfully renewed and I can honestly say it was one of my favorite series last year. The show has an ensemble of incredibly talented people (Leighton Meester is an absolute gem in the series), but I wanted to take special note of underrated Kimrie Lewis. Kimrie plays Poppy, the single mother to a vivacious, fantastic young boy. Poppy herself is self-sufficient, witty, and intelligent. But even with Will as soft and kind as he is, honestly Poppy might just be the heart of the group — and Kimrie does a wonderful job conveying her layers.

In the first season we get to see Poppy’s humor and heart, as well as her vulnerability, on display. Kimrie plays her as this perfect balance of kindness and kick-butt ferocity. She’s just as much at home on the couch with a glass of wine as she is donning an evening gown to visit The Bachelor mansion (please watch this show if for no other reason than the little crossover we get in one of the episodes with The Bachelor).

Kimrie is a talented actress to watch and you truly need to see her shine on Single Parents! Catch up before the season two debut in September.

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Justina Machado
One Day At A Time (Netflix; Pop TV)


I don’t think anyone made me cry more in 2019 (or 2018, or 2017...) than Justina Machado. Thank goodness Pop TV rescued One Day At A Time after its cancellation at Netflix because I need more of this show in my life! Not only is Justina an incredibly talented comedic actress (her facial expressions and physical comedy is so impressive; she fills up every space she’s in and commands the scenes), but she is one of the most underrated, yet wildly talented emotional actresses. She made this evident in the show’s first and second seasons with her ability to make you overtly weep over storylines about PTSD, anxiety, addiction and depression. But she just keeps getting better and better each year, and I am amazed that she isn’t a household name yet.

Penelope is a fun, strong, and compassionate character. Her kindness and love for people is only rivaled by her desire for their happiness and success. Her scenes this season with Todd Grinnell (especially toward the back half of the season) were impeccable. I cannot sing the praises of this inclusive, emotional, hilarious show enough. And I won’t stop singing the praises of Justina Machado either!

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Emily Bett Rickards
Arrow (The CW)


Admittedly, I stopped watching Arrow consistently a few years ago (sorry, show, but you kinda sucked life out of me). Nevertheless, I’m constantly amazed that no one has seemed to recognize Emily Bett Rickards for her talent over the years! This woman has done incredible work and, arguably, has held the series together as its glue when the writing was in shambles. Since the past season’s finale was her last (I expect she’ll make some sort of return in the series finale at least), I thought it was appropriate to honor her here. Emily Bett Rickards has done immense work with Felicity Smoak over the last several years. She was so captivating in the first appearance that she became a regular part of the series even though that was never the intent. And it’s a testament to her chemistry with Stephen Amell and presence on screen that she went from a presumed one-off role to the show’s leading lady.

What I was always impressed by was Emily’s impeccable navigation between nervous awkward comedy to genuinely heartbreaking emotion. She’s the kind of actress who can make you feel something so deeply by just the look in her eyes. There have been countless moments over the years where I’ve just watched a GIF of a facial expression or nuance she’s made over and over, impressed by her ability to communicate feeling and the intentional choices she makes. Emily understood Felicity deeply; I know she loved her as a character, and it shows. Felicity was an incredible, complex woman — someone who was equal parts moral compass, light, and tragedy. Emily fought hard in her portrayal to make sure Felicity always stood out and stood on her own, never needing to be defined by another character to make an impact. Even though she was the other half of the show’s major romantic pairing, Emily Bett Rickards didn’t need Stephen Amell to shine — she just shone by existing.

As Arrow wraps up, it felt right to acknowledge how hard Emily worked over the years and the journey she went on with this character. May we always remember her for her heroism, love, and hilarious Freudian slips.

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America Ferrera
Superstore (NBC)


I started binge-watching Superstore on a whim, and fell in love with it pretty quickly. It’s often awkward and silly but sometimes downright unexpectedly emotional. America Ferrera is the heart of this workplace comedy (NBC really does this genre of shows well), but she’s also been given the chance to do really great emotional beats too. America’s Superstore character, Amy, begins the series feeling trapped and by the end of the most recent season we’re able to truly step back and see how much she’s grown. She’s taken on more professional responsibilities and leadership and America walks the line between Amy’s awkwardness (which often lands her in some hilarious situations) and her stoicism well. She’s the kind of character who loves antics but also knows they have their time and place. I love that we get the opportunity to see not only America Ferrera’s comedic timing but also some somber, dramatic moments too. If you haven’t watched the most recent season finale, you definitely should.

I’m thankful that America Ferrera gets to bring Amy to life each week and can’t wait to see what she does with her next season!

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D’Arcy Carden
The Good Place (NBC)


Every actor on The Good Place deserves an accolade. Seriously. The writing deserves all the accolades. And while I’m devastated next season will be the series’ last, I’m grateful it gets to end on its own terms — something a lot of shows don’t have the luxury to do these days. Nevertheless, you likely noticed that the underrated actress I want to honor is none other than D’Arcy Carden.

It’s easy to take for granted the difficulties the actress must have had in playing the show’s operational mainframe; but when you realize those difficulties, it makes D’Arcy’s performance all the more impressive. While the other characters on the show are humans, there are unique tics that Janet has because she is not human (or a robot). The way she forms sentences is different. Her facial expressions are different. And her emotional nuances and beats are different. All of these subtleties are incredibly well-communicated by D’Arcy, who makes it look effortless and natural.

Speaking of making things look like they’re effortless and natural, D’Arcy deserves all the awards possible for her performance in “Janet(s)” this year. This woman not only had the normal difficulties of getting into Janet’s character but then also had to embody, while not satirizing, the other actors’ performances of THEIR characters.

D’Arcy absolutely knocked it out of the park in that episode, and I know from reading interviews with her that she was incredibly intentional in the way she observed and then portrayed her fellow actors as their characters. This woman deserves an Emmy for her work for sure. Janet is such a great character with growing emotional depth and layers thanks to D’Arcy Carden. I’ll miss The Good Place terribly and will definitely miss Janet.

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Yara Shahidi
grownish (Freeform)


It’s actually really great how much I waffle between loving Zoey Johnson and being irritated by her choices. Why? Because that’s the mark of a complex character, and one who Yara Shahidi plays flawlessly. Though I ended up reversing my watch order and binge-watching the first season of grownish before I started blackish, I was nearly immediately compelled by Zoey as a character. She begins her spin-off series na├»ve about the world and admittedly there’s still a lot of privilege and pride in Zoey’s actions and decisions even in the current season. But what’s great (besides Yara’s impeccably hilarious deadpans at the fourth-wall-breaking camera) about grownish and Zoey as a character is that we are welcomed into her messy, non-linear growth. We don’t always agree with her. The show doesn’t always ask us to believe she’s in the right. And Yara does a great job portraying that kind of complexity in her inner/external monologues. She breaks the fourth wall in certain scenarios to recognize she’s wrong, to rant, or to process her feelings and determine that she was right after all.

It’s a testament to how good Yara is that she manages to navigate those complexities in Zoey with grace. She communicates the young woman’s thoughts and feelings with humor and prowess. Zoey can be stubborn and proud, but she’s also incredibly passionate and loving. And Yara Shahidi captivates us in any and every of Zoey’s journeys!

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Aidy Bryant
Shrill (Hulu)


You likely know Aidy Bryant of Saturday Night Live fame. And while I enjoyed her on the sketch comedy, I was curious about her Hulu series, Shrill. I can honestly say the biggest disappointment... is that the first season is so short! I wanted more! (And thankfully there will be another season to satisfy that desire.) Aidy Bryant is as beautifully subtle and funny in this show as she is heartwarming. Aidy plays Annie, a full-figured woman who often gets dismissed, ignored, or disrespected by those around her. What’s really great is that even in the course of six episodes, you get to watch Annie grow in confidence. Aidy does a fantastic job initially portraying Annie as quiet and unsure of herself. But the character does not stay in that place for long.

And though the show does note that Annie has to learn to modulate her boundaries and actions toward others in this newfound confidence, she rips away from dependence on others and learns to stand up for herself. One of the most underrated and yet touching scenes in the series is when Annie decides to fully embrace her body and dance at a pool party. Aidy fantastically portrays the joy of Annie’s freedom and that action truly does change her for the rest of the season. I’m definitely excited to see more of Annie’s story unfold and more of Aidy Bryant’s performance in 2020!


Stephanie Beatriz
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (NBC)


Amazingly, it took me three tries to get into Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but I’m glad I stuck it out because it’s one of the most delightful comedies out there. Though every single cast member is a standout in his or her own way, Stephanie Beatriz has truly come into her own with her portrayal of Rosa Diaz. Rosa’s story has unfolded in really amazing, cool ways and I’m so grateful Stephanie has been gifted on and off-screen opportunities to showcase her talent. Not only does she have deadpan humor down (Rosa’s dark comedy is truly a highlight), but Stephanie also is able to tap into Rosa’s realistic and in-character emotional responses. Rosa will never be as emotionally expressive as Amy Santiago (shout-out to the equally fabulous Melissa Fumero), but that’s great because Rosa still expresses emotions with just as much validity as Amy — or anyone else for that matter. Over the years, Rosa’s journey through a very well-done coming out storyline to sacrifices she’s made for the people she cares about has woven together well. And you can tell Stephanie Beatriz cares deeply about this character by the way she plays her.

Additionally, Stephanie was at the directorial helm of this year’s powerful episode, “He Said, She Said.” And though Rosa’s presence in the episode itself was limited, it was great to see Rosa and Amy differ in opinion on a situation even though they are both women (Brooklyn Nine-Nine does well reminding us that women are well-rounded individuals and not identical. Praise hands!) Not only is Stephanie an incredibly talented actress but also a great director. I’m constantly amazed by what she’s done with the character and am glad I’ll get to continue to see her work next season!

Who are some of your favorite TV actresses right now? Hit up the comments below and let me know!

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Younger 6x03 Recap: “The Unusual Suspect” (What Are You Keeping From Me?) [Guest Poster: Kay-B]


“The Unusual Suspect”
Original Airdate: June 26, 2019

As the time jumps in the season, we are jumping right into this week’s episode!

Josh and Clare are basically the perfect co-parents with their new baby girl and show signs of wanting to get back together. Should they be together? Haven’t they done this dance a million times before? Having a baby is a forever bond, but I am grateful after a night of spooning, they decide to get divorced and continue to be stellar co-parents. Hopefully this civil turn in their relationship lasts!

One thing that is not so rosy is Maggie’s inability to look at the female body the same since she had to quite literally catch Josh and Clare’s baby out of the birth canal. To help, Lauren takes Maggie to a support group full of men who are also having trouble with loving their women’s bodies again, post-birth. There, she meets Beth (Nicole Ari Parker) and quickly gets her groove back after group therapy and a one-on-one session. Typical Maggie!

Elsewhere, there is a new podcast called “Exonerated” that is a sexy crime thriller taking over everyone’s lives ⁠— especially Liza and Kelsey’s. Professionally, the pair have a meeting with alleged killer from the “Exonerated” podcast, Audrey Colbert (Willa Fitzgerald). Redmond accepts their verbal offer to help turn Audrey’s killer persona around by allowing her the opportunity to write her own story and control her narrative. While fans of the podcast are only interested in the sexy and murderous parts of her story, she wants an opportunity to clear her name and not be seen as a villain. Share what the podcast doesn’t. Personally, Liza is so intrigued with this podcast, that she and Charles begin to reenact the podcast in the place where it took place.

Zane and Kelsey are still doing their cat-and-mouse back and forth. Zane is still wildly secretive about what his new job is and Kelsey is celebrating getting the crime book of the century at least she things. Diana comes into work injured from her women’s group Pilates class and heard that Audrey Colbert is pitching half the major houses in town, this of course means that Liza and Kelsey have lost the bid!

Quinn is back in the office since her book, Claw, has been on the best seller list for three weeks straight. Generating a wild amount of buzz on Twitter, people become suspicious and notice that Chinese bots are responsible for the majority of the book’s buzz. When Kelsey confronts Quinn, she first denies any wrongdoing in the success of her book. Redman and Audrey pull out of their verbal agreement with Empirical as a result, and Quinn’s damage extends beyond Twitter. She finally confesses that she did what she had to do in order to create buzz before her Senate run.

Since Quinn is so concerned with having her bid announced, she blackmails Kelsey. Her book is generating a ton of money for the publishing house, so Kelsey agrees to moderate a Q&A with Quinn. But when an audience member asks specifically if the numbers are padded and the publishing house bought their own copies of Claw, Quinn throws Kelsey under the bus. In return, Kelsey announces Quinn’s run for Senate! Check and mate.

What were those papers that that Liza found on Charles’s desk? Why is he moving funds so mysteriously? I think it has something to do with Aubrey Colbert.  Tell me your thoughts! Will Liza come clean to Kelsey with what she knows? Guess we’ll find out next episode!

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Younger 6x02 Recap: “Big Day” (Is the Fight Worth It?) [Guest Poster: Kay-B]


“Flush With Love”
Original Airdate: June 19, 2019

Focusing heavily on everyone’s relationship status plus professional compromises, this episode of Younger moves quickly, so let’s dive in!

Liza is trying to reinvent herself at work. She wants to be taken more seriously now that everyone in the company knows that she is the assistant who was having the affair with Charles. But Liza, Kelsey, and Diana have bigger fish to fry at the moment. Quinn’s book bombed the focus group and is too harsh toward women for readers. Kelsey naturally flips out, because this is to supposed to be her first big release as publisher. Kelsey and Liza decide to meet with Quinn to shelf the release until spring... but Quinn somehow walks out of lunch getting what she wanted. How does she do it? The art of persuasion ⁠— and holding all favors she’s done for them — over their heads, that’s how!

Liza and Charles learn a tough lesson: now that Charles is no longer in charge, it is best that they don’t mix business with pleasure and refrain from having detailed conversations about the business. With Kelsey under so much pressure, she doesn’t like still being under Charles’s thumb which is understandable. She has to set her own boundaries and make her own mark. So Kelsey decides to be firm with Quinn during a one-on-one and they come up with a resolution. If her book tanks, she will walk away. Quinn is pushing this book as a stepping stone to run for Senate, and is willing to agree to almost anything to get it done on her terms.

Meanwhile Josh and Clare are full steam ahead with the baby. Josh goes shopping with Liza to get her expert opinion on what to purchase, since the baby is due in two weeks. I am not sure if I am the only one that missed this, but Clare literally waited until the very last moment to tell Josh about this baby! No wonder Maggie is suspicious. At the gender reveal party, Liza fumbles the balloon surprise, but it doesn’t matter because Clare goes into labor. She gives birth to a healthy baby girl.

Elsewhere, Diana and Enzo hit a snag when he realizes that he will never live up to the ideal version of a man (ahem, Charles) that Diana wants. He breaks up with her, tired of playing these games. Diana decides to go to a magazine about running their love story, an idea Lauren came up with, even though Diana was initially opposed to the idea. However, when she sees how hurt Enzo is, she uses the article as an opportunity to write Enzo an apology and a love letter, and they pick up right where they left off!

We didn’t get much from Zane and Charles this week in terms of their business ventures. Something tells me next episode will feature that though. So what did you think about the episode? Now that Zane is employed and dating Kelsey, will their relationship last or suffer due to work rivalry? Are Liza and Josh completely done? Will Maggie have her own agency and storyline this season? Is Diana really committed to Empirical Press?

Guess we will find out next week on an all-new Younger!

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Ask An Author: These Witches Don't Burn’s Isabel Sterling [Contributor: Megan Mann]

(Image credit: Penguin Teen)

In modern-day Salem, tourists come from around the country to learn the history of the witch trials and visit one of the many shops dedicated to the occult. One such shop, Fly By Night Cauldron, has a specialty though: Hannah, who is an Elemental Witch. No one knows that she's a witch since it's against coven rules to let the Regs — non-magic folk — know about their powers.

Hannah's recent breakup and the possibility of a new relationship are hard for her to focus on when things start to go sideways in Salem. First, Hannah thinks a Blood Witch has come to kill her, but the coven discovers a witch hunter is in town ready to take them out. How will Hannah figure out who it is? Is it Detective Archer or her arrogant classmate Nolan? What about her newest coworker Cal? Can she trust anyone anymore?

In Isabel Sterling's latest release, These Witches Don't Burn, romance, intrigue, action, and the occult weave together to form a fast-paced ride that will keep the pages turning until the very end.

Here's what Isabel had to say about her fantastic new book!

Congratulations on the release of These Witches Don’t Burn! How does it feel?


Thank you so much! It’s been such a wonderful experience so far. I love hearing from readers who connect with Hannah’s story (it’s honestly the best feeling), and it’s been really cool to hear about all the places TWDB is showing up around the world. Most recently, I heard from readers in Paris and Manila!

I absolutely love the idea of the witches still being in Salem. What was the catalyst for the modern-day Salem witch?


I’ve been fascinated with the Salem witch trials since I first learned about them in middle school. When Hannah’s character walked into my life, she was a “real” witch working at an occult shop and highly annoyed with the so-called wannabes who shopped there. I knew immediately it had to be set in Salem.

Right off the bat, you let the audience know that Hannah is a lesbian. I absolutely love that there’s no fanfare when she comes out to her parents. It was the same when Morgan explains telling her parents she was bi later on. In some cases, that’s how it goes. Did you want to make it super easy to let readers know that they don’t have to fear coming out to their families?


Coming out is such a complex, and ongoing, experience, and I’d never want to prescribe for someone whether it’s safe or easy for them to come out (sometimes it’s really not). Everyone should have the space and freedom to come out in their own time.

I open the book with Hannah’s nonchalant coming out to let readers know right away that this is a story where being part of the LGBTQ community is both accepted and celebrated. I wanted to signal right away that this wouldn’t be a book with queer pain. At the same time, I wanted to include some of the small realities of being openly queer. That’s why we see Gemma’s parents treating Hannah differently. That’s why we see Hannah decide whether to come out to her new co-worker, Cal. With each scene, I was actively trying to balance the challenges of being queer in our society while creating a fun story where LGBTQ characters can just be.


I loved the double mystery happening in the book. Hannah is chasing the mystery of what’s going on and readers are chasing the mystery of how everything happened in New York to make Hannah so edgy about the idea of a Blood Witch coming to Salem. How did that dual intrigue come about?


I’m so glad you enjoyed that! The entire NYC mystery didn’t come to me until after I’d signed my book deal, actually! I needed a more concrete reason for Hannah to be afraid of the Blood Witches, and I actually wrote myself a little prequel story about how Hannah and Veronica broke up. The entire NYC situation evolved from there.

Something that I really appreciated about the book was how seamless it was to go from mystery hunting to magic to romance and back around again. It’s one of the few times where I’ve read the mind of a teenager so realistically. Did you mean to show that teenagers can compartmentalize things differently in terms of attention and emotion?


Ooh, that’s an interesting question! I’m glad it resonated. People (including teens!) are really complex, and we often have to juggle so many competing priorities. I remember being a teen and being stressed about finals and band practice and a million other things, but there was always time to talk about crushes with my friends.

Instead of keeping it within the town, you added a collection of new people to Salem as everything started to go down. It made Hannah, Veronica, and the coven question first outside people before looking in. Was the addition of new people in town to make it harder to figure out the identity of the blood witch?


It was! Creating several viable suspects was an important part of crafting the mystery. I wanted readers to feel like no one was completely innocent until all the twists played out.

When you were writing These Witches Don’t Burn, did you plan out the surprises or were they surprises to you too?


The main villain was the same in every draft, though the reason for their villainy did deepen and evolve over time. A lot of the ways the villain goes after Hannah and her friends did change a lot through revisions with my editor though!

I recently asked author Camille Perri this question and I’d love to hear your opinion on it. It seems like LGBTQIA+ stories and authors are becoming more common on the shelves and bestseller lists. These Witches Don’t Burn has several different LGBTQ characters (including a lesbian, a bisexual girl, and a queer trans guy). Do you think we’re finally moving forward? When do you think stories like this will be less labeled and seen as regular stories?


While there’s been progress made over the last decade (and the last few years in particular), there’s still a long way to go, especially with trans characters and characters of color within the LGBTQ communities.

As far as book “labeling,” I actually think there’s a lot of value in being explicit about LGBTQ rep in books; I think it’s important for queer and trans readers to be able to easily find characters like themselves. Though it may not be done with this intent, when LGBTQ books are marketed with zero hint of their identities present, it can feel like the publisher was purposefully burying that information to “protect” sales. LGBTQ identities shouldn’t be a dirty secret that readers only discover after picking up the story or intense online research.

All that said, I do understand the need for “under cover” LGBTQ books for teens, especially since not everyone can safely bring openly queer content into their homes.

What was the researching aspect like for this one? It’s a fun book, but you have to get your facts straight.


Well, as Hannah would say, I don’t do anything “straight.” (Sorry, I had to!) The most fun aspect of research was visiting Salem with my wife! We went to Salem in between my first draft and my initial big revision, and walking the streets helped the feel of the town come alive for me.

What is it about magic that you think readers are perpetually drawn to?


I think there’s something undeniably fun about magic. Especially for those of us who might not have a lot of power in our own lives, the thought of having an inner power manifest in such a real and undeniable way is alluring for a lot of us.

The book was released just a few days shy of Pride Month. What are some of the best LGBTQIA+ books you recommend?


So many! Some of my recently released favorites include:

  • Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
  • Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan
  • We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia
  • Her Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins
  • Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy

Finally, and I feel as if this is the most important, what kind of witch would you be? Elemental, Caster, or Blood Witch? What would be the best part of having magic?


Hmm, if I could choose one for myself, I'd want to be an Elemental. Being able to control the elements would be so cool. But if I’m going based on my personality, I think I’d probably end up a Caster Witch. I’m definitely a nerd, and keeping a journal of potions would be very much my thing.

These Witches Don't Burn, as well as Hot Dog Girl and Her Royal Highness are available now from Penguin Teen! And follow Isabel on Twitter.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Younger 6x01 Recap: “Big Day” (Welcome Back, Kids) [Guest Poster: Kay-B]


“Big Day”
Original Airdate: June 12, 2019

We kick off season six of Younger a bit slower than usual, but let’s dive in!

We start year six of the series with Liza and Charles enjoying the benefits of being fully open and out with their relationship, at least where their closest friends are concerned. Charles is spending his newfound free time doting on Liza in every way imaginable. Liza, meanwhile, is finally allowing herself to be happy and accidentally lets those three magic words slip prematurely to Charles on her way to work. Instead of navigating the aftermath, she dashes away, leaving Charles to ponder that in her apartment. Charles then encounters Maggie, who basically gives him a warning not to ruin Liza’s life. 

Elsewhere, Kelsey is starting her groundbreaking first day as the youngest publisher in New York City. While nervous, scared, and thrilled to dive into this new role, she quickly finds out that her love of and keen eye for great published works won’t be enough to keep the business afloat. The business isn’t turning a profit, and Kelsey can’t help but feel overwhelmed. With some advice and encouragement from Liza and Lauren, she will soon find her footing. Can Kelsey maintain her strength and composure will stepping into the girl boss she was always destined to be?

Diana isn’t acclimating as well as one would hope to Kelsey’s new role. At first, she seems happy enough, but once a story leaks of Charles’s affair with an unnamed employee, Diana immediately assumes that Kelsey is that woman. You can’t be mad at Diana though since this is a logical assumption considering Kelsey did just get a lucrative promotion. With no apology in sight, Diana goes straight to Redmond to inform the publishing community that she is looking for a new role.

When Zane takes Kelsey out to tell her this nugget of information, she immediately goes into preservation mode and does anything, including singing karaoke at Diana’s favorite bar and offering a part of her salary, to make Diana stay. Is Diana going to last long term though? Only time will tell, but with the team back on board for now, Kelsey needs to focus her attention on cutting some staff to keep the business profitable. Question: Can she start with investor/author, Quinn? I definitely didn’t like the vibes she was giving off this episode.

Josh, if you recall, got the surprise of his life in the season five finale when his ex, Clare, showed up with a baby bump. When Josh finds out he is indeed the father, he immediately leans on Liza. The evolution of their relationship is so good, and when Liza finally released Josh so that he could have the family he’s always dreamt of, it happened. This is not how Josh envisioned it of course, but here we are. Something tells me that while Josh and Liza are in this great space as friends, it’s not really the end for them romantically — no matter how happy Liza is with Charles right now. Will Josh and Clare give it another chance for baby? And how long will that last?

Speaking of, what’s next for Charles professionally? After giving up everything for the woman he loves, will he eventually resent Liza? My guess is yes, especially if he doesn’t find something sooner rather than later. And will he feel like she owes him because of what he gave up for her? Regardless of what he says, my guess is also yes. Charles and Zane are both in a professional standstill and something tells me that they are about to join forces to build a rival company that will give Kelsey and Empirical Press a run for their money!

Tell me your thoughts: What did you think about the season six premiere? What are your predictions? I cannot wait to see how things shake out but, per usual, it seems like Liza will be in the center of whatever drama lies ahead. Instead of in love though, it looks like it’ll be at work. That is definitely a showdown for the ages!

Friday, May 31, 2019

June Television Calendar 2019: It’s Going to be a Crowded Summer [Contributor: Araceli Aviles]

Image result for tv watching gif

If you’re one of the millions of people wondering what you’re going to do with your time now that the September through May network television programming is on hiatus, fear not. The June TV calendar is unusually crowded this year!

Some shows you’ll be seeing on your screens this month are brand new, and there’s something for everyone. If you like soapy drama, ABC’s Grand Hotel is for you. If you’re looking for some star power in your hour, Netflix’s Tales of the City is where you’ll find Oscar-nominated actresses Laura Linney and Ellen Page; and cruise over to Showtime to find Kevin Bacon in the gritty new Boston cop drama City on a Hill. If you really need to start off the summer with a laugh, comedian Gabriel ‘Fluffy’ Iglesias will have you in stitches as a new high school teacher in Netflix’s Mr. Iglesias.

Even with new series, it’s the returning shows that are the most anticipated this month, with fans of these shows waiting one, two, and even four (yes, you read that right, four) years for these returns. Among the big returns are cable sweethearts Younger, Queen of the South, and Good Trouble, streaming smashes Luther, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Big Little Lies, and newly risen-from-the-ashes Designated Survivor, which makes its Netflix debut this month after being cancelled by ABC last year.

Also, in a surprising last-minute twist, CBS All Access will be releasing the entire first season of The Good Fight on mainstream CBS for a limited run. The Good Wife spin-off, currently in its third season, has received critical acclaim and a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The hope is to attract more viewers to the network’s streaming service, which currently has eight original series in its stock, including the upcoming Stark Trek: Picard, which will see the return of Sir Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard 32 years after he originated the role.

Below you’ll find a full calendar view of every new and returning show. Happy viewing!



Let us know what you will be watching this summer in the comments below!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Flash 5x22 Review: "Legacy" (Letting Go) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


“Legacy”
Original Airdate: May 14, 2019

As the fifth season of The Flash jutters to a slightly disoriented halt, I must say that the big finale of this meandering season is not as bad as I would have assumed. Granted, there are certain shows out there currently concluding in a way that would make even the most slapdash and silly superhero program look expertly crafted by comparison.

But, even when not held up to the lowest, dumpster fire denominator, “Legacy” makes for a pretty solid finale. It ties up loose ends. It’s got feels. It’s got action. It’s got twisty turns everyone saw coming from a mile away, and twistier turns that actually managed to surprise (me, at least).

STOP TIME TRAVELLING, PLEASE, I BEG YOU.


Very little time has passed since the events of last episode. Ralph is all discombobulated after jumping in front of the blast meant to destroy Cicada’s dagger and the rest of the team is confused as to why he did it at all, until Sherloque explains it was because destroying the dagger would allow Thawne to walk free. I think the dagger in the future is being used to dampen Sherloque’s powers, but it’s unclear why the dagger is the only thing that works. Or why Iron Heights settled on such a ridiculous containment plan — they just strap the dagger to his torso. Is the dagger always strapped to his torso? What happens when he has to change shirts, do they have a different power-dampening field for that? If so, why not just use that other option instead of a jagged hunk of dark matter satellite? This is like if you had a regular prisoner and instead of standard issue handcuffs, you just decided to hold them in 17th century manacles for the aesthetic.

Regardless, this twist at least explains why Thawne was so obsessed with keeping track of Cicada and rooting for Team Flash to stop him (and later, her). When it comes down to a choice between destroying the dagger (thereby stopping Cicada II’s ongoing plan to kill all the metahumans) and making sure Thawne in the future isn’t freed, the team chooses the “save the most people” option. In 2049, the dagger strapped to Thawne disappears and he goes all blurry with speed as, finally freed from his restraints, he kills his captors.

It’s all nonsense, of course, because logically, the dagger ceased to exist thirty years before it was strapped to Thawne’s chest. So that means Iron Heights would have either needed to find a different item to keep Thawne in line, or he would have never been kept in line at all, would have escaped from prison years ago, and would not have been in the execution room on that day in 2049 to escape execution and kill his captors. Thawne could very well be unstuck from time and able to remember the existence of the dagger, but that’s no excuse for the rest of the world.

In related news: I really, really need The Flash to stop writing time travel storylines. They give me a headache every time.

Before Thawne can enact his revenge or reign of terror or whatever it is he wants to do, Barry and Nora arrive and reverse time, un-killing Thawne’s guards. Again, I have no idea what the rules of time travel and time control are in this universe anymore. Undaunted, Thawne prepares to take on Barry and Nora — then, pretty much all of Team Flash arrives in 2049 to stop him. They precede this by throwing a time machine at Thawne, which is genuinely hilarious.

The end result of everything is the start of a new timeline. Nora begins to glow and crumble away, similar to how Cicada II crumbled away earlier in the episode when Nora convinced her younger self to give up her ideas of revenge and stuff. Thawne, whether out of a genuine concern for Nora or just to mess with the West-Allen family, tells them they could save Nora by hiding her in the Negative Speed Force. Nora rejects this idea, afraid that spending too much time in Thawne’s metaphysical domain would make her like him.

Nora disappears, possibly never to be born (and don’t even get me started on the paradoxes caused by that idea). As my issues with the character have always stemmed from the show’s root problem of having not enough story and too much season to work with, removed from the context of a Nora West-Allen who ping-pongs back and forth between heroism and whining, it’s an effective end for her. The acting is great. You can especially see how heartbroken Iris is, but the pain is there for Barry and Nora as well.

Thawne escapes during the heartbreak of losing Nora, but not before dropping a line about seeing Barry in the “next crisis.” This clever little reference to Crisis on Infinite Earths also caps the episode and the season, as the famous future newspaper article about the disappearance of the Flash gets a date change from 2024 to 2019.

So, that’s it. The end of season five. Not the most brilliant season of the show by far, but at least they ended it on an... even note, I guess? Not quite high, not quite low. And it makes for a good lead-in to the Crisis event, at the very least.

Other Things:

  • The scenes with Older Grace and Orlin Dwyer is like, dueling growl-acting.
  • Holy crap the Cisco/Kamilla confession reveal scene was... perfect. Kamilla, thanks to her experience reading comic books, understands that big secret identity confessions aren’t first date (or second, or third) material. More comics/secret identity media need to take a page from this book, because it’s the most realistic reaction to an identity reveal.
  • Speaking of identity reveal: Captain Singh, while passing the job onto Joe, reveals he knows Barry is the Flash. I’m telling you people, that joke I have about everyone in the city knowing who the Flash is and just humoring Barry because he’s dumb and adorable? Looking less and less like a joke.
  • The reversing of Reverse Flash was pretty cool, I gotta say.
  • “You never would have had the means to become extraordinary.” “I don’t need powers for that.” You go, Cisco. Oh wait, that means you’re giving up your powers and leaving — nooo, put that self-confidence back, Cisco!
  • Why does the timeline include a spinning animation effect when it changes the date on the newspaper article?

Grey’s Anatomy 15x25 Review: “Jump Into the Fog” (The Shoe Drops) [Contributor: Julia Siegel]


“Jump Into the Fog”
Original Airdate: May 16, 2019

It’s season finale time! There’s a lot of ground to cover with the final episode of the season. Everything from an arrest to a confession to a baby to the worst fog storm to hit Seattle happens over the course of the hour. It’s going to be a long few months before Grey’s Anatomy returns in the fall, so let’s jump right into the finale action.

SOME KIND OF MIRACLE


When we last saw them, Owen, Schmitt, and golden blood donor Francis were trapped in a multi-car pile-up on the freeway caused by a very sudden fog storm. Owen goes into full Captain America mode to attend to the scene and find a way to get Francis back to Grey Sloan in time to donate blood to the dying Gus. Thankfully, Owen manages to find an ambulance and helps treat the injured driver while hitching a ride back to the hospital. Francis is unsure of getting out of the car, but Owen convinces her that if he carries her again, she will be fine. The three of them make it safely back to the hospital, and Owen’s patient also survives the trip.

Jo volunteers to help take Francis to a safe and quiet space so she can donate blood and agrees to help Bailey with the incoming traumas before discussing her leave of absence. While still nervous about giving blood, Francis’ fears are quelled by Jo’s reassurances and her own realization that you have to push through your fears to overcome them. Meanwhile, Meredith and Alex are doing everything they can to keep Gus alive as he starts to code in the hypobaric chamber. After several minutes of CPR, Jo arrives just in time with the blood that Gus needs to survive. Gus wakes up and lives to fight another day, while all the doctors are overcome with emotion upon saving the boy.

The other miracle of the episode involves Kari, the quadriplegic woman hoping that her stem cell treatment will help her regain some function of her extremities. Kari and Toby have begun to lose hope and think that the treatment is unsuccessful, until Kari’s finger twitches. When she isn’t able to move again, Kari starts to spiral further and feels that she will never move. Through a healthy dose of encouragement from Link, Amelia, Nico, and Koracick, Kari is able to squeeze Toby’s hand and move her fingers. It appears that Kari will make more of a recovery than she thought, though I’m not sure we will see this recurring storyline next season.

IT'S A GIRL!


Teddy starts the episode in a panic from going into labor at Owen’s house. Amelia takes on the role of supportive friend even though Teddy hasn’t been the kindest person toward her. Amelia and Teddy decide to drive to Grey Sloan instead of calling an ambulance, since Teddy’s contractions aren’t too close together, but they get stuck in dead stopped traffic from the freeway being closed thanks to the accident that Owen, Schmitt, and Francis were caught in. Amelia hunts down a police officer, explains the situation, and manages to get her and Teddy a ride to the hospital.

The squad car arrives at the ER right after Owen’s ambulance, which confuses the heck out of Owen. However, he is more than happy to be there for the birth of his daughter. Teddy goes on a quick rant about Owen and Carina’s quick fling, which Amelia accidentally spilled the beans on during the ride over. Funny enough, after several wonderful months together, Teddy doesn’t even think to call Koracick to let him know that she is in labor. Poor Koracick is at Teddy’s new apartment, which he bought for her, and is assembling baby furniture while Teddy is having the baby.

Right before the baby is born, Owen professes his love for Teddy and proclaims that he will spend every day fighting for her love if she will let him. Teddy admits that she loves him too, so we will see if they can have a real romantic relationship this time. The baby is finally born, and Carina asks the new parents what they want to name her. Without ever discussing baby names, Owen and Teddy say Allison in unison. Welcome baby Allison Hunt-Altman!

THROUGH THE FOG


Francis’ comments about pushing through fear resonated with Jo, who is ready to come clean about her recent struggles. Meredith told Alex the truth about Jo before Gus crashed, and Jo is ready to face her husband. After they save Gus, Jo tells Alex that she isn’t okay with the truths she learned when she met her birth mother and needs more than the help he can give her to move past it. Alex is just happy to finally learn the truth and wants to be there for Jo through it all. Jo decides to take a leave of absence and get treatment in the in-patient psychiatric ward at Grey Sloan. This is a huge step forward for Jo, and I really hope we get to see her recovery happen next season. Jo had to face the toughest arc this season, so it would only be right to let the audience see it through, since her recovery will be just as tough as hearing the truth.

The literal fog also takes a victim at the end of the episode. Maggie and Jackson are having a rough camping trip and try to make it back to wherever their car is on foot. The nature walk is full of arguments, as both doctors find themselves at odds with the each other. Maggie thinks that Jackson is too privileged and wants her to change too much, while Jackson feels that Maggie could expand her horizons if she wasn’t so stubborn. After their squabbling, it seems like their relationship is doomed. They eventually get back to their car, but they quickly get caught up in the wall of fog. Jackson makes the dumb mistake of leaving the car with only a flashlight to see if he can find a way out of the fog. As he leaves the car, you should get a sinking feeling in your stomach, which is confirmed at the very end of the episode as Jackson appears to be missing. Hopefully Jackson isn’t a casualty of the weather, but I don’t expect him to come out unscathed.

TELLING THE TRUTH


The other big moment of the episode began at the end of the penultimate one, with DeLuca taking the fall for Meredith’s insurance fraud. DeLuca gets arrested, and no one is happy to hear what he has done. Meredith will not let her boyfriend take the responsibility for her actions and as soon as she is out of the hypobaric chamber, she goes and tells Bailey and Catherine the truth. Naturally, Meredith tries to take the full blame and say that no one, not even DeLuca, was involved in the fraud. She is willing to pay the price for her crime and fight for what she believes in. Richard and Alex won’t let Meredith sink her own ship, and both try to claim to Bailey and Catherine that they were the single guilty party. Bailey and Catherine can’t believe their ears, and the three doctors finally admit that they all knew about the insurance fraud and didn’t turn Meredith in.

Bailey does the only logical thing she can think of and fires Meredith, Alex, and Richard, who are all completely shocked. Meredith goes home, says goodbye to her kids, and heads to the police station. She talks to DeLuca quickly to tell him how much of an idiot he is, that she is turning herself in, and that she does love him. The episode ends with Meredith going to turn herself in, so it is clear what direction the early part of next season is going to take. Season sixteen is sure to be crazy, and the fall can’t get here soon enough!

Sunday, May 19, 2019

5 Reasons to Binge-Watch Single Parents Before Its Second Season [Contributor: Jenn]

  

I’m rewatching Happy Endings as I write this post. That’s probably not super relevant to you, but I rewatch the series once a year. It was a cute, delightful ABC comedy that focused on friends who were essentially family. Comedies about “found families” have long been my favorites (New Girl, Friends, Parks and Rec, Community, etc.).

So when Single Parents premiered with a similar premise — and a largely behind-the-scenes staff from New Girl — I knew it would be something that was right up my alley. But the most nervewracking time of year for TV lovers is generally May: Upfronts season. That’s when television networks announce their upcoming shows, as well as renewals and cancellations for their current series. And even though Single Parents was a delightfully written, funny, well-acted show, I was worried that its smaller ratings and lack of buzz would put it in serious danger of cancellation (R.I.P. to Splitting Up Together).

But to my glad surprise, ABC renewed Single Parents for another season! And my challenge to you is to catch up on the series before it returns in the fall. You’ve got plenty of time to kill this summer with most series — besides your favorite reality trainwrecks — on hiatus until September. So let me try to convince you to binge-watch this charming comedy with five reasons to catch up before its second season.


The show’s kids are hilarious and central to plots.


You know how a lot of television series feature kids, but only when it’s convenient to the plot? And sometimes kids in those shows can be presented as one-note, ancillary characters. But Single Parents is, at its core, a show about found family. And the children of the single parents are essential to the show. Each kid is brilliant in his or her own way and holds their own against their adult counterparts.

Marlow Barkley plays Sophie, who’s the smart, ambitious, wise daughter of Will (Taran Killam). The show centers around their relationship quite often and it’s adorable. Marlow plays Sophie with such delightful candor (and intimidates the adults) that it’s endearing. Meanwhile, Graham is played by Tyler Wladis with hilarious little quirks and nerdiness. Graham’s single mother, Angie (Leighton Meester) tries her best to protect him. And though Graham begins the series as an unsure, clingy kid, he meets friends and adults who embrace him as he is and encourage him to try new things!

Poppy (Kimrie Lewis) is mother to a young son named Rory (Devin Trey Campbell), who loves fashion, performing, and in general is incredibly creative. Rory has a fun-loving, big personality and Devin does a great job of filling scenes. He commands attention all on his own, and that’s something pretty incredible for a child to be able to do in scenes with seasoned actors. I can’t wait to get more of him in the fall!

And finally, there are Mia and Ella Allan who play twins, Emma and Amy. Their dad is Douglas (Brad Garrett). Because Douglas is older than the rest of the single parents, he often has unconventional ways of raising the two girls. They’re whip-smart, sassy, and also able to pretty much build anything you could want. What I enjoyed about the first season was that we got an episode devoted to a plotline featuring Emma and Amy butting heads as twins. Mia and Ella got the chance to shine both comedically and emotionally, communicating the kind of unique bond that twins have — and the rough stuff they have to go through as a result.

Seriously, you’ll enjoy the kids on Single Parents just as much (if not more, possibly) than the adults. That’s something to celebrate.

It’s got great guest stars to support its cast and stories.


When Single Parents gets guest stars like Hannah Simone, Adam Brody, Chris Harrison, Vanessa Bayer and more, you know that it deserved a second season. Not only do the guest stars stand on their own, but they balance out the main cast. Saturday Night Live alums Taran Killam and Vanessa Bayer get the opportunity to play opposite each other as exes, and Bayer does a fantastic job bringing humor to Will’s ex-wife. And it was fantastic to watch real-life couple Leighton Meester and Adam Brody play opposite each other in the season finale. I won’t spoil the circumstances in which Chris Harrison shows up but... let’s just say that it’s worth watching.

Single Parents deserves all the best guest stars in season two and I hope it gets them!


Single Parents is genuinely heartwarming, endearing, well-meaning, and good.


When you’re a show created by the same people who worked on New Girl, audience members might pick up on some similarities. The show utilizes flashbacks in similar ways as the former FOX comedy, but mostly you might notice some similarities in the way that Single Parents blends heartwarming moments with genuine hilarity. One moment you’ll have a slapstick scene featuring Will (Taran Killam), and the next he’ll be creating a heartwarming gift with Graham for Angie.

Single Parents’ pilot begins with a scheme — Will Cooper is an overeager room parent whose life revolves around his daughter, Sophie. The other single parents realize that they need to help him get a life or risk being strapped to room parent duties the rest of the year. Though the friendship and interest in Will begins as a way to get what they want, the group truly becomes a family. Episodes feature different adult and kid pairings: Will gets to bond with Graham, Douglas has the chance to spend time with Rory, and Miggy (Jake Choi) bonds with a lot of the kids since they pretty much see him as a big kid himself.

What I really love about Single Parents is that it manages to feature all kinds of families and relationships, while bringing genuine heart and love into the interactions. It doesn’t matter that the adults aren’t related — they’re a village; they need each other to help raise these kids. Each adult not only relies on the help of someone else to raise their kids or step in (or just babysit), but they also rely on each other for support when things are weird or rough. They’re a tribe of single parents, and parenting alone most or all of the time brings unique challenges.

What I always love about Elizabeth Meriwether’s comedies is that they bring unexpected, quirky, weird, messy individuals together. These people become bonded by the things they have in common, and begin to love each other — quirks included. A lot of comedies these days can often be sharp, mean-spirited, or dark. And while Single Parents features occasional barbs, the core of the comedy is sweet, gooey, and heartwarming. The parents love each other, even though they drive each other crazy. The kids love each other, even though they don’t always get along.

And it’s delightful.


   

  

It’s setting up two romantic pairings that deserve to be explored.


If you know me at all, I’m a sucker for a good romantic pairing on a television show. And with New Girl, I called a pairing from the pilot in Nick and Jess that eventually came to fruition. There was something about the chemistry between the actors that left me wanting more. The same held true for me with the pilot of Single Parents. I began to sense that Taran Killam and Leighton Meester’s natural rapport would eventually lead, possibly, to their characters becoming close — and maybe even romantic. And while Single Parents hasn’t officially pulled the trigger quite yet on this particular pairing, it’s definitely allowing Will and Angie’s relationship to evolve from reluctant friends to people who genuinely, truly care about one another rather deeply. Their chemistry is so wonderful, and the GIF above features a schmoopy look between them with heavy subtext so take that as you will.

But what surprised me more was the relationship between Douglas and Poppy that gets explored. I won’t spoil anything for you guys, but I absolutely love how Brad Garrett and Kimrie Lewis play their characters. They’re about as opposite as can be — she’s a creative, quick-witted feminist and he’s an older, conservative dermatologist. But they have a sort of natural chemistry and balance that really works. It’s surprising, but in all the best ways. Poppy brings out a softer side that Douglas keeps buried because of the things he’s gone through and loss he’s experienced; and Poppy, conversely, opens up and allows Douglas to see some of the vulnerability that she hides. Their connection is really quite special.

Single Parents has done an excellent job playing around with the strengths that each actor brings to their role, including in terms of chemistry. I didn’t think that by the end of the first season we’d have two potential romantic couples, but I’m not mad about it in the slightest. And you need to watch the series so we can talk about how wonderful each pairing is.


There’s so much character development left to explore.


If there’s anything I’m more of a sucker for than romantic pairings it’s character development. By the end of a season of a television show, I should be able to chart some visible progress that each character has made on his or her journey. Good shows provide realistic growth; great shows give you the kind of growth you don’t even realize is happening until you reach the finale and feel a sense of satisfaction.

Single Parents did a great job with its cast, developing not only the adults’ characters, but the kids’ as well! Graham becomes more confident. Sophie continues to be assertive, but Will actually grows and learns to let go (and be his own person). Angie slowly allows other people to help her — and help her open up. Douglas learns, practically, what it looks like to be a father and accept that he has a soft side. Poppy learns how to pick herself up and be decisive and confident. Miggy grows in responsibility. Rory, Emma, and Amy learn how to be teammates with their friends since these three characters are kind of used to going it alone.

I love that there was so much growth in the first season of the show, but there’s so much more left to explore in the second season. I’m just grateful Single Parents gets the chance to shine again in the fall.

Have you checked out Single Parents yet? If so, what did you think of the series? What shows are you adding to a “must binge-watch” list this summer? Hit up the comments below and let me know your thoughts!

Friday, May 10, 2019

The Flash 5x21 Review: "The Girl With the Red Lightning" (That Title is Meaningless) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


“The Girl With the Red Lightning”
Original Airdate: May 7, 2019

Here we are, folks: the penultimate episode of season five of The Flash. How’s everyone feeling? If you’re anything like me, the emotional descriptors would be along the lines of “underwhelmed” and “frustrated,” since this season didn’t so much “ramp up” to its finale as it lazily, haphazardly oozed toward it. Like emptying a bucket of water across a swath of dusty desert sand, the culmination of this show’s latest season feels uneventful, inevitable, and ultimately fruitless.

In keeping with that same metaphor, The Flash’s attempt to stretch too thin a plot over too large a season once again reared its ugly head, furthering season five’s narrative entropy even worse than last season. I mean, I liked the episode before last season’s finale — this one? Not really anything to write home about.

THE PLOT & THE PROBLEMS


In a well-written story, the return to focusing on a primary antagonist this close to the finale would be tense and heavy with foreshadowing and impending doom. In the lead-up to the end, this is when the story gives the villain the upperhand, strikes the heroes down, and asks “What now?” as the audience eagerly anticipates the possible answers. For The Flash, Cicada II — the primary antagonist we return to focusing on in this episode — is too underdeveloped to be anything more than a passing curiosity. It doesn’t matter how much power the show gives her, how many lives she threatens, or what sort of crazytown bananapants reasoning they saddle her with. She’s nothing to us.

This week, we follow up with last week’s realization that Cicada II plans to launch a meta-killing virus that could murder thousands. She has the last piece necessary to make her bomb and, other than the dagger-destroying plan, Team Flash has few options for stopping her and no way to find out when she’ll strike first or where. (Side note: there’s vague mention of Cicada II having a follow-up plan to her bomb launch, but no one raises the logical question of how she expects, as a meta, to survive the meta-killing virus. Did the writers not realize she’d die along with everyone else, or are they trying to imply that Cicada II doesn’t care?)

Nora realizes she still has that mental connection with Cicada from being stuck in her memories way, way earlier in the season. With the help of the same psychic device Caitlin used for all of one episode in order to better connect with Killer Frost, Nora tries to control her mental connection long enough to figure out Cicada II’s plans. You know, I would usually applaud a show for bringing back plot points and props like this brainwave thing, but I genuinely can’t this time. The device was used so briefly and so insignificantly (I think it was also the thing that helped Cecile, and the thing that helped King Shark? But those could have been totally different but functionally similar technobabble machines, so I don’t know) that it feels less like picking up plot breadcrumbs and more like the writers just ran down an arbitrary list of things that could benefit the finale. Even Nora’s mental connection with Cicada II should have been played up more; instead, it’s always felt like something of an afterthought for the characters that only existed because the writers knew it’d come in handy in the eleventh hour.

Speaking of conveniences: turns out, the key to Cicada’s master plan (i.e., launching a bioweapon to kill all metas in an instant) is the dagger — you know, the only thing Team Flash technically has a weapon against? Cicada crams her dagger into her homemade bomb in order to “supercharge” its power or reach or blah, blah, blah megalomaniacal villain jibber-jabber. Still no mention of how Cicada won’t die in the blast. I really don’t think anyone thought of that when they were writing out Cicada’s evil plan.

Despite her usefulness as a spy on Cicada, Barry and Iris fight with Nora about involving herself in dangerous villain-stopping activities. Even this West-Allen Family Drama scene is lackluster, as it basically just retreads the same ground that’s been tread all season. Nora wants to be a hero. Barry and Iris want to protect her and keep her from doing stupid, harmful stuff out of over-eagerness. Iris is a mediating voice of reason. Barry is emotional and reactive. Nora borders on teenager-esque rebellion despite being old enough to rent a car without the “young renter” surcharge. In the end, Nora gets her way and uses her Cicada connection to figure out the villain is launching the bomb at CCPD headquarters, where all the city’s metas who haven’t turned into either villains or heroes have gathered to get the metahuman cure.

At the end of the episode during the fight with Cicada II, it’s revealed that Cicada II doesn’t really need the dagger to fight. Understandable, since I’m sure her actual powers come from that glowing head wound of hers. Team Flash seems shocked and confused, though. Ralph connects the dots between Cicada, the importance of the dagger, how she could kill people in the future without the dagger, and how her time travel should affect the timeline (Hey, Ralph: this season established with Nora’s presence that nothing affects the timeline! You’re using your logical past seasons thinking cap, buddy) and arrives at the conclusion that, while stopping the metahuman virus bomb — which Cisco manages — is good, shooting the dagger is not good.

In a twist that isn’t really a twist because, what’s that you say? The arch nemesis of The Flash is actually evil and he showed up this season so clearly he’d have a significant role in the finale? Yeah, that twist — Eobard Thawne has been plotting things with Cicada all along and he’s in possession of the Cicada dagger.

Okay, cool. This does... very little to explain away all the problems I’ve had with this season’s plotting.

Other Things:

  • The episode is titled “The Girl with Red Lightning” but it’s just... such a nothing title. They could have called it “The Girl with a Nose Bleed” and it’d be just as meaningful to what happens in the episode.
  • Ralph says “timey-wimey”!
  • Sherloque sends the Earth-1 version of his girlfriend to his own Earth, but wasn’t it established that he marries the same woman over and over again from different Earths? Wouldn’t his original Renee still be there?
  • I’m glad we get a tiny supporting story with Joe. I’m not glad it only lasted about three scenes.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Grey’s Anatomy 15x24 Review: “Drawn to the Blood” (Storm’s A Brewin’) [Contributor: Julia Siegel]


“Drawn to the Blood”
Original Airdate: May 9, 2019

The end of the season is quickly approaching us at rapid speed, as all the season-long storylines take big twists and turns to set up what is sure to be yet another unforgettable Grey’s Anatomy season finale. All of the characters are being forced to face their demons under harrowing circumstances, which start coming to a head in the last ten to fifteen minutes of the penultimate episode. Let’s dive in and see who is on the mend and which characters’ times are quickly running out.

ADMITTING YOUR FAULTS


The plot that has had the most impact over the past handful of episodes is Jo’s struggle to accept her beginnings and come to terms with the truths she learned when visiting her birth mother in Pittsburgh. Alex has resorted to sending Meredith to stay with Jo until she finally spills her secret while he stays at Meredith’s house. It takes quite a bit of time, but Meredith eventually gets Jo to open up by saying that she has gone through every bad situation and lived to talk about it. Jo tells Meredith that she could not possibly know what it feels like to be born from rape and know that violence is not only inside you, but your fate.

Meredith gives Jo one of her famous monologues and tells Jo that she is the exact opposite of violence. Mer describes how much balance Jo has brought to the world through all the good she has done in Seattle. Jo understands Meredith’s points more when Meredith opens up and tells her about drowning during the ferry accident back in season three. The two decide that they need to talk to Alex and Bailey, explain Jo’s situation, and get her a proper leave of absence; that way she can get the help that she needs without jeopardizing her career. When they arrive at Grey Sloan, they find a group of doctors surrounding a conference room in which Bailey and Catherine have been all day, which no one takes as a good sign.

Meredith asks DeLuca to wait outside the room with Jo until Bailey is free to talk, while she goes to hunt down Alex. After she leaves, DeLuca is called into the conference room by Bailey, and we learn that the meeting is about Meredith’s insurance fraud from the previous episode. If anyone actually thought that this was going to be a one-time thing and kept a secret, a point is clearly made that the issue will not be resolved quietly or easily.

Bailey and Catherine want DeLuca to tell them exactly what happened, which leads to surprising results. Catherine and DeLuca go to the hypobaric chamber that Meredith and Alex are in (more on that next), and DeLuca tells Meredith through the window that he lied and didn’t tell them that their young patient was uninsured, so he used her daughter’s name on the insurance forms. DeLuca has decided to fall on the sword and turn himself over to the police, much against the wishes of the begging Meredith. This will be very interesting to watch play out in the finale, and I’m not sure what’s going to happen next.

HELP IS ON THE WAY


Alex has finally found Gus, the boy with golden blood, a donor and has her flying in from London. However, there is a catch: Francis, the donor, is extremely agoraphobic and refuses to get off the plane after her therapist is detained for an issue with his visa. Schmitt is tasked with picking Francis up and delivering her to the hospital, but she won’t leave without her therapist. Schmitt calls Owen for help, who decides to take matters into his own hands and go to the airport to help. Meanwhile, Gus is getting worse and has a heart attack, while his father slips on some Legos and breaks his coccyx and tears his rectum. Alex takes Gus to the hypobaric chamber to help with his oxygen levels, which is where Meredith finds them.

Owen and Schmitt have a very frank discussion with Francis about fulfilling her promise to donate her blood. Francis is too overcome with fear and explains that anything she does could cause her harm. Eventually, Owen convinces her to get out of the plane by video calling Alex that way Francis and Gus could meet. Gus’ mother speaks for her unconscious son and explains how desperate they are to help him. Francis finally agrees to go to the hospital after Owen tells her that he will protect her from any harm that will come her way. Owen, Schmitt, and Francis start making the drive to the hospital, but get postponed by a nasty fog that has settled over the city and is making it impossible to see. Out of nowhere, a massive multi-car pileup starts to occur around them, leaving the group stranded and at risk in the middle of a highway.

BURSTING AT THE SEAMS


The mystery of who Owen loves will have to wait for the finale because he didn’t have any time to speak to anyone other than Schmitt and Francis. That doesn’t mean the two women in question couldn’t start to make their intentions clear. Teddy and Tom begin the episode looking at cribs for the unborn baby online, but Teddy is being strangely uncommitted to everything he suggests. She goes on to help both Gus and Kari, the paralyzed woman being treated with stem cells following a snowmobile accident. Teddy’s feelings become more open and apparent when Kari tells Toby how much she loves them and accepts who they are unconditionally. She further opens up with Gus’ mothers’ pleas to Francis to save her son.

Meanwhile, Amelia and Link reach a new step in their relationship when they wake up in the same bed. Amelia is freaked out since they haven’t spent the full night with each other before and subconsciously realizes their relationship is becoming realer than she intended. When Owen gets called to help Francis, Amelia wants to take Leo home to Owen’s house since the baby is suffering from a cold. On her way out the door, she is confronted by Link, who wants to know whether Owen is her past or future. He realizes that he might be getting strung along and doesn’t want that to happen, given he has started having feelings for Amelia.

Amelia doesn’t know how to respond and asks Link to give her some time to think about it. While at Owen’s house, Amelia hears a knock on the door and finds Teddy on the other side. Teddy asks Amelia if she still loves Owen or if they are totally over and finally confesses her own love for Owen. Teddy wants to take a shot in the dark and tell Owen how she really feels and gets Amelia’s blessing right before her water breaks. The two doctors and Leo start making their way towards the hospital, only to be caught in the fog too.

CAMPING


Maggie makes good on her promise to let Jackson take her camping, but the results are mixed. While she likes feeling relaxed, Maggie finds herself hating the great outdoors after getting stung by a bee and twisting her ankle while running away from said bee. This is the comic relief section of the episode, but it turns grim quickly when Jackson sees that Maggie has countless texts from Alex about Gus and his condition. Jackson and Maggie know that they are needed back at Grey Sloan and start packing up their gear, only to be interrupted by a text from Teddy saying that her water broke. Maggie is now the only cardiothoracic surgeon that can help Gus, so Jackson suggests that they leave all their possessions in the tent and come back for them later. As they unzip their tent, the sky opens up and it starts pouring on them. They appear to be stuck in their current position while they are very sorely needed at the hospital.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The Flash 5x20 Review: "Gone Rogue" (Just Gone) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


“Gone Rogue”
Original Airdate: April 30, 2019

In the latest episode of The Flash, Nora throws yet another tantrum. This time it’s because everyone she’s been lying to for months is understandably wary about her partnership with a time-traveling murderer. She teams up with third-tier villains for a heist, because sure, that sounds like a great way to get back into the good graces of your heroic friends and relatives.

Additionally, Iris and Barry fight some more before agreeing that what they really want is Nora “home” with them, even though her “home” is actually about thirty years into the future. Where are those Time Wraiths, anyway? Extended coffee break over in the Speed Force? Maybe all the universe’s time travel fail safes are so sick of dealing with Barry Allen and his timeline-annihilating kin they’ve all formed a union and have gone on strike. Their demands are as follows: stricter narrative rules regarding time travel in the Arrowverse, more erased babies, and better dental.

NORA, NO!


When did Nora find time for a costume change? She’s sporting a purple-and-black getup for her stroll on the Dark Side, although I guess it’s more like... the Charcoal Gray Side than the Dark Side, since she’s not actually evil. But I have no idea why she bothered with a costume at all, since all the “Rogues” (Weather Witch, Bug-Eyed Bandit, and, to my horror, Rag Doll) she gathers for her plan already know who she is. Like, literally — they even know her name is Nora and it takes them five minutes to figure out the Flash is her dad. It’s unclear why no one asks how the Flash can be her dad when they’re roughly the same age.

Anyway, Nora kidnaps Cisco and Sherloque because Cisco needs to use his technical know-how to help her with that meta-powered phone from the beginning of the season and Sherloque was just there, I guess. When Cisco agrees to reprogram the phone for her (after Nora threatens him with a Thawne-esque hand phasing through the chest — not cool, Nora!) and successfully does so, Nora and the Not Rogues use it to break into a vault holding power-dampening tech. Rag Doll is really gross in the scene where he breaks into the vault, by the way. Man, that is a creepy character.

Of course, Nora’s new pals turn on her as soon as she’s fulfilled her job of strategizing. We even get a little indication that Weather Witch — the character the show dedicated a whole episode to portraying as repentant — maybe killed Silver Ghost, the meta she’d tentatively partnered with during her most recent appearance, and stole her idea of forming a metahuman villain crew. Cool. So that whole episode is retroactively pointless. Good to know this show is capable of wasting my past self’s time as well as my present self’s time.

Weather Witch et al. demand the Flash save his daughter by turning himself in to them and unmasking in front of the whole world. Uh, question: why? The Flash isn’t Batman (or Green Arrow — a.k.a., Budget Batman). His secret identity — at least as far as the show is concerned — holds no significant place in his mythos. If there have been lines about people in Central City speculating on the identity of the Flash, they were long enough ago that I don’t remember them. It’s basically a running joke that Barry takes so little care guarding his identity the citizens of Central City are probably just humoring him about the whole thing being “secret” at all. Like, aw, the dumb human Labradoodle thinks the mask that leaves a third of his face uncovered actually makes him unrecognizable? No, don’t tell him the truth, it’ll make him sad.

Barry does show up, but he’s a hologram played by Sherloque. Then the real Barry shows up along with Iris and Joe, all three having disguised themselves as armed guards. Everyone stops the bad guys. Nora and Barry have a heart-to-heart. Turns out, Nora’s whole ploy was an effort to get a device capable of destroying Cicada’s dagger, rather than Cicada herself. Good thing Team Flash has stumbled into a way to stop Cicada II, since the B-story of the episode involved figuring out Cicada’s master plan is to atomize the deadly failed metahuman cures and kill all the metas in the world.

REALLY THOUGH, NORA, NO.


The Flash has, I think, a tendency to get sloppy as it closes in on its season finale. I’ve banged the drum of “just make shorter seasons!” for years now, but these later episodes — where the writing should be calculated, details should be critical, and absolutely everything should be leading up to the climax of the season — truly emphasize how necessary tighter writing is for this show. I managed to summarize all the critical points of this episode in the previous five paragraphs and tucked those critical points within hundreds of words of time-wasting asides and inconsequential details. This, the third-to-last episode of the season, had only two truly important revelations: Nora’s retrieval of the meta-tech-destroying gun and Cicada II’s plan for mass murder.

That isn’t good, people. This late in the season, we should not be getting episodes in full of stuff that doesn’t matter. Also not good: the portrayal of one of the season protagonists as someone capable of flying into a red-eyed rage when faced with ideas she doesn’t like. Why did Nora “go rogue” for an episode? Because she was afraid Barry and Iris wouldn’t trust her plan if she told them outright. So instead, she broke the law, threatened her friends with bodily harm, and continued to profess the “good” qualities of a confirmed murderer who traumatized her father for life.

And what’s worse? The show agrees with her! We can tell the show agrees with her because Iris thinks Thawne cares about Nora, and Barry is the one — not Nora — who really apologizes in the end, telling Nora he’ll never abandon her again and she’ll stay with them forever, and blah, blah, blah, Time Wraiths! For the love of all that is good, where are the Time Wraiths! Why have all the consequences of time travel been abandoned? We explored the consequences of time travel in this very season as a reminder! Remember the metaphor of a broken coffee cup never being the same even if it’s put back together? Nora is pulverizing that metaphorical coffee cup every second of every day! Nora cannot stay with Iris and Barry, and it’s ridiculous that the two of them think she can, and it’s ridiculous that the show is keeping up this charade! Aaaaaaaaargh!

Other Things:

  • "You're not fireproof are you, Monsieur Ramon?" "Am I fire— oh, god!" Carlos Valdes is just, so great with his line deliveries.
  • Barry, you don’t think maybe the reason why you feel weird when Nora calls you “dad” is because you’re not actually a dad yet and she’s in her mid-twenties? It really ain’t that deep, buddy.
  • I guess Grace has a murder-suicide plan in mind, considering that she’s a meta and would definitely die if set off her meta destruction bomb.
  • If the show is hinting at Thawne being kind of good (which he is not, by the way), I kind of wonder if they’re setting things up for him to be next season’s Harrison Wells/Tom Cavanagh character. It’d certainly explain why he still has Wells Face.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Female Empowerment and the Rise of Antiheroes: An Exploration of Good Girls [Contributor: Jenn]

(Image credit: NBC)

Women are expected to be everything.

We’re supposed to be smart, kind, and tough (but not too tough), funny, beautiful, trendy, thin, cellulite-free, and wrinkleless. But perhaps the most dangerous thing a woman is expected to be is likable. When unlikable female characters grace television screens men and women alike don’t quite know how to handle them, especially if they’re not outright villains. Critics take to social media and blogs demanding that the female characters meet their expectations.

But what if female characters don’t have to be likable to be good?

What if they can be problematic instead?

As you might have guessed from the title of this post, we’re going to be talking about antiheroes. Traditionally, you’re used to seeing male antiheroes on television (Breaking Bad’s Walter White is one of the most oft-referenced recent examples) — an antihero is, by definition, the protagonist of the story but someone who lacks heroic qualities. They might do morally decent things from time to time, but they might not be for the right reasons. And, traditionally, an antihero will make you question whether you’re supposed to be rooting for them in the first place.

That’s kind of the joy of well-written characters, in my opinion. I don’t want clean-cut heroes who always do the right thing; people are, realistically, far more morally grey than they are black and white. So if a character makes a choice that is within the scope of their characterization, habits and patterns, and fits with their journey (all of those are key) but it isn’t a “good” one, I’m usually more inclined to be drawn to them.

I think there’s a deep fear within writers to construct antiheroes who are women. And I think that’s why shows try to make their female characters either the clear-cut, morally conscious, and generally “good” women — who tend to serve as angels on the shoulders of male protagonists — or just straight-up villains. Not many shows take risks by presenting unlikable women whose personalities are more abrasive than inviting, and who tend to make bad decisions with self-focused moral justification (while still having sympathetic character traits). But when shows can present female antiheroes well, they have the opportunity to really thrive.

One of the most recent shows to portray a dynamic female antihero with skill is NBC’s Good Girls.

Note: Spoilers for the series will follow!

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“GOOD” GIRLS


This NBC drama follows a trio of women — Beth, Annie (Beth’s sister), and Ruby — who are struggling financially. Beth’s husband has cheated on her and gotten their family into serious financial trouble. Annie is a single mother trying to make ends meet with a grocery store gig. And Ruby’s a working mom who’s desperately trying to support her family, including medically caring for a daughter who has kidney disease. The women are desperate, and when they hatch a plan to rob the store that Annie works at, they do so because they feel like they have no options left. No extra shifts or job will help cover the holes they’re buried under. And they justify their decision — no one will get hurt, they’ll use fake guns, and they won’t get caught. It’ll be one job, then they’re done.

Unfortunately, things don’t quite go as planned. Not only does Annie get recognized but the women realize the money they stole actually belongs to a gang, led by a man named Rio. He wants his money and that’s how three mothers get involved with a gang. The curious thing — and most interesting — is to explore how each woman has developed, morally, since the show’s pilot.

Obviously in this post I want to talk about who I view to be the series’ primary antihero (Beth), but in order to do that we need to talk about how each of these women began their journeys.

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ANNIE IS GREAT


Annie was the most flippant of the group at the beginning; she casually talks about robbing banks and killing a dude who tried to rape her (because hello, he tried to rape her). She’s quick on her feet, scrappy, and sassy. But while Mae Whitman is an absolute delight in her comedic beats of Annie, she also does a fantastic job though portraying Annie’s emotional nuances. The reason why Annie is the way that she is? Because she has to be. She’s barely scraping by, and she’s not getting help from her ex.

Moreover, Annie really does also have a heart. She can joke with gang members and make rapid-fire sarcastic comments but she cares deeply about the people around her. She loves her sister. She loves her child. She loves her friends. But she also spends time with an elderly woman because she feels so guilty for something that the woman doesn’t know about (and that Annie didn’t technically do). That is who she is.

Annie’s also the kind of person who’d do whatever it takes to protect and keep Sadie, her child. Since Annie had Sadie when she was a teenage, Annie and he are close. Really close. In a lot of ways, they take care of each other instead of presenting a traditional mother/child dynamic. But there comes a tipping point in this season of Good Girls where Annie and Sadie’s relationship fractures because of Annie’s moral choices. Annie isn’t exactly a cut-and-dry antihero; while she does make mistakes, she ultimately does the right thing most days. She has a line she will not cross, and a set of standards she adheres to. Her decisions aren’t always morally upright, but she’s doing them because she feels she has no options. I don’t think she’s truly an antihero.

Unlike Beth (who we’ll discuss later on), Annie and Ruby have made choices in Good Girls that put themselves and their own interests on the line for the sake of doing what is “right.” Annie comes clean to Sadie about something she’s been hiding, and Ruby decides to talk to Detective Turner and offer him information about Beth in order to save her husband, Stan. And speaking of Ruby...

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RUBY’S PRIORITIES


Ruby is the one in the group who has the most on the line in a lot of ways. She has a husband who’s a cop. She’s got two kids, one of whom has kidney disease and medical bills that pile up. And she’s willing to do whatever it takes to protect her family. However, Ruby and Stan’s relationship is what sets her apart from the other women in the group. While Beth is still technically married, she’s more or less still married to Dean for the sake of convenience instead of love; Annie has a complicated relationship with her ex and a new one with her boss, Noah (who she doesn’t know yet is actually an undercover agent).

Ruby is willing to sacrifice herself, her own interests, and Beth (though she doesn’t pull the trigger, she did think briefly about turning in Beth’s whole operation) because there’s nothing she wouldn’t do to save her husband. She knows how great of a man she is — and he is such a great guy and husband — and it’s that kind of love that leads both of them to make sacrifices and sometimes bad decisions for the sake of one another. Ruby is also the one of the group who’s come clean to her significant other about everything — everything the women have done, from start to finish, that’s been illegal or illegal adjacent.

Stan, of course, had to catch Ruby in a lie in order for this all to come to light. Still, she tells him what she’s done because she weighed the cost — she couldn’t gain the money and resources for her family but lose her family in the process. Ruby is such a fantastic character because she’s layered (again, she returns to illegal activities in order to try and save her husband from jail), passionate, and a caretaker for the women. Retta does an amazing job conveying each of these layers with precision and empathy.

Ruby’s generally the one of the group who’s most uncomfortable with lying — even making a joke about how Beth mentioning a new plan gives her hives — and the exploits, unless she can justify them. While both Annie and Ruby lie repeatedly and compulsively throughout the series to people, neither of them do it so deftly and with skill like Beth.

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AN ANTIHERO TO ROOT FOR (SOMETIMES)


Beth has spent her life being looked at as “just” a housewife and mother — and her husband is included in that group of people. Dean cheated on Beth with multiple women, got their family and his business into financial ruin, and refused to see Beth as his equal or partner. He doesn’t respect her, and Beth spent her life being okay with that. When you’re not used to having power, you easily slide into mediocrity. Beth was content to make sandwiches for her kids, snacks for sporting teams, and pick up kids in carpool. She coasted. She was fine.

Until she realized how much trouble her family was in. They were going to lose their house, their stuff, their ability to provide for their children. Beth’s children ultimately are what drive her throughout some of her decision-making. The other thing — the main thing — that drives Beth though is power.

When you’re not used to having power — when people around you, including your own husband have denied you of your agency and reduced yoru identity to nothing — acquiring it is life-changing. It can be used for good. Or... well, not. I’m not saying Beth isn’t genuinely motivated in instances by her children. It, however, is what all three women tell themselves to justify their behavior. If Beth says she’s gotten into bed (literally and figuratively) with Rio because she needs to right the financial wrongs Dean made because she wants to protect and provide for her family, she sounds noble. If she says she’s done all of it because she loves the rush of being in control, of being in power, of being at the top… well, then she’s an antihero.

And that’s exactly what I love about her.

Because the truth is that Beth really does do all of this because she wants to reclaim the power she’s lost over the years. In some ways, you can empathize with her struggles (and Christina Hendricks truly is a force to be reckoned with when she gets the chance to unleash the full range of Beth’s emotions).

But this is where antiheroes get sticky — can we empathize with all of Beth’s decisions? The funny thing is that Beth is so good at lying, at manipulating, at bending people to do what she wants, at covering her tracks, at thinking ten steps ahead, at playing the game... that she doesn’t want to give it up.

Who would she be if she went back to being a housewife and mother? Would she be okay with giving up her power for the sake of her family? “One Last Time” told us that Beth would be leaving a life of crime. She had one last hook-up with Rio, and seemingly said goodbye. I don’t know about you but I’m not sure that will stick. Not only because Rio and Beth have insane chemistry and she won’t be able to stay away, but because Rio knows Beth has tasted power and that she’s not going to handle returning to a life without it easily.

   

Power is like a drug for Beth. She’s willing to do whatever it takes to get it. She brings her children with her to scope out a house for a drug delivery. She rushes to check on her money when her house is robbed instead of checking on Dean. She lies and justifies and blackmails and makes promises because she’s good, really good, at what she’s doing. There’s a reason she’s the leader and it’s because she’s embraced her role as an antihero.

She justifies her decisions but at the end of the day, most of what Beth does isn’t morally upright and she’s kind of okay with it as long as she continues to benefit. Now, Beth is also a sympathetic character — she’s a woman who’s been wronged, repeatedly, by a man and has children — and because of that, she’s the perfect antihero. The line between “hero” and “villain” with her shifts with every decision she makes. Is she truly doing something for her kids? Or is she doing it because it makes her feel good? Is she lying because she feels like she has no other choice? Or because she knows she’s just good at it and can get away with it?

Good Girls doesn’t ask us to decide whether Beth is right or wrong. There are characters throughout the series who have their own opinions, and we’re asked to frame our perception of her decisions through their interpretations, as well as our own. Agent Turner thinks she’s a villain and wants to take her down. Annie and Ruby think she’s in deep but that ultimately she’s a good person (that scene where Dean takes the kids is, again, a sympathetic one). Rio respects her — something she’s never had from her own husband — and thinks she’s incredibly capable.

But how do you feel about Beth? Is she a good girl? Or is “good girl” her cover? And what about Annie? Ruby?


Good Girls is such a compelling show for a variety of reasons — it’s funny, dramatic, fast-paced (I binge-watched the first season in less than a day; I have no regrets) — but chief among them is its portrayal of complex, nuanced female characters who aren’t always likable and aren’t always right. They live and thrive in morally grey areas and that’s pretty great to see. It’s up to us to decide whether they’re the heroes or antiheroes of their own stories.

I’m just happy to be along for the ride.