Good Girls bosses preview a love triangle for Beth and Rio in season 4
When the third season of Good Girls was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, fans were left wondering what would become of their favorite moms/criminals, Annie (Mae Whitman), Beth (Christina Hendricks), and Ruby (Retta). Beth had just gone into the hot tub business with none other than hot gangster Rio (Manny Montana), and then there was the introduction of Phoebe (Lauren Lapkus), a new FBI agent hot on their trail.
EW spoke with Good Girls co-showrunners and executive producers Jenna Bans and Bill Krebs about what to expect when the show returns for season 4.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When we spoke at the end of season 3, you all had a couple episodes you thought you could pivot to the start of a fourth season. Did that end up happening?
JENNA BANS: We sort of found ourselves in the situation of having a happy accident, which is we ended season 3 on episode 11 out of a 16 order, so we had a few more written at the end of season 3.
BILL KREBS: Yeah, we had written up through [episode 14].
BANS: We had three more, and then we realized as we got going there were so many things in those three episodes that are now the beginning of season 4 that we wanted to carry forward through season 4 originally, and we were worried, "Is the audience going to remember this from season 3?" And now they don't have to.
KREBS: It's all nicely packaged in season 4. So much of the show is serialized, so where we made the decision to cut season 3 off was a nice dropping-off point. That was our turn into the back third of season 3, which was a ramp to the finale, and now we had the opportunity to start season 4 in that ramp, and instead of ending in episode 316, we're now able to expand on a lot of those story lines and those threads that we were ending on and really blossom the back half of season 4. So we're really happy with it.
BANS: What's fun too is when you have episodes that are designed to be the end of one season and you reimagine them as the beginning of the next, they're so jam-packed with twists and turns and action that it's fun to hear from people who've watched the first three seasons and they're like, "Oh my God, I didn't expect that to happen so early!" You realize as writers sometimes you start seasons off kind of slow because you know what you're building to, and I think that's the opposite of season 4. We start out at a crazy pace and we never really let off the gas. I think it's made season 4 better.
Since season 1, we've discussed the fine line you all walk with these women. There were so many comparisons to Breaking Bad in the beginning, and you all talked about how these women have to keep their morality and how that's a big difference from something like Breaking Bad. But as the show keeps going and they get pulled further into that world, how do you continue to toe that line?
KREBS: These women are always moms first, and the second you remove that from the foreground, it becomes a different show. It is a tonal high-wire act; if you lean too far one way or the other, it's just not the show. So we're always aware of going too far into the crime world, because then there's no tension and no moral conflict and no personal growth if they've already accepted the bad side.
BANS: But saying all of that, the line since we spoke in season 1 has definitely moved and shifted and gotten a little blurrier. What's funny is, I think in the first or second episode, the women actually have that conversation of: Where is the line, and if we don't notice it moving, does that mean we've crossed it? If you don't know where the line is anymore, does that mean you're too far gone? They actually debate those things.
KREBS: But they're still aware of it, where I think in Breaking Bad, he embraced it at a certain point. Not to compare us to one of the greatest shows ever, but he was irredeemable after a certain point. So we're always trying to keep our women redeemable, and you're wishing for them to still flirt with danger, but oh yeah, don't go too far.
BANS: It's our effort to keep the relatability of the show alive. I'm a mom of two, and I look at these women and, granted, I like to think I wouldn't do a lot of the things they did, but I'm also not in the situations they're in, so we kind of try to take each situation and go, "How would a completely normal person respond to that situation?"
KREBS: And how do you handle doing the wrong thing for the right reasons?
BANS: We get a lot of comedy from that. We get what our original tone is from that too.
KREBS: We very rarely write jokes; we're always writing uncomfortable situations.
I've loved watching people discover this show and fall for the Rio-Beth relationship. Where are those two headed in season 4? Because at this point, they've been through so much.
BANS: So much. They've really been through a roller coaster of a relationship, those two. What's fun about this season in terms of Beth and Rio is that Beth I think has sort of realized that there's no running from him. As long as they're in the same city and he wants her to help him with his criminal enterprise, she's in.
KREBS: We're also going to learn where the mystery of Rio originates. He's the bad-boy criminal who never gets caught, he always has the answer, he lives in this frictionless world, and now Beth starts to see behind the curtain a little bit and learn that he might not be alone in what guides his decisions. That sets up a nice, juicy love triangle.
BANS: Which I think fans are really really going to love. We love it. When you land on something that's fun and feels fresh to write and feels like it elevates their relationship and kind of changes their dynamic, it's really fun to write.
KREBS: It answers a lot of questions. We go to the origin story of, where does Rio's swagger come from?
BANS: And it leaves Beth with a much more clear understanding of who this person is just as a human, which I think both equally softens her to him and also gives her clarity that this is someone you can't really be with romantically long-term. But it makes it all really messy and juicy. There's a lot of sexiness in there too. What's even more fun is that is happens pretty early in the season — I don't think people will have to wait very long.
At the end of season 3, you all described Phoebe as a frenemy to Beth. Does that still feel accurate? How does Phoebe fit into the season?
BANS: What we are really excited about with her is that she really travels down a different path than your classic TV investigator role.
KREBS: Unlike Agent Turner [James Lesure], who was hell-bent on busting Beth, Phoebe is sort of exploring her own personal demons through Beth.
BANS: Phoebe's someone who maybe didn't have a very good high school experience, and Beth is sort of a trigger for her in that way. Being with Beth and working alongside Beth, which is a big part of the season, she really gets to know her. I would say they're almost more friends than frenemies. It's complicated, obviously, because they're on two different sides of the law.
KREBS: It starts to become personal on a level where Phoebe starts to question: Is she busting Beth for the right reason, or because of some bitterness or resentment that is stemming from her past?
BANS: It really gets messy, and thematically it explores those dynamics of female friendship where when you're an adult woman it's not so easy to bury the bruises of the past.
KREBS: They never go away.
We talked about Stan and Ruby a bit at the end of season 3, so let's shift to Annie: What's in store for her this season?
KREBS: Annie is going to go on a personal journey. In seasons 1, 2, and 3, it was a lot about Annie's impulsiveness and recklessness and her making bad decisions. Season 4 is now about Annie self-actualizing and kind of growing up. This is the season that Annie learns to sort of be an adult and know that there's consequences to all those bad decisions, and maybe she doesn't need to have a guy in her life and maybe she doesn't have to always live so impulsively. She makes amends for all her wrongs in the past — not just with her relationships with men, but also with her own sister, and that kind of gets her in hot water.
BANS: We see Annie in a much different place in terms of character growth, which doesn't necessarily mean she's in a good situation. She's in sort of a shocking situation.
KREBS: She learns that sometimes, where bad decisions have terrible consequences, sometimes good decisions also have a bad consequence.
Good Girls returns Sunday, March 7, at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.