‘GOOD Behavior’ is the title of the dark TV series Michelle Dockery did for TNT Channel, but everything her character does in the show is actually anything but good. An incorrigible thief who steals anything from chocolates to expensive dresses and watches in department stores, she’s a bad girl who’s just been released from prison.
In “Downton Abbey”, Michelle shone in her breakout role as the prim and proper Lady Mary Crawley. Now, in “Good Behavior”, she plays Letty, an anti-heroine who’s not only an ex-con but also an unwed mom addicted to drugs and alcohol. The first episode shows her working as a waitress in a cheap diner in North Carolina.
She’s sexy without even trying and a lascivious customer follows her to the restroom and wants to take advantage of her. But she certainly knows how to defend herself and even gets to steal the guy’s wallet, establishing her character as an ass-kicking, fearless femme fatale.
Based on stories written by Blake Crouch, all the characters in the series are deeply flawed. Letty’s mother is a phone sex prostie who’s been married four times. Her leading man, Javier Pereira (Juan Diego Botto), is a hired killer who’s own dad is a murderer of political prisoners in Argentina.
Letty is a master survivor on the arena called life and she can expertly deceive other people, even very smart ones. If there’s one redeeming factor in her that makes her humane, it’s her genuine love for her love son, a black ten-year old boy named Jacob (Nyles Steele) whose black dad is a former porn actor and drug pusher.
She has lost custody of her son to her mom and now, she wants to get him back, at all cost, which is hard to do since she has no real job and stealing is all she knows how to do.
The role is a very demanding one. It requires Michelle to wear a variety of wigs, lie to her teeth and make up stories with confidence and relish, smoke meth out of lightbulb, do song numbers, don expensive clothes and act like she belongs to higher social circles, but she can also look cheap and dowdy.
She’s also shown in various states of undress doing steamy sex scenes. And to her credits, she pulls it all off marvelously as she seems to have an intuitive connection with her character, even her being a devoted fan of a self-help app that instructs her on how to be the best that she can be. We think she interpreted Letty so far away from her Lady Mary character so viewers can exclaim: “We don’t know she can do that!”
Her seemingly love-hate relationship with Juan Diego Botto, who has a charismatic Latino presence, is part of the show’s attraction. How they meet is very unusual. Letty is robbing a hotel room when two men enter so she quickly hides inside the closet and hears them discussing a contract killing. Juan Diego as Javier is the hitman and his client is asking him to kill his wife the next day.
Letty goes to the wife and informs her about her husband’s plan for her, but Javier sees her and this gets her involved in his next deal, which is to kill a businessman. But because of Letty’s interference, Javier also had to kill the man’s wife and then they dispose of the bodies.
Their pairing is credible because Juan Diego has the right combination of gravitas and seductiveness to make you believe that he can intimidate the feisty Letty to do whatever he commands. The show is tightly scripted with hard boiled dialogue and often allows scenes to play out in long takes that can show you the progression of the characters’ thoughts and behavior.
Aside from Michelle and Juan Diego who are both superb as the thief and the killer, also giving good support are Lusia Strus as Letty’s white trash, opportunistic mom and Terry Kinney as Letty’s parole officer who has a troubled past himself as a professor and later gets involved in one of Letty’s con jobs. The series ends with Javier, Letty and her son on the lam and you’re at a loss and wonder what their next step would be now that the FBI has pinpointed Javier as the killer who’s long been in their most wanted list. The only way to answer it is to watch the show’s second season.