This is a Good Trouble season 3A finale recap. Mild spoilers below.
It’s hard for me to watch ensemble shows.
I have a tendency to gravitate to a few characters while growing to loathe a few others. I’ll devour storylines featuring the characters I care about — especially the ones who reflect some part of myself back at me — while begrudgingly sitting through (or, let’s be honest, fast-forwarding through) the storylines featuring characters I don’t. Coming into Good Trouble, the likelihood of this show falling into that trap seemed inevitable: after all, but for this show being a spin-off of The Fosters — an extension of the lives of Callie and Mariana Adams Foster — I might not have watched in the first place. They were the characters I cared about…and I couldn’t imagine caring for this ragtag bunch of folks at their intentional living community as much. Surely, there’d be someone I’d want to fast-forward through.
But, as I sat through last night’s midseason finale, I realized that Good Trouble had surpassed all my expectations. I cared about all of them. I wanted Alice and Mariana to find success in their respective careers. I wanted Davia and Malika to let themselves be happy…even if it wasn’t in the future they’d imagined for themselves previously. I wanted Alice to get the girl and for Callie to stop worrying so much about the boys. I wanted Gael to get out from under the thumb of his abusive boss. I wasn’t begrudgingly sitting through any storyline, I was rapt through all of them. Every. Single. Storyline.
Good Trouble has hit its stride this season: not just because it’s found a way to make everyone’s storylines compelling — though it has — but because the show’s writers have found a way to achieve balance in their storytelling. From the outset, I worried about the show “endeavoring to tell more stories than the show has time to tell well” and this year, they’ve really found that balance. Not a second of the midseason finale feels wasted or unnecessary…and while a lot happens (A LOT) it never feels like too much. The show’s writers also found a tonal balance this season: remaining committed to addressing the serious issues that have been Good Trouble‘s hallmark while not allowing it to eclipse the heart of the show. It was a damn good hour of television in what has been the show’s best season yet. In fact, as soon as it was over, I wanted to do two things: 1. watch it again and 2. fire off some tweets to Freeform asking them to return new episodes of Good Trouble to my television ASAP.
Alice shows up to the CBTV workshop and is surprised to see Ruby there. She reiterates her interest in talking about Alice’s text and promises that they’ll do it soon. Alice settles in as Scott sets the stage for the day’s activities: a run-through for their upcoming showcase in front of the diversity program’s most famous alum, Margaret Cho. Alice is thrilled about the prospect of performing for her idol but then Derek wonders aloud how Margaret will react to their “Alice the Dumb Asian” sketch and, all of a sudden, all of Alice’s enthusiasm is gone.
They run through the sketches: Derek, an Indian comedian, does his “Great Al Qaeda Baking Show” sketch, Lindsay mocks the use of pronouns in their sketch and then Alice takes the stage with her fellow comedians for “Alice the Dumb Asian.” The audience, including Margaret and Ruby, break out in riotous laughter throughout the performance but, inside, Alice hates every second of it…and is dispirited to see her comedic hero laughing so hard at jokes she finds offensive.
After the run-through, Margaret approaches Alice and tells her she’s funny. It’s high praise for the young comedienne who kept Notorious C.H.O. on a continuous loop when she was nine. Margaret extends an offer to provide Alice with advice or answer any questions she might have and Alice takes advantage of the opportunity immediately. She asks Margaret if they made her lean into being Asian when she was in the program too. Margaret admits that things were worse when she participated but because they were allowed to write their own material, they leaned into the stereotypes for themselves. That confuses Alice — why play to stereotypes at all if you don’t have to — but Margaret points out that they did.
“It’s what the network wanted. And we wanted money and agents,” Margaret explains. “When you make it, you can change things, but your one job now is to play the game and get past the gatekeepers.”
But the dynamics have shifted: Margaret Cho’s made it, she’s no longer trying to get past the gatekeepers… so why, Alice questions, isn’t she helping to change what it takes to play the game? Before Margaret can answer, Scott pulls her away to talk to the rest of the workshop participants.
Later, at the Coterie, Alice and her fellow comedians are eating pizza, drinking and lamenting the state of the program. Everyone has the same complaint: they’re tired of putting this “stereotypical bullshit” out in the world. The alcohol’s flowing so everyone’s feeling a bit more combative than usual so they all agree to take their power back. But the next day, when everyone’s sober and they’re back in the real world, forced to play the game, not everyone’s still spoiling for a fight…even after Shaun is dismissed from the program. Only thing? No one told Alice.
She doesn’t understand why Shaun had to be cut or why fear and money are being used as motivation in the program. Alice voices the group’s frustrations about performing racist and transphobic sketches and insists that if they’re going to be forced to perform jokes about their identities, they should be the people writing them. Scott criticizes Alice as being part of the “PC police” and insists that jokes are meant to provoke. Alice pushes back — old stereotypes aren’t provocative, they’re lazy — but Scott reminds all of them what’s at stake: a Saturday Night Live test and a $70k talent deal. He asks the group if anyone else has a problem with the material and, unsurprisingly, they all stay silent.
“You know, we don’t need to do this program at all. We’re just doing it so that you get the opportunity, And I’m sorry, Alice, if you don’t want it, you can leave.”
And then, with her mentor, her comedic hero and her would-be girlfriend sitting by and saying nothing, Alice leaves… her integrity in tact but her future in comedy very, very much in doubt.
Here’s how the rest of the residents of the Coterie ended the first half of Good Trouble‘s third season:
Callie: Lots of developments on the personal and professional fronts for Callie this week. Professionally, Kathleen Gale and her three associates step into the courtroom with just enough information to secure a two week continuance in their murder case. But before Kathleen can present the case, the FBI steps in and arrests her for witness tempering. Kathleen taps Callie to handle the motion which she does with aplomb (and even channels a little Kamala Harris in her back and forth with Jamie). And then — for reasons that don’t make sense to me at all — Kathleen recruits her associate who’s been a defense attorney for just a few weeks to be her lawyer.
On the personal front, Callie’s looking to — for once — avoid the complicated. She opts against hooking up with her co-worker, admitting that her heart’s with someone else. Her co-worker thinks she means Jamie but, really, she means Gael….but that doesn’t go according to plan either.
Davia: Alice isn’t the only person standing up for herself this week on Good Trouble. When the probation officers come into her classroom looking for Andre Johnson, Davia puts herself between the police and her student. Matt stands up next to her and they both refuse to let Andre go. Later the principal comes in and he doesn’t blame Andre for what happened, he blames the teachers for implementing an unapproved program. Davia, Gael, Matt and Jordan (the head of the Equity Committee) argue for the effectiveness of the restorative justice program and eventually the principal relents.
Inspired by his teacher’s activism, Andre decides to take a stand on his own: he and other kids in the program are circulating a petition to get the cops out the school. If the principal doesn’t agree, the students will refuse to take the Common Core test (which controls the school’s purse strings). Davia’s reluctant to sign the petition — after all, she could lose her job — but Matt reminds her that there are other, more important things, that they could lose if they don’t sign it. At that moment, Matt’s never been sexier…and Davia kisses him and invites him back to the Coterie where he spends the night.
Later, when Davia’s making tea in her robe, Dennis saunters in behind her (I screamed!). He admits that he’s been an idiot…he was looking for something to guide him out of the darkness but she’s always been his light. Before she can interrupt, Matt stumbles out of Davia’s loft, wearing her robe, and Davia makes the most awkward introductions ever.
Malika: We finally return to Malika’s counseling session this week and Isaac’s blindsided by Malika’s admission that she wants a relationship with Isaac and Dyonte. Isaac doesn’t know what to say so he just gets up and leaves. He apologizes later for his actions and Malika responds with her own apology for cornering him. She assures him if he objects to her pursuing a relationship with Dyonte, they can just stay monogamous, but Isaac doesn’t want her to put her feelings aside just to keep him.
“Look, if this is who you are, I don’t want to change you,” Isaac tells Malika. “So I guess the only option is — if I don’t want to lose you — is to find a way to accept this.”
Right now, though, Isaac doesn’t know how to be cool with losing her or with Malika seeing Dyonte, so he asks for a break to process it all. Heartbroken, Malika preemptively breaks up with Dyonte — after they share their first kiss — because she thinks the best way to prove to Isaac how much she loves him is to sever the tie between them…which: 1. is not an effective strategy if Dyonte’s still her co-worker and 2. isn’t at all what Isaac said?
Mariana: After Evan secures Mariana and the Byte Club a pitch meeting for Bulk Beauty, the women are left to close the deal. And, at first, it looks like they succeed — the girls dance adorably in the lobby in celebration — but then Mariana gets word that the company’s president nixed the deal. Refusing to take no for an answer, Mariana returns to the company hoping to pitch directly to the CEO. Only thing? The executive that had, originally, agreed to buy Bulk Beauty never took the app to the company’s CEO.
Mariana ends up in a confrontation with the executive: she loved the app but when she discovered that the Byte Club was allegedly behind the release of Speckulate’s salary information, it gave her pause. Standing up for themselves at Speckulate branded the Byte Club as trouble-makers — a reputation that Mariana confirmed by showing up abruptly — and the executive can’t risk investing the company’s money in a group with such a specious reputation.
The members of the Byte Club are, understandably, irritate, and direct their ire at Evan. They blast him for allowing a toxic work environment to persist at Speckulate and suggest suing him for workplace harassment…and then using that money to fund their app’s creation. Mariana objects to the idea by finally telling her business partners that she’s dating Evan.
Gael: When Gael returns to his internship this week, Yuri gives him a portion of his profit from the sale of the painting that Gael “lent a hand” on (only 10% of the sale price). Gael objects to the characterization but Yuri reminds him that it’s his name that sold the painting, not Gael’s work. He promises Gael more opportunities like this one: trips abroad and access to Yuri’s professional network, on top of getting paid to make art. For a while, Gael considers it but, inspired by the students he’s worked with in the restorative justice art program, he decides doesn’t want to sell his soul. Watching Yuri sign his name to his creations was never Gael’s dream.
Having dealt with that successfully, Gael reaches out to Callie to talk about their relationship. They’ve been flirting all season long…moving closer to reuniting with each episode…and he invites her to his loft to talk about them. But when Callie arrives, the “she” from the episode’s title is, indeed, back: Isabella returns to the Coterie to tell Gael that she’s pregnant, with his child. She’s keeping it, of course, and even though she’s not looking for anything from Gael, he insists on being part of the child’s life.
Now the wait begins for the second half of season three…whenever it comes, I’ll be there to recap all the drama.