‘No Good Nick’ Review

Netflix has an original series called No Good Nick that deals with foster care themes. I have watched part one and part two, and I wanted to give some of my personal feedback to anyone who is considering watching, especially if they are a foster or adoptive family. The show has been canceled and will not have further episodes. However, the 20 episodes that were season one could bring up some hard topics to discuss in a foster or adoptive family.

Note: This is my personal opinion and review, and it will contain spoilers.

This show is centered on the Thompson family, who is surprised by a girl named Nick showing up unannounced on their doorstep, declaring they were her long lost family and that her parents had died. She convinces them that they are responsible for her and that social services had sent her to live with them.

We are soon introduced to the “social worker” when the family tries to get more information, only to find out that the social workers are actually Nick’s foster parents. These corrupt and money-hungry foster parents are encouraging the foster children under their care to steal and run scams to make them money.

The show explores the feelings of the Thompson family, and how they deal with their new living arrangements that include a teenage Nick. Some of the family members are more open to the arrangement, while others are skeptical about the situation and not as happy to have Nick in the house.

During part two of the season, you learn there is more to the story about how Nick ended up in the Thompson household, and why she had chosen to seek revenge against this specific family.

Throughout the episodes, you will see Nick interacting with her father, who is in jail. He uses Nick to try to pay off his debts to the mob, manipulating her into committing scams for his benefit.

The show ends up with the Thompson family finally accepting Nick, just as she sets out to seek revenge on each of them. The family even discusses adoption.

While watching this show with my son, I had wished I had previewed it first. The portrayal of Nick’s foster family coercing her into running scams and splitting the profits with them was appalling. I understand that it is a show looking to get ratings, however, it seems most media representations of foster families are negative. There are a few positive shows featuring foster families (This Is Us and The Fosters to name a few), but overall, fostering is portrayed negatively most of the time. It is not often we hear positive stories centered around foster care. So, this continued negative portrayal felt a bit harsh to me, as a former foster parent, and one who has adopted children from foster care.

The title also seemed to be a hard title to swallow. No Good Nick definitely gives the impression that the lead character, Nick, is not a “good” child. You are set up to feel as though she is nothing but trouble from the very title of the show. Really, Nick is a hurt girl who just misses her family. She was given a hard path in life, with an incarcerated father, and a mother who has passed away. She is paying for the mistakes her father made and making some poor choices along the way. But, deep down, Nick cares for those around her and feels guilty for her actions. While she may pull some crazy stunts in an attempt to help out her father and please her foster parents along the way, she also tries to protect those she cares about at times. She is conflicted because she begins to feel like the Thompsons are her family, as she struggles with wanting to hurt them like they had unintentionally hurt her.

The feeling of uncertainty that the Thompsons feel when Nick arrives is sometimes how families who foster feel when a new placement arrives. There are times when not everyone is on board with the new placement, and some family members find it more difficult than others to have a stranger suddenly staying in their home. In the beginning, Liz (Melissa Joan Hart) and her son Jeremy (Kalama Epstein) are a bit more hesitant to accept Nick (Siena Agudong) when she arrives. Jeremy is the most skeptical and works hard to prove Nick isn’t who she says she is. Molly (Lauren Lindsey Donzis) and Ed (Sean Astin) are more accepting and want to help Nick. Because the family doesn’t agree, there are some hard-to-watch conversations. At least, hard to watch for anyone who has been in the foster care system or who has fostered. Some of these scenes that show the family’s split feelings and the debates they have about whether Nick should stay or go could be very triggering for a child who has been placed in foster care. While I feel that some of this can be comparable to real life and valid, it can also be very difficult to watch.

It was also interesting to watch how Nick went from manipulative and fake to sometimes genuine and concerned when interacting with the Thompson family. At one point, Nick learns a secret about Jeremy. She knows that Jeremy was not happy she was living with them for some time, yet she decided to keep Jeremy’s secret. She does still have some malicious and cruel plots to hurt Jeremy, however, she recognizes the importance of Jeremy sharing his secret on his terms and doesn’t use the secret to hurt him. It is a nice moment and shows that Nick had begun having some favorable and familial feelings toward Jeremy and the rest of the Thompson family.

You get to watch Nick struggle with her desire to help her incarcerated father and to enact revenge on the Thompson family for the role she believes they played in her father’s downfall. It is interesting to see her internal struggle and to see how she handles her feelings of anger, as well as feelings of being a bonded and accepted member of the family.

You also see the Thompsons realize that their willingness to help each other has consequences that they didn’t foresee. While they may not see the harm in doing things for each other, they did indeed cause another family to struggle. They learn that even good intentions can have negative consequences. This is a good lesson for them, and for viewers.

While watching the show, I couldn’t help but be struck by the loyalty Nick feels toward her incarcerated father, and how far she is willing to go to help him. Even when he has lied to her several times, and put her in some precarious situations, she is still very devoted to helping him. So devoted in fact, that she is willing to commit crimes and hurt the people she has come to love.

I also think this is something that we see in real life. As foster parents, we have seen many kids unwavering in their loyalty to their biological family. Kids often feel they will betray their family if they like their foster home, and so they purposefully hurt those around them so nobody becomes attached. Even if their parents fail to call or show up for visitations, oftentimes, the child will defend them and forgive them. Children can be easily manipulated by their biological families because they are eager to please them. Not to imply that all biological families do this to kids in foster care, but it does happen sometimes.

Nick is quick on her feet and able to talk her way out of most situations. She comes close to getting caught in lies and scams several times. Not only by the Thompsons, but also by her scam artist foster parents. The foster parents go out of their way to help her avoid being caught by the Thompsons, but also use manipulation to get Nick to continue giving them money. When Nick turns her focus to her father and doesn’t give her foster parents a cut of some of the money she gets, they become quite angry and threatening. They even send another foster child in to spy on Nick to prove that she owes them money.

Overall, I think this show had some entertainment value. There are some pretty silly situations that are the result of scams gone wrong. It is entertaining to see how Nick gets herself out of some tight spots. Some of the plot is so outrageous that it is impossible not to have a laugh at it.

However, this show could be very triggering for foster children and families. The first few episodes were particularly rough when the Thompsons are deciding what to do about Nick showing up on their doorstep. These first episodes could make a foster child feel very unwelcome and worried about their placement. However, for families, it may show some truth to the behind-the-scenes conversations that occur when a difficult placement arrives and the whole family doesn’t agree on what to do. Many foster families have dealt with challenging placements and situations where the family does not agree on what to do.

I enjoyed the relationship between the siblings. Whereas Jeremy was the one to oppose Nick staying for most of the season and had serious doubts about her identity, he eventually came around. Of course, just as he decided to embrace Nick, his sister Molly decides that she is now skeptical. The roles switch, and there is always someone who is less than thrilled to have Nick around.  This back and forth between Jeremy and Molly was interesting to watch. It was fun to see how Nick handled it as well. She always seemed to be one step ahead of the Thompson kids.

One of my favorite moments comes near the end of part two, when Ed expresses his desire to adopt Nick. He doesn’t realize that Nick has taken an interest in his job as a way to develop an elaborate plan to rob the bank. He just thinks that Nick is truly interested in what he does, and he bonds to Nick during her time with him at the bank. He begins to think of Nick as his own, which is very much the way foster parenting can feel. Foster parents often begin to love and bond with the children they foster. However, adoption isn’t always the goal and is always second to reunification if possible.

When Nick realizes how much Ed has grown to love her, she begins to feel guilty for her plans to sabotage the family. She is able to carry out revenge plans on all of the Thompsons, with the exception of Ed. However, even though she didn’t plan to involve Ed in her plan to rob the bank, he is still arrested and blamed for the robbery. At this point, Nick feels real remorse. That true feeling of guilt that she hurt someone was a big moment. Nick goes from having little to no conscience to being a relatable kid.

At the end of part two, you see a side of Ed that hadn’t been shown before. He is incredibly hurt by Nick’s actions, and even when he is met with the whole truth of why she targeted them, he finds it hard to forgive Nick. Even when the others in the family are trying to be understanding of her motives and want to give Nick another chance, Ed is too hurt and not ready.

Nick decides she should leave.

Having a foster child run away is something many foster families deal with, myself included. I could relate to the shock and worry felt by the family when Nick chooses to run away. Even when you are feeling angry or upset toward someone, you can still worry and be concerned for them. The emotions are conflicting but very real. So, when a foster child has been making things difficult at home and decides to run away, emotions shift quickly to that of worry and concern instead of anger. It is a moment when you realize how much you truly care, and how invested you are in the relationship. This is true for the show as well as in real life.

I would suggest that if you are a foster parent, or if you have adopted a child from foster care that you preview this show, No Good Nick, before allowing your kids to see it. If you feel they can handle it, it may be something you can watch together and talk about some of the more difficult topics that are brought up in the show (disagreements, parental loyalty, manipulation, love, bonding, and family).

 

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