Associated Press                                Michelle Dockery as Letty in a scene from the TNT drama series, “Good Behavior.”

Associated Press Michelle Dockery as Letty in a scene from the TNT drama series, “Good Behavior.”

‘Downton’s’ Dockery goes bad in ‘Good Behavior’

  • Sunday, November 20, 2016 1:30am
  • Life

For her new series and character, Michelle Dockery — Lady Mary of “Downton Abbey” fame, the most superior and (let’s be honest) tiresome of the Crawley girls — has crossed the ocean, traveled forward in time (to now), become American and acquired a prison record. She’s kept some of the haughtiness that seems in some way her birthright — and the cheekbones and eyes and all that — but within a character that could otherwise not be more different from the one that dominated her professional life for six seasons.

In the smartly played, agonizingly suspenseful “Good Behavior,” which premieres Tuesday on TNT, Dockery plays Letty Raines, a con woman and thief newly on parole, but already back conning and thieving, and backsliding as well, in her attempts to stay clear of drugs and alcohol and reconnect with her young son. Terry Kinney plays her parole officer, a not untroubled soul going out of his way, and risking his career, to help her stay out of jail.

That is not, however, the main order of business. While robbing a hotel room, Letty finds herself forced to hide in a closet and overhears a conversation between a contract killer (Juan Diego Botto as Javier Pereira) and his client. Attempting to head him off at the pass, she winds up both his prisoner and his accomplice. (Details too spoilery to spill.)

In spite of some humdrum fanciness — the fast-slow alterations in camera speed, the natural desire of designers and photographers to make everything pretty — the series, which is set (so far) in South Carolina and Tennessee, is first-class Southern noir; thick with atmosphere and weather and spreading the suspense around so that most every character we meet seems either in danger or a danger. But the action stays life-sized and plausible; the talk is largely crisp, rarely overripe.

Most of what keeps Letty in Javier’s company, in the three episodes available for review, is of the “I will find you and kill you if you leave” variety. (“Yeah, I get it. You know how to train a dog,” she says when he tells her this once again.) But the characters, as characters will, also get something from each other. His life is ordered and disciplined, where hers is chaos, a constant improvisation she tries to balance with a motivational app that offers thoughts such as “I have a lot to be proud of today” and “I am the best me I can be.” (“Is this a friend of yours?” asks Javier, who is from Argentina, where self-help is possibly not so prevalent. “This woman who talks to you.”)

That is also the premise of “The Odd Couple.”

There is some basic-cable sex in it, but nothing in the early stages to suggest romance, beyond the show business physics of their mutual, comparable hotness. As the story goes on, and things go inevitably wrong, a little humor creeps in here and there; there is relief in small, beside-the-point moments.

He’s a killer, she’s a crook, and by the old laws of pop-cultural justice, both should get their comeuppance. Both might, of course, but that this is a series — based on a series of novels by Blake Crouch, adapted for television by show runner Chad Hodge, who also adapted Crouch’s “Wayward Pines” trilogy for Fox — suggests it will not be soon in coming.

At the same time, we have become accustomed to bad behavior as a dramatic engine for television shows in the nearly 20 years, if you can believe that, since “The Sopranos” debuted. And before that there were the novels of Jim Thompson and James M. Cain and Patricia Highsmith and films of the French New Wave upending and inverting the old heroic conventions.

Do we mind that they’re bad? Are they bad? What do we mean by “bad”? These are not questions that “Good Behavior” tentatively asks on our behalf.

“That’s it,” says Letty to Javier, “It’s your job, to kill people. You don’t care.”

“I care,” says Javier. But we are left to wonder what he means.

Talk to us

More in Life

Carolyn Cross repairs light strands on a flower christmas light frame at Warm Beach Camp & Conference Center on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021 in Stanwood, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
All is merry and bright at Warm Beach

The Lights of Christmas endures as one of Snohomish County’s premier holiday traditions.

Caption: Family photos like this one of the author’s grandmother give extra meaning to this family’s holiday decorations.
Memories linger like the scent of fake Christmas trees

On this family’s tree, the most important ornaments are framed photos of beloved family, especially the ones who have passed away.

The 2022 Infiniti QX60 is available in four trim levels, all with standard front-wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive. (Manufacturer photo)
Infiniti QX60 midsize SUV is all new and deluxe for 2022

An extra dash of exterior drama, upgraded interior, and new Autograph model keep QX60 in the running.

Beachcombing on London’s riverbank.
Beachcombing through London’s long history

At low tide, the banks of the Thames teem with the flotsam and jetsam of centuries gone by.

Some ways to take care of yourself during the 2021 holidays

This is such a busy time of the year! Here are some… Continue reading

Steve Smith gift ideas for gardeners
Ten gift ideas for gardeners

From puzzles to pruners, how to pick the perfect present for the green thumbs on your list.

Seven gift ideas for weathering the holiday season

Smart thermostats and portable power will be thoughtful presents — especially when energy bills and power outages hit.

Photo Caption: Francois-Xavier Lalanne often used animal motifs in his modern, minimalist sculptures. His porcelain eggcup with a chicken's head, wings and tail sold for $2,080 at Palm Beach Modern Auctions.

(c) 2021 by Cowles Syndicate Inc.
‘Pocillovy’ is the obscure hobby of collecting eggcups

It stems from Victorian times, when nearly every type of food had its own specialized dish and utensils.

Orangebark Stewartia, Stewartia monadelpha,
Great Plant Pick: Orangebark Stewartia

This tree’s stunning bark is shown to perfection when it’s planted with a backdrop of evergreens.

Most Read