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Good Behavior - The Ballad of Little Santino - Review: "Juan Diego Botto's Time to Shine" + POLL

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The Ballad of Little Santino was written by Brett Johnson and directed by Phil Abraham, both of these skilled creators brought to life one of the strongest episodes of Good Behavior yet in conjunction with an award-worthy performance from Juan Diego Botto. This was his episode. It was glorious.

There are so many things I want to say. Immediately after watching this episode, I had to catch my breath. It was one of the most intense and poignant pieces of TV I watched this fall (along with Westworld and This Is Us). It's the sort of the episode that leaves your heart racing and immediately wanting to watch the next installment.

We begin the episode with Javier sending Letty to purchase a nonstolen outfit to meet his family in after she asks for more food. Whilst she finds the nicest store, Javier meets up with Chase from the first episode in the parking lot of the mall. What starts with Chase venting to Javier about his guilt and his inability to follow the script leads to accusations and like most allegations, shots fired. In order to save himself, Javier reacted to Chase pulling out the gun in his most uncalculated move yet. Juan Diego Botto was brilliant in this scene, his dark demeanor was magnetic. Equally strong was Waleed Zuaiter's performance as Chase as he became undid with guilt, written so thoroughly over his face. I guess it's karma in a way, you can't get away with having a hand in your wife's death and expect to walk away unscathed.

After the blood was splattered, Javier picks up Letty and they flee the crime scene to the restaurant. One quick note, as Letty is getting ready to meet Javier’s parents, the use of that mirror which comprised of multiple vertical fragments pieced together was not only a visual statement but was a sort of reflection of Letty's personas that was so complimentary to the shot.

“This shit is international”

Meanwhile, as private chef Javier prepares dinner, an argument unfurls between Letty and Javier on how she'll present herself, with or without her wig. Long story short, I loved how Letty sort of explained how each look works in a whole, neither can be altered to fit another. Like our personality, if we try to be something were not, it feels out of place, a sort of fake copy and we all know Letty admires only the highest quality of products. It's fascinating to watch her express how each look is significant to her, she’s created these unique individuals, separated from one another through various stylistic choices and mannerisms. They are perfected so that she can be seen but never discovered unless she allows someone to peel back the layers. Letty, like Javier, is methodical in her costuming whilst he is in his plans for an attack. On a side note, the cinematography of the food and it's arrangement on the plate was divine, Javier could be on Top Chef with dishes like those.

We continued to see a darker Javier, one we hadn't seen in a while. Letty's constant questioning about his family and past where the time ticking down on a bomb. Javier's nerves on his family returning coupled with the aftermath of the shooting resulted in him setting Letty straight. For the longest time Javier didn't pry in Letty's life, so in a sense, he assumed the same respect would be extended to him until he was ready to share his backstory.

The shooting of Chase didn't go according to plan, it wasn't the smartest move but was a do or die act, that in of itself is a dangerous one, as the outcomes aren't easily orchestrated. Javier also highlighted a good point, that he never questioned Letty on her past before, perhaps because he didn't want to know but perhaps also as he respected her privacy and knew that when the time arose, she'd share what she needed too. These two characters are both lost, lonely islands and if something affects the one, you’d assume it has a similar effect on the other. Letty might be a bit freer with her past but there are things she's not spoken off too. Plus, having not seen his parents and family since 16, his nerves were getting the best of him. Throughout this scene and the entire episode, Juan Diego Botto's eyes were utterly expressive, you could see his frustration and emotion so evidently, the camera was drawn to it like a moth to a flame.

“There are no lies in my family, they know I’m a thief. Do they know what you do?”

When we finally met Javier's family, just seeing his face glow with joy was a sight to behold. The way he embraced his mother whom he hadn't seen since he was 16 was one of the most genuine encounters I've seen. Truly a testament to the love and raw emotion Juan brings to the screen. The simple instrumental score woven into the scene was the perfect combination as the reunion filled with love set the stage. Such a breathtakingly stunning moment of affection and a showcase of love family can have.

“Reminds me of your brother. When I first met him, I had no idea what he did and then I found his knives and I realized he was a chef”

Learning about Santino and Javier's childhood was completely heartbreaking but hearing Javier's father talk about it, so cold and devoid of love was horrifying. Seeing the tears well up in Javier’s eyes as he tried to defend himself, 
“I was teaching him how to light a fire” whilst his father disregarded him and made him into a violent murderer was horrible. For a father to blame his son for little Santino's death was deplorable, especially as he was only a child but also because his father overexaggerated the truth. Children do stupid things, sometimes when a sibling doesn't listen they do something unexpected to get attention, why else do young children scream in the store for a toy or candy from their parents when they don't get their way. To say your child is a monster, that he used a rock to hit his brother in the head, like some sort of assassin, when it was, in fact, a pebble to get him to not start a forest fire is an unforgivable act. What kind of example does one set by doing that? Children, even at 16, are highly impressionable, to sew such thoughts in one's mind is unconducive. Even more so was his isolated life since 16, being alone, a boy in such a world without a guide, one can only imagine how easy it is to get pulled into the wrong current. We begin life so innocent. Like blank canvases, we yearn to be painted upon so that we can add color to the world. Our parents are the most influential in our development, molding us like clay, into the structures we are to be. The lack of understanding from Javier's father shaped the man he is today. My heart wanted to break, like I would assume many of yours were too, looking at Javier’s face. The way his father spoke to him and blamed him, so blatantly, was a lot to observe.

Now we truly understand why Javier has avoided his family for so long, the memory of his youngest brother being brought up as a weapon of destruction, to shatter the family once more after reconciliation, that is, in fact, the act of a monster. Only a monster would have their own son-in-law held at gunpoint coercing him to divulge a secret in order to live or hit his own nephew to serve a point in his story.

Post dinner, as the family scatters itself, Javier’s sister's act of holding his face, like a mother to a child, pleading with him to say he didn't kill people for a living was one of the most emotional things between a brother and sister I saw this fall season on TV. That goodbye scene was a painful sight to see, you could see how much it hurt both of them, how Javier was falling further into nothingness. She was the last piece of his humanity in a sense, her daughters brought happiness to him, to have that kept from him was extinguishing a flame that needed to be lit to survive. MarĂ­a Botto was amazing in this scene with Juan Diego Botto, both powerful in their execution.

Throughout this episode, never once did Juan Diego Both falter, this was his finest performance in Good Behavior so far. It was the true mark of a talented actor, he handled every scene with the emotion and depth it needed. I've continuously been impressed with how he handles everything he's been given so far on the show, Michelle and Juan are one of the most engaging and duplicitously delish duos on TV right now. The final shot, the way Javier leans on Letty's shoulder helpless and broken exemplifies their relationship and it's ever evolving nature.

“Go take the car. I don’t need it.”
“I will and I’ll take you.”

Thank you again for reading my long review, please take to the comments to share your thoughts, no matter the length. Did you enjoy the episode? What are your thoughts? Don't forget to tune in next Tuesday at 9|8c on TNT for another new episode of TNT's best new drama, I honestly was taken by this show and I hope more people are, it's an amazing show that balances comedy and drama perfectly that is not only highlighting how fantastic Michelle Dockery is but shining a spotlight on how talented Juan Diego Botto is.

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