The Girls on the Bus review, women power takes a ride

Carla Gugino, Melissa Benoist, Natasha Behnam, and Christina Elmore in The Girls on the Bus

The Girls on the Bus takes four different women journalists and puts them on a bus following after a candidate for President. The political aspect of the story forms the background for the central relationship between the women.

The Girls on the Bus smacks you in the face right off the bat about how the patriarchy works with the title using the word girls instead of women. Three of the women were professional journalists with bylines and experience. The fourth was a Gen Z influencer with a huge following.

The women’s parts were basic stereotypes in the beginning, but each of them was developed with character and backstory and plenty of definition.

Carla Gugino, Melissa Benoist, Natasha Behnam, and Christina Elmore in The Girls on the Bus

Sadie (Melissa Benoist) was the central character, the one who tells the story. She worked for a newspaper. Her boss, Bruce (Griffin Dunne), was a father figure for her and her chief mentor. She was the young and hopeful one in the crowd, a true believer. She often held imaginary conversations with her hero, Hunter S. Thompson (P.J. Sosko).

Three years ago Sadie had a brief fling with Malcolm (Brandon Scott). Now he’s working for one of the candidates and is strictly off limits for additional fling things. But the attraction lingers, causing problems.

Grace (Carla Gugino) is the cynical veteran of many a political campaign. Sadie admires her. During this bus trip Grace is dealing with home issues involving her daughter (Rose Jackson Smith) and her husband (Scott Cohen). She hates being distracted from her work, which always comes first, but loves her family.

Carla Gugino had lovely chemistry with the other three women. She was great at the hard boiled parts of her character, but the connection with the younger women was really beautiful.

Kimberlyn (Christina Elmore) works for a conservative TV network, even though she knows how racist her workplace is toward Black women. She marries Eric (Kyle Vincent Terry) part way into the season and then has to deal with him wanting her around more. For Kimberlyn, work is more interesting than marriage. She’s like the others in that regard.

Finally there’s the young, social media savvy Lola (Natasha Behnam). She’s full of strong opinions and righteous anger, which journalists aren’t supposed to express. She expresses. She gets romantic with Josie (Terry Hu) who works for one of the candidates.

These four should regard each other with suspicion and as nothing but competition. Yet they manage to bond. The relationships are well explored with plenty of late night drinks, teamwork, and helping hands as they struggle to find the facts about the candidates they are following. The four are real people with real problems. I cared about them all. Their performances were top notch. I enjoyed the series very much.

Between the four women they managed to include an LGBTQ relationship and a mixed race relationship, and many many many feminist takes on the world of journalism. I liked that, too.

Carla Gugino, Melissa Benoist, Natasha Behnam, and Christina Elmore in The Girls on the Bus

The political background plot went from the first Democratic primary in Iowa through the Democratic convention and the naming of the candidate for the election. The journalists had several scoops, some good leads to follow, scandals to uncover, and plenty of truths to dig out. By the time the convention rolled around, there were two left running: Hayden Wells Garrett (Scott Foley) and Felicity Walker (Hettienne Park).

The series was inspired by Amy Chozick’s book Chasing Hillary, so it would be safe to compare Felicity Walker to Hillary Clinton. The other candidates resembled known politicians, but I don’t want to try to guess which was which. It was obvious there was a Republican in the White House during the time period in the story because abortion was illegal in several states the campaign took the women through. That caused grief for one of the women.

Not all the ten episodes were directed by women, but most were. The women directors were Erica Dunton, Maggie Carey, Marta Cunningham, DeMane Davis, and Kyra Sedgwick.

The Girls on the Bus full season is streaming on Max.

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