Letty, Letty, Letty. You tire fire of a woman. You’re killing us here.
In truth, we wanted to flip off (in every sense of the phrase) the TV last night when she wound up drunkenly bedding Sean. After dumping Javier and making him feel like shit for not killing him on her command? Girlfriend, this is where we get off. And so do you, apparently. But then it kept right on going, as Letty got an offer she couldn’t possibly refuse; one that asked her to betray Javier even further.
And she took it, dammit.
Oh, she wavered a bit, and we were halfway ready to believe she couldn’t do that to him, but that final scene in the diner had to fuck with us just a little before the knife slipped in. But come on, we’re not dumb. The very fact that we feel so betrayed by Letty’s shitty behavior this episode is a huge reason why Good Behavior is so engrossing. It sounds trite, but once you fall in love with characters, it can be very hard watching them make the absolute worst choices for themselves.
So yes, we originally planned an angry, ranty, “We can’t root for anyone in this story” review, but it simply wouldn’t be true. We’re not mad at Good Behavior for letting us down. We’re mad at Letty for letting us down. And we’re aware that most of the highest purveyors of the form would maintain that any reviewer fails at their job when they make their review about themselves, but sorry, Roger Ebert, as much as we love you, we think the emotional response of the viewer is the entire point here.
An episode like this one succeeds or fails based on how well it can finesse the audience’s reactions. The very fact that we were so upset with the lead character that we literally walked away from the episode in disgust means the show is doing its job very, very well. And nothing solidified this more for us than the realization that as mad as we are at Letty, we can’t claim with a straight face that all of this is out of character for her. In truth, the previous eight episodes did a very good job of letting us know who Letty is and what she’s capable of. Sleeping with Sean and ratting Javier out to the Feds in order to keep Jacob is exactly the sorts of things we would expect her to do. It’s just that we wanted to believe she was reformed enough that she couldn’t do them.
In addition – and to the show’s enormous credit – Sean’s pitch for parental rights was sort of hard to argue against. If Letty’s whole argument is that he’s done bad things in his past, then it pretty much undermines her own arguments for parental rights. And while we wouldn’t call the guy particularly likable or even a potentially good father, the show gave him just enough nuance to make him a person and not the villain it would have been so easy for us to accept.
But good writing gives the audience what they need rather than what they want, and whether we could’ve admitted it in the moment or not, we needed the show to be true to its setup and its characters. The offer from the Feds was just ridiculous enough (and truth be told, we’d think she’d have every reason to be suspicious of it, which makes us alarmed that she’s not) to make it virtually impossible for the story to go anywhere but where it did without betraying itself. In other words, if Letty did the right things, it would be wrong for Good Behavior.
Maybe at some point down the road, we’ll be watching to story of a fully reformed Letty Raines, always making the best decisions and contributing to society in some small way, but we kind of doubt it. It’s right there in the title. “Good behavior” is a phrase used for people who have difficulties with the very concept. After all, for most of us, what constitutes “good behavior” is just, you know… behavior. If you have to tag “good” on it, it’s because you’re struggling with the idea in some way. To be “on good behavior” is to imply that it’s not your natural state. Watching Letty plead beautifully for her son had us believing that she no longer needed to be “on good behavior” because she finally figured out what good behavior actually is. But the second things stopped going her way, she made one horrifically bad choice after another; from drinking, to sleeping with Sean, to betraying Javier.
As upset as we are with her for all of this, we have to admit that this show is about watching Letty struggle, not watching her achieve moral perfection. And Michelle Dockery is so damn good in the role, especially when Letty’s got her back up against the wall. No one can play “desperate bitch” like she can.
So for the foreseeable future, Letty’s “on good behavior,” which means she can lapse into bad behavior at any second. And we’re fine with that. We can throw the remote across the room in disgust and rip up our throw pillows in anger every time she lets us down, but … well, she’s on Good Behavior. What did we expect?
[Photo Credit: Brownie Harris/TNT]