The Goodwin Games
Episode 2: Welcome Home, Goodwins
By: Carlos Uribe
The Goodwin Games is about three siblings who compete for their inheritance and get closer as a family.
The Goodwin Games presents a second episode that basically acts as a second pilot to ensure viewers know who these characters are. The premise of the games is largely put in the background. It's quickly explained in the beginning before fading out with a simple challenge: help each other out with their problems. This challenge is basically a cheat for the writers to craft three different plots that relates to who these characters are along with helping to confirm their series arcs. These problems were established in the pilot but they are allowed to take over this episode. If the first episode of the series was busy setting up it's premise and introducing it's characters, the second episode was busy reinforcing who these characters are. Don't get me wrong: they aren't developed. With only a seven-episode order, I don't expect anyone on this show to become fully-developed human beings. They remain two-dimensional joke machines, albeit cleverly written ones. What I'm stating is that this episode basically redefines who they are. This is for new viewers who missed the pilot so they know who this group is but also because the pilot had been so busy with plot that it makes sense the writers wanted to concentrate on a few character stories. The idea behind the second episode is a good one if the network had any faith in this show. If the order was larger or if it was airing outside of the summer then this series could have come back for a second season. As it stands, it feels like a waste to spend an entire episode simply re-enforcing character traits and their own respective narrative arcs. This is a good and funny episode but it's one that doesn't really develop the plot or really concentrate on the actual titular games. It's an episode that makes sense when the series has a future but that seems like a waste when it doesn't. Of course, the writers probably didn't know this when they wrote the script. The producers likely didn't know this as they oversaw the development of this episode. They were working on a show they thought would last.
The challenge to help each other basically means that each character has to have a problem to be fixed. In the case of Henry, it deals with the love triangle the show has somewhat set up. He's currently engaged to a character that we've never met. Their relationship doesn't seem to be that good as she fails to show up to visit him and he thinks their going to be arguing when she does get there. It's easy to understand why a few characters make cracks that she's imaginary because she doesn't at all exist for the audience. She's referenced to but that it's. Obviously, this is a sign that the producers haven't cast her yet or that their relationship is doomed. The two are going to break up. The other side of the love triangle is where the problems lie. His real love interest, Lucinda, is dating a cop character. He feels jealous and basically acts very immature. That's where his problem is created: he has to handle his ex-girlfriend dating a person he looks down on. His sister manages to guide him so that he's back on Lucinda's good graces but it's difficult to care. Lucinda is a rather bland character. A good love triangle works because people want the person in the center to be with one of two characters. This can split a fanbase in half or it can unite them. I simply don't see this love triangle working at all. Lucinda is completely bland that I doubt anybody is going to want her to end up with Henry. Since she's the obvious endgame for Henry, it's a big problem for the Goodwin Games to face. That is if it had a chance at an endgame. Now the other part of the love triangle is merely referenced to the point where it only exists because the writers keep reminding the audience that it does. There are some funny moments in this plot but it was easily the weakest because I'm not really interesting in watching Henry and Lucinda's “will-they-won't-they” dance.
The problem that works a lot better is Chloe's narrative arc. The roots had been in the pilot when April revealed how she resented Chloe's high school treatment of her. It turns out that April is not alone as most of the town actually hates Chloe. She was the mean girl and they haven't forgiven her for that. This is Chloe's arc: redeeming herself for her past. Trying to forge new relationships with people whose bridges she had burnt down. The episode ends with everyone showing up to her party because of promise of free beer. They might not like her but at least they're willing to show up to her parties again. That's a start. She also begins to repair her relationship with her former best friend, April, but humiliating herself in front of her. The whole scene where she basically repeats her old bullying sins on herself might have been a bit cliché but the show had so much fun with it that it's difficult to at least not smile. In my opinion, this plot worked a lot better. Chloe might have been a mean girl in high school but she's perfectly likeable in the present. It's easy to root for her character's desire. While April isn't as strong as the three main characters, she does have some personality that allows the audience to want Chloe to be friends with her. I could care less about Henry's love interest arc but I'm invested to see Chloe repair her reputation. Lucinda might be bland but April has some edge that makes her interesting and funny.
The strongest plot arc actually belongs to the youngest Goodwin, Jimmy. Jimmy is a small-time criminal whose trying to get out of his old life. The primary obstacle is easy: he owes a lot of money to a dangerous criminal who is threatening all sorts of violence to his knees. It makes him desperate. He goes back to his old ways and manages to steal some skiis. Only he quickly figures out that it's hard to get away in a small town. Especially since there's basically only one bar in the town. People who witnessed his crime can easily identify him. It doesn't help that he's put face-to-face to the store owner that he had stolen from. He's made to confront the consequences of his action. This conflicts him. On the one hand, he realizes that he's done bad and might get caught. On the other hand, he's afraid for his own safety. His siblings help him out by returning the skiis and paying off a small portion of what he owes. This buys Jimmy some time but it's important the show didn't get rid of his debt. It's basically a great obstacle that keeps him from completely giving up his life of crime. An obstacle the viewers should want him to overcome because of why he's trying to be better: for his daughter. It's this father-daughter element that helps humanize him to the point where the other characters haven't been. It's a good plot but it's made the best because T.J. Miller simply sells every line.
Welcome Home, Goodwins is a good episode. The Henry plot might have been the weakest because the stakes are hard to care about but it did lead to some solid laughs. The Chloe narrative worked a lot better as her desire to redeem herself is relatable and strong. April is a solid enough character to make their whole friendship bonding work. The Jimmy plot works the best as T.J. Miller is hysterical but the plot manages to be human and more layered (father angle, confronting consequences, character's safety) than the other plots. Overall: the kind of second episode you have when you're going to have a future but a slight waste when you don't.