Quickfire round: Love and Anarchy

This quirky Swedish show – ostensibly a workplace comedy romance – was an intriguing watch and ended up having a much deeper emotional side to it than the trailer would suggest. It won’t be for everyone, though.

The lipstick is a token for their dares.

Married mother-of-two Sofie is called in to a small publishing house in Stockholm to help them restructure as they struggle in a tough marketplace. Sofie is good at her job, but must be having trouble with her husband because, in the first few minutes of Episode 1, she’s masturbating in the family bathroom before work. After a long day at the office, she does the same thing, this time at her desk. Enter Max – no, literally, he enters the building to carry on with his IT construction work, having been sent home by Sofie earlier in the day for making too much noise. Max quickly gets his revenge by snapping a photo of Sofie doing her thing, and the next day turns up to work with a renewed sense of power.

“How much do you want?” Sofie asks, keen to have the video deleted. “I just want you to take me out for lunch”, says Max (character building earlier in the episode shows us that Max, many years younger than Sofie, has a thing for older women). And so out they go. Max hands over his phone for Sofie to delete the photo, but she then refuses to hand it back. “You made me do something, now you need to do something to earn this back”, she says, “do something outrageous at the office”.

And so begins a pretty hilarious game of workplace dares between Sofie and Max.

What I loved about this show was the setting. Everyone else at the publishing house are just trying their best to keep going, but still manage to be funny in their own right. Friedrich is an old stalwart of the publishing world whose older, male, clientele occasionally clash with Denise’s younger and more liberal authors. At one point Friedrich, following a series of failures (one of which is at the hands Sofie’s dare to Max), goes to an Ayahuasca retreat to treat and find his true self. You can imagine how that went.

Towards the end, the show reveals a sort of underlying purpose. We learned earlier that Sofie’s father, a staunch communist, is sometimes mentally unstable. Although her willingness to participate in Max’s escalating dares is perhaps an indication that Sofie might be suffering a similar ailment, it’s not until she literally hisses at her husband, animal-like, that we can be sure of it. You could also say that Max, feeling the pressure from his spiteful mother and stepfather, also loses it when he poses completely nude for a family photo. (This is also a good time to mention that there is full frontal nudity in this show.)

A short, charming, crazy show that’s absolutely best watched in its original language with subtitles, I really quite liked it.


Back for more: Good Girls (Season 3)

The Breaking Bad meets suburban-housewives dark comedy is back for a third season which takes it in a slightly different direction, although fans of the first two seasons surely won’t be disappointed.

Never a dull moment in the lives of these three.

It looks like everything has gone back to a relative normal for the three working mums following the drama of the last season. Beth is a shop assistant at a greetings cards business who press their own designs. Annie is a shop attendant and moonlights as a valet, bringing in lots of single dollar bills. And Ruby puts up with rude customers at a nail salon.

Hold on a minute. A printing press, lots of dollar bills, and access to solvents… uh oh. The girls haven’t retired from a life of crime, in fact, they’re working on perfecting their fake money printing scheme. Free from the harsh oversight of crime master Rio, they’re looking to run their own illegitimate enterprise. However, as inventive as they are, it doesn’t take long for them to get taken advantage of by the more bone-headed type of criminal.

The show continues its winning formula of heartwarming family issues, quick-witted humour and surreal violence all wrapped up in Breaking Bad style suburban criminality. This season we get to see more of a focus on Ruby’s deteriorating relationship with Stan and her kids, which is interesting as I’d pointed out in my review of Season 2 that we weren’t seeing enough of that family. Sadly I can’t take any credit for the shift as the third season was already airing in the US when I wrote it.

If you like Good Girls and its rather absurd premise, you’ll certainly like the third season. For newcomers, don’t start here. There’s too much backstory you’re missing out on.


What I thought about: Good Girls (Season 2)

Having forgotten all about this crime comedy-drama until Season 2 showed up on Netflix, I went through a cycle of emotions. This show is dumb. It’s thrilling. It’s stupid. It’s unrealistic. It’s so, so long. But damn, it’s good.

Digging up flowers… or something else?

What’s it about?
Good Girls is about three childhood friends, each now mothers to one or more children, who are finding it hard to make ends meet. Beth is a housewife with four kids, living a seemingly idealistic suburban lifestyle. But her husband, the owner of a local car dealership, is a cheater, a loser, and clearly lacking in business sense. Her younger sister, Annie, works at grocery store Fine and Frugal under an asshole boss, as she struggles to earn enough to look after her daughter who she had at a young age. And there’s Ruby, who works long hours waitressing in a vain attempt to pay for her sick daughter’s medical care.

In the first season, they came up with a plan to rob Fine and Frugal to resolve their financial problems. Actually, they do it twice. Along the way they get tied up with a criminal gang’s counterfeiting operation led by the suitably mysterious Rio. In the second season, the FBI are closing in on their involvement in the robbery – along with a host of other crimes they committed along the way.

In a nutshell, it’s Breaking Bad with soccer moms.

What do I like about it?
When I first started watching this season, I recalled the plot and thought it was ridiculous. But the show has so much depth. It’s just as much about the personal lives faced by the characters as it is about the central criminality of their actions.

Beth, it turns out, really hates being a housewife. She wants excitement – in her work life and in the bedroom. Annie gets into a very awkward love triangle, and her relationship with her daughter is tested. Ruby’s husband, Stan, who recently became a cop, finds himself increasingly entangled in the group’s criminal acts, having to chose between protecting his wife and staying true to his honest nature.

The show’s production is also very good – I score it points for creative camera shots and a great soundtrack.

What do I not like about it?
I had to check the number of remaining episodes several times during this binge. The show is long – 13 episodes, 45 minutes each, and a lot of stuff happens in each episode. Don’t get me wrong, it’s largely good content. It just seemed to last ages.

Two more annoyances – Ruby’s family sub-plot is not explored in as much detail as Beth and Annie’s, although I understand why. And finally – this show is super unrealistic. I mean, these characters get no sleep and get away with doing a lot of bad stuff, especially for people under active investigation by the FBI.

Worth a watch?
Yes, but definitely start from the first season or else it won’t make any sense.

By the way…

  • A third season is already airing in the US. There’s a disappointingly long lag time on the UK release, so expect to see it in 2021.
  • If you’re wondering where you recognise Beth’s husband Dean from, the actor played Shaggy in the two live action Scooby Doo movies.