I didn’t expect to like Good Trouble as much as I do.
Like so many other queer women, I was heartbroken at the loss of The Fosters — this show that modeled love and partnership in a way we long to experience it — and was a little annoyed that this shiny new thing would come to take its place. I’m about 40 minutes into Good Trouble before it starts to feel less like a replacement and more like a continuation of everything I held dear with The Fosters. It takes less than two episodes before I start to wholly embrace these new characters and recognize how they reflect part of my own story and the story of the ever changing world around me.
They cover a lot of stories on Good Trouble. In the season finale alone, they tackle police brutality, judicial misconduct, ethics, #MeToo, pay equity, intellectual property rights, death, grief, mental health, homelessness and homophobia. And while I’ve criticized the show for taking on too much at once, the substance of it has been uniformly good. Good Trouble is telling stories about young adults more authentically than anyone else is doing on television. Case and point:
At the Coterie, it’s Meera and Sumi’s wedding day and things are abuzz. Despite their surprise that it’s all still happening, Joey and Alice are working together to get everything set up. Sumi calls out to Alice for help and when she comes, she finds Sumi standing in her loft in her wedding dress. The beauty of it all takes Alice’s breathe away for a second but before they can really talk about the issues between them, Alice is called away to deal with another wedding issue. But soon after she sends another vendor to the Coterie rooftop, who walks into the foyer but Alice’s parents, carrying an engagement present for Sumi.
A comedy of errors follows. But while it’s played for laughs here — and it is very funny — something about it hits close to the bone.
Staying closeted isn’t just one secret or one lie, it’s multiple. What starts as a lie about how you feel about other girls/women multiplies into lies about all sorts of things… where you were, who you were with, what you were doing. You mask your real relationships, you pretend your friendships with men are more than they are or you just invent imaginary boyfriends entirely. Part of being closeted is lying so you do it… not once, not twice… you lie a lot. You don’t even realize how often you do it, you just do it…anything to preserve the secret.
So when Alice’s parents arrives, Alice lies. And when Sumi nearly comes into the foyer in her gown, she lies again. Then, when Joey approaches them, she lies. She lies about Joey’s name and she lies about why Joey’s there. When Sumi re-emerges, her presence contradicting the previous lie that Alice told, she pivots to a different lie. Alice tells so many lies in such rapid succession that she can’t even keep up. Anything to preserve the secret.
The next day, after the wedding inevitably falls apart, Joey returns to Alice’s loft to talk about their relationship. It’s not working for her anymore, Joey says, before asking about the two specific lies Alice told her parents about her: that her name was Joanna and that she lived at the Coterie. Alice barely remembers those lies and claims they’re just what flew out. But Joey has a different theory and she calls Alice out on her internalized homophobia.
“I think I know why: it’s cause I look gay so if I’m your friend, you’re guilty by association, whereas Sumi passes as straight so it was never an issue,” Joey posits. She continues over Alice’s objections, “I don’t think that the problem is just that you’re not out to your parents, you’re not out to yourself. You’re not at peace with being gay and that’s way scarier… because if you can’t accept yourself, how can you accept me?”
Joey leaves Alice with a lot to think about… which she does eating unused wedding cake and drinking on the rooftop with her fellow Coterie members. In that moment, she seems to realize what she has there: a found family who enriches her life on a daily basis. Knowing that whatever happens, those people — Malika, Davia, Mariana, Callie and Gael — will be there to support her gives her the courage to finally come out to her parents.
She attempts to just make a late night phone call but when her mother opts for Facetime, she’s staring at her parents, a tear running down her cheek, dreading their reaction to the secret she’s been keeping. She stammers a bit and her mother interjects.
“Did Sumi get married? Is that why you are crying?” her mother asks. “Is your heart broken?”
“Why would my heart be broken?” Alice responds.
“Because, you loved her,” her father answers plainly. This, in case you were wondering, is the point at which I tear up and so does Alice.
Alice is stunned. All this time… all these lies… they’ve always known. Alice’s parents have known about her sexuality for years but they’ve been waiting for Alice to tell them herself. They affirm their love for her and let her know the dreams they’ve had for her — that she’ll find love, get married and give them grandchildren — still exist. It’s a beautiful note on which to end Alice’s season one arc.
And now, back by popular demand:
The Men Are Trash (But Sometimes Not) Leaderboard: Good Trouble Finale Edition
The Good Trouble finale takes an exceedingly long time to reveal to us that Dennis is alive and I felt every minute of the anxious wait for news. Eventually, he reaches out to Davia, who’s been frantically trying to find him, and let’s her know that he’s okay. At his lowest point, Dennis realized that he’d be doing a disservice to his son’s memory — a son who fought so valiantly to stay alive following his cancer diagnosis — if he took his own life, so instead, he checked himself into a mental health facility.
When she visits, Davia assures Dennis that there are people who care about him and who’d have a void in their lives if he wasn’t there anymore…and, for once, it seems like Dennis truly believes it.
Raj’s stock took a little tumble last week when he voiced some skepticism about Evan’s intentions in pursuing Mariana’s new app idea. But, this week, we discover that he really was only interested in protecting Mariana. Then, when the women of Speckulate have their Spartacus moment, Raj joins them — standing up and claiming responsibility for hacking HR — and nearly gets fired for his efforts.
Recognizing a good thing when she has it (TAKE A LESSON, CALLIE!), Mariana ends the workday with Raj atop the Speckulate building and the pair share their first kiss (modeling consent in the process!). #MARAJ
Jamie is like the good angel on your shoulder: always offering that sage advice that you really should listen to but, ultimately, never do. He’s right to counsel Callie on her obligations as a lawyer and to Judge Wilson, in particular, but, at the same time, it seems like the advice that anyone who knew Callie Adams Foster would know not to give Callie Adams Foster, right? His insistence on ethics above all else might make him a good fit at his white-shoe law firm but it makes him a terrible match for Callie.
(It’s telling that when someone sends her a copy of the officer’s personnel files, Callie chooses to talk to herself — in one of the best directed scenes of Good Trouble‘s first season — rather than to retreat the legal cocoon that Callie and Jamie started in when they first reconnected this season.)
↔️ Dom (Previously unranked)
After their mother suffers an aneurysm that leaves her with no discernible brain activity, Dom and Malika sit together at the hospital, trying to come to grips with their loss. Malika encourages him to let his mother go, rather than keep her dependent on ventilators, but Dom initially refuses, accusing his sister of being happy about the situation. Not a good start for Dom but I’m going to chalk it up to his grief.
While Dom isn’t nearly as supportive of Malika in her grief as she is of him in his, at least in the end, he’s willing to show up for her as a brother.
I had high hopes for not-Dro but when Jamal’s anti-black woman screed turned up online, it was clear that Malika only had the emotional wherewithal to support one black man with a history of anti-blackness at a time. I wanted him to fight more for their relationship but, instead, he just left.
But not-Dro makes his way back to the Coterie this week, to support Malika at a moment when she needs support the most.
↔️ Evan (Previously unranked)
I really, really want to believe that Evan’s a good guy — and I do buy that he knew nothing about Speckulate’s pay inequity — but there’s an increasing amount of evidence (however circumstantial) that he’s not. I hope that we get to meet Amanda next season to get more insight into Evan’s true nature.
↔️ Ben (Previously unranked)
For a moment, it looked like Ben was going to show some real compassion for Callie having lost her spot as the clerk for the Jamal Thompson case but NOPE…Ben is only ever concerned about Ben.
There really was no where for Jeff to go but up…but he shows back up at the Coterie this week with news: he’s finally left his wife. But the revelation might be too little, too late, as Davia’s decided to stay in LA, get her master’s degree in teaching and — maybe, possibly, hopefully — explore these feelings she has for Dennis.
This show really wants me to be invested in the love triangle between Callie, Jamie and Gael, even going so far as set it to a tango (a la Moulin Rouge), but I’m just…not. I mean, sure, Jamie’s a little milquetoast (especially for Callie) but the intensity of her relationship with Gael is just exhausting. I can’t really invest either way.
What really bothered me about Gael this week was the way he just sat there in the Speckulate staff meeting…sure, he’s not an engineer like Raj or the women of the Byte Club, but, surely, he could have done something to show some solidarity in that moment. Two of his fellow Latinx co-workers — one of whom he lives with — have exposed this injustice and instead of joining their fight for racial and gender pay equity, Gael just sits there.
Maybe you aren’t right for Callie either, Gael
↔️ Josh (previously unranked)
Mariana did it: she changed the culture at Speckulate and the change started with Evan getting rid of Josh. He was finally ousted from his position after it became clear he was responsible for perpetuating the pay inequity at Speckulate and several women came forward and admitted that Josh tried to kiss them.
That’s a wrap on season one of Good Trouble. Thanks for enjoying this first season with me. Take a few months to catch your breath because Good Trouble will be back soon enough: it returns for its second season on June 18.