Monday, June 17, 2013

The Goodwin Games

The Goodwin Games
Episode 4: The Hamletta
By: Carlos Uribe

The Goodwin Games is about three siblings who compete for their inheritance and get closer as a family.

Spoilers Ahoy!

How much support should a family provide to it's members?

If you ask Jimmy, the world is a harsh place. He's fallen into a life of crime, gone to prison, and is into debt with a dangerous criminal. It's a harsh cycle for him as he struggles to get out of it. He thinks that the world will tear you down because it has no mercy. He thinks that the family should be there to provide complete and total support to it's members. He constantly lies to Chloe because he wants to be there for her. She's a terrible actress but he lies to spare her feelings. He lies because he knows it's her dream and he wants to support her as she pursues it. He doesn't tell Chloe that her high school icon, the reason she became an actress, was a pervert who only casted her because he wanted to have sex with her. He tries his best to protect her until she finally forces him to tell her the truth. He admits that he thinks she's a terrible actress in the end which leads to her trying to prove that she'll only find happiness as an actress. Only she realizes that the way she's proved it is by using a complex mathematical formula that she had a great time crafting. Her real passion, and talent, has always been in math. She simply got suckered into believing that she could be the most famous movie star in the world. This promise of fame led her away from academia and towards a career path where she would be recognized for playing a mutilated dead body on CSI. Jimmy's blind support of his sister has led to her wasting years of her life on a career that never had a chance of actually taking off. It was only when he voiced his opinion that she finally admitted she was living a fantasy. It's odd because Jimmy's unconditional support is often supported by a lot of family shows and yet it's slightly criticized by this episode as being unpractical.

This isn't to suggest it doesn't want you to support a family member. Jimmy presents unconditional support because of how he understandably views the world. Henry is a character whose had everything handed to him. He has good looks, he's smart, and he has a successful fiance. His relationship with his fiance might not be the strongest but he's had a successful career as a doctor. He's managed to make it life without a lot of effort. He thinks that the world is an easy place, where people won't tell you the harsh truth. He thinks that it's family's place to lay out harsh reality to it's members because nobody else will. That's why he's the first person to actually tell Chloe that she's not a very good actress. She tries her best to prove him wrong. He's right that she's wasting his time but the way he approaches it only pushes Chloe away from the truth. She becomes desperate to prove that she actually has promise to become an actress. She finds her old high school drama teacher, breaks into the school theater, and tries her best to ignore the conclusion when he falls from her pedestal. Henry has no support for his sister which is what generates a lot of the conflict in this episode. Unconditional opposition is clearly not the answer. If anything, the answer lies somewhere in the middle between willing to support a family member but still be willing to tell them the truth when they need to hear it. It's a hard balance to approach.

As for Daddy Goodwin? He's allowed Chloe to pursue her dream of acting when he was alive. Now that he's dead, he changes his tune. He sets out a surprise for Chloe through the games. The surprise? He has enrolled her in the local university to pursue a degree in mathematics. He wants her to fulfill her potential as a mathematician. He makes it a condition that she must give up her career in acting if she wants her inheritance. It's interesting to note how his game doesn't convince her but it's rather her attempt to prove to everyone that she should be actress. It's only when her last supporter, Jimmy, reveals that he doesn't think that she's fitted to be an actress that she finally decides to enter academia. Daddy Goodwin was willing to support his daughter until he thought that she was finally ready to hear the truth. When he finally had the leverage to make her listen. It's a bit manipulative but it worked. Chloe gives up on her dream to become an actress and we see the narrative actually continue a bit. This is the first episode since the pilot that actually feels like it's important to the natural development of the characters and the narrative. The games don't play a large role within the actual structure of the episode but it did act as the key that turned the narrative on. Now if we can only have Henry face the truth about his fiance and if Jimmy can learn to make a living for himself and this season might just have an arc after all.

The Hamletta is a pretty good and funny episode of the Goodwin Games. It had a great central question on it's core on how much support should a family provide. It argues from the two extreme sides before subtly using Daddy Goodwin as a sort-of moderate approach. Sure, he might have blackmailed her to give up her acting career but he still presented the option there for her to take. He might have stopped supporting her in the episode but he was willing to allow her the chance to achieve her dreams before pushing her towards math. Overall: a must-watch for what has turned out to be a comedy that I really wish would have a second season. Oh well, at least Scott Foley can now be a regular on Scandal so that's always the silver lining.

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