Monday, July 15, 2013

The Goodwin Games

The Goodwin Games
Episode 7: The Box
The Season Finale
By: Carlos Uribe

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

Spoilers Ahoy!

The season of The Goodwin Games ends without revealing who won the titular games. I guess there's always the slim chance FOX goes crazy and orders another season but that's doubtful. The ratings simply aren't there for this surprisingly brilliant comedy. The Box is a good episode for the show to end on as it delivers just the right balance of cheese and comedy. All three of the characters get their own version of a happy ending that doesn't create any real cliff-hanger. There is no real sense of closure. It's pretty obvious that the producers of the show were hoping that the Goodwin Games would air in the spring, break out, and get renewed. That sadly didn't happen. This is the final episode and while it works fine as a season finale, it barely passes as a series finale. The closure is minimal, the plot arcs only barely concluded, but there's the lingering sense that there is more to the story. Who wins the games? We'll never know. I'm going to go with they all share the inheritance because that's exactly the kind of trick their dad would play on them. Who is Elijah? We'll never know as he doesn't even appear this week. Will Jimmy ever officially be a part of his father's life? Will Chloe finish college? Will Henry break up with his fiance and get back together with Lucinda? All of these questions have obvious answers but we'll never know for sure because the Goodwin Games couldn't have time to explore them. In other words, there's no closure because the big questions remain unanswered. There's a lingering sense there's more because the games never officially conclude. There is no real cliff-hanger but the plot arcs that get concluded this week are only of a temporary sense. I sincerely doubt Chloe and Ivan were meant as a permanent couple. It's always felt too much like a temporary relationship that helps Chloe to fight for what she wants rather than giving up when it's too easily. The Box concludes the first and final season but it doesn't come close to finishing the series. Which is too bad because it's the only ending we got.

The ending for Henry is actually the strongest one of them all. He's been working too hard for the whole season that it's been a great recurring gag. It's helpful that he's admitted that he's such a workaholic because he's hoping to avoid dealing with the death of his father. It's gotten to the point where he's so overworked that he can barely think straight. He's tired out but he refuses to stop because it would mean grieving. His worst nightmare comes true when he's forced to take time off from the hospital. He fights this by trying to claim that his father is behind his leave of absence before he's forced to admit the truth to himself. He needs one to properly process the death of his dad. So he stops working and he starts to go through the box of his father's stuff. It is frankly a great moment to end on: Henry finally being able to admit that his father is no longer with him. He's moved on from the denial stage of grief to the depressed part. It sucks but we all have to go through with it when we lose someone. That the episode managed to maintain Henry as one of it's funniest characters even as it was allowing him to have surprising emotional depth is a sign of how well-crafted the Goodwin Games turned out to be. If the series had come back, there is no doubt it would have used the fact that he had to go to Lucinda in order to get the box back as a sign that they belong together. She did know him well enough not to give stuff away first.

I'd say Chloe gets the second strongest ending because it fits her arc. She finds out that the reason she has a magical parking spot is because her lawyer keeps placing orange cones to save her the spot. She gets it into her head that her dad is trying to control her life from beyond the grave to the point where Ivan might only be dating her because he set her up with it. She lets this sabotage their dates together to the point where she breaks up with him. When she finally realizes how paranoid she's being, she finds that he won't just take her back. She can chose to give up easily or she can chose to preserve. She picks the latter as she shows up at Ivan's house to kiss him. Here's the reason I don't think this plot is that strong: I don't think Chloe gives up as easily as the show wants us to believe. Let's face it: she's been a struggling actress for years. Nobody who goes into acting and stays with it for a period is one who gives up at the first sign that it might be hard. On the other hand, that might also explain why she hasn't had any breakthrough in her careers. She might have skipped some auditions because there was a roadblock that could have led to her breakthrough performance. That might work but it does require me to connect the dots which I shouldn't have to do. I shouldn't have to justify the narrative to myself by connecting plot holes. I guess being with Ivan isn't such a bad place to end up but it's not one I would have preferred. I didn't really care that much about him and it's not like the two had a lot of sexual chemistry. If anything, they were only together because of their past together rather than any real love. So, yeah: happy ending but one that doesn't leave me satisfied.

The character with the least satisfying ending is Jimmy. We don't get anything with his daughter, who grounds his character. We deal instead with April, whose ashamed to sleep with him even as she can't stop. Henry finds out about the two but he eventually gets over it. The two are together at the end but April isn't terribly proud of herself. That's basically it. Really? That's the ending we get for Jimmy? He's with someone whose disappointed in herself for being with him? I'd say this plot would make more sense if the whole plot was about her accepting that she wants to be with Jimmy. It isn't. It's how she tries to end things even as they keep sleeping together. Which is something that numerous other shows have handled better. I'll admit I was proven wrong a bit by my prediction from the previous episode as we do at least get some development but it's still feels like this relationship is only just beginning to be covered. Oh, well, at least Jimmy got the funniest lines in the episode. If anything. The Goodwin Games is a great example of how talented T.J. Miller is as he kept stealing the show with his odd character.

The Goodwin Games presented a short season that should have been longer. It was funny, it had a lot of heart, and I grew to actually anticipate watching the next episode. It's a comedy that could have possibly made it if it had a chance. It's wasted airing on the summer where it had no opportunity to really attract an audience. I definably feel like it could have had a chance of breaking out. The plot was a bit high-concept and it dragged down the first couple of episodes but it was all uphill from there. The individual character arcs were strong, the heart was there, and it was surprisingly funny considering how little time it had to develop. I could see that it's premise and general tone might lead to the perception that mainstream audiences might have a hard time connecting with the show but surely it could have done better than the repeats the network was airing. Even if not, they could have made more money than they did as it would have attracted more people. In other words: the Goodwin Games deserved a real run. The finale of the Goodwin Games was a strong finish to what turned out to be a really good comedy.

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