Maybe we were always headed here. Back when Isabella was introduced on Good Trouble and she was a little too aggressive in her pursuit of Gael. Or when Isabella finagled her way into sharing Mariana’s loft? Or when she made a play for Mariana’s then-boyfriend only to deny she’d ever done it? Maybe this was always where the writers of Good Trouble were going to go. Maybe we were always headed to this moment, where we’d have to address questions about Isabella and her mental health.
But what had been a slow build — or breakdown, to be more accurate — over multiple episodes, through multiple seasons, came to its jarring and startlingly fast climax this week, following her arrest for vandalism.
When she explains it to Gael, though, Isabella paints her actions as the result of a one-time break…a frustrated reaction to her parents’ insistence that she give her baby up for adoption. If Gael paused and pieced the history of his relationship with Isabella together — from her aggressive pursuit of him to her demand that he tell his parents about their relationship at his sister’s wedding — maybe he’d realize that there’s more to be worried about here than some criminal charges. But Gael is blinded by love and his devotion to his soon-to-be family so his greatest lament is that Isabella didn’t tell him about the incident when it happened.
“I was just afraid of what you would think of me. I didn’t want you to think that I was crazy or something,” Isabella tearfully confesses. She swears that she’s never done anything like this before but then I remember when Raj told her he couldn’t do birthday parties with her anymore: she picked up a nearby shoe and threw it across the loft, breaking the mirror above the mantle. So, clearly, Isabella is still lying…to Gael and perhaps to herself. But Gael is understanding and wraps Isabella up in a big hug.
Later, they meet with Rowan — an attorney from Callie’s old law firm, played by trans actor Emmett Preciado — to guide them through the legal proceedings. Isabella’s sentencing is slated for Friday and she’s stunned that things are moving so quickly. Gael calmly reassures her that it’s for the best: they can put this behind them before the baby arrives. Isabella asks for the worse case scenario and Rowan admits that it’s possible that Isabella could face some jail time. She’s astounded — “girl, you asked!” I yell back at my TV — and peppers Rowan with questions about how long her sentence could be. He explains that could be facing six to nine months in jail but he assures her that because she’s taking responsibility for her actions and this is her first offense, he and his boss, Kathleen, expect her to be sentenced to community service. She breathes a sigh of relief and Gael assures her that whatever comes, they’ll handle things together.
When the sentencing hearing rolls around, things go almost as predicted. The prosecution plays the video of Isabella’s destruction of her father’s car and while Isabella lowers her head in shame, Gael seems taken aback to witness the anger that she’s capable of, for the first time. The judge admits that she’s worried about Isabella’s impulse control but she accepts the plea deal that’s been offered: 50 hours of community service and 18 months of probation. But before Isabella can celebrate the case’s outcome, her parents stand up and address the judge. They ask the Court to intervene for the safety of their daughter’s child. Her father notes that Isabella has a history — though not a criminal one — of erratic, dangerous behavior and anger management issues. Her mother recounts multiple instances of Isabella lashing out, including a fire that nearly burned their house down, and her father concedes, “We love our daughter but she’s not fit to be a mother.”
Rowan rightfully objects to Isabella’s parents’ requests and the judge agrees: her parents’ arguments are a matter for family court, not criminal court. It’s an outcome anyone who’s watched a couple of episodes of Law & Order could’ve predicted and I’m shocked that Isabella’s parents didn’t consult a lawyer before making a claim in open court. On the plus side, at least now Gael finally knows what he’s facing and can move forward with all the information at hand. For one of the first times since she left, I’m really wishing that Callie was still at the Coterie.
Things are understandably quiet on the way back to the loft following the hearing. Isabella admits that some of what her parents said was true but she chalks the behavior up to being just teenage hijinks. She insists that she’s changed now, she’s a different person, but Gael points out that the incident with the car just happened last month. Isabella contends that she was protecting their baby but Gael pushes back, “how is lashing out and risking your freedom, protecting the baby?” He says it calmly and without making a move towards her…he’s just sitting on a chair trying to process it all…which only makes Isabella’s reaction seem more erratic by comparison.
Isabella starts pacing in the loft, accusing Gael of judging her. He assures her that he’s not judging her and invites her to sit down but he can’t calm her down. She questions if Gael’s going to leave her or if his feelings for her have changed. She notes that he’s the one who asked her to get married and he hasn’t said anything else about it since that night. Gael points out that they’ve had bigger things to deal with and Isabella accuses him of lying. She maintains that he never really loved her or chose her, he only wanted to be with her because of the baby. She picks up Gael’s art supplies and starts tossing them indiscriminately across the loft. Gael stands and begs her to stop but, instead, he gets hit by a book she’s thrown. She rushes to try to apologize but he pulls away.
Somehow, they end up sharing a bed that night. Gael waits until Isabella falls asleep and grabs his phone. I’m grateful that he doesn’t call Isabella’s parents; instead, he reaches out to Dennis, who meets him in the Coterie lounge, where Gael finally admits how scared he is.
Good Trouble Coterie Sundries
+ Things at Bulk Beauty are going great: their partnership with online influencer, Zelda Grant, is paying off and subscriptions are through the roof. Hiring Zelda for another promotion campaign feels like a no-brainer for the Fight Club Girls. But when they announce that the next stage of Bulk Beauty’s expansion will include an Italian company (Per Tutti) that produces a line of inclusive menstrual hygiene products, Zelda’s perplexed by the inclusive language.
“Wait, why people and not just women? I mean, only women get periods,” Zelda asks after hearing the company’s tagline (“For people who get periods.”)
Mariana explains that the tagline is meant to be inclusive of trans men and non-binary people who also get periods but Zelda scoffs. Her reaction catches the FCGs completely off guard and, suddenly, they start to question whether they want someone who’s not inclusive representing their brand.
+ Mariana gets inadvertently locked into the stairwell with Evan and they’re finally able to clear the air. The kiss he witnessed wasn’t a mutual kiss, Mariana explains, it was just Joaquin kissing her. Hope flashes on Evan’s face before Mariana extinguishes it again: she wanted to discuss their relationship but when he was, at first, unwilling, and then determined to keep things professional, she started exploring things with Joaquin. The Internet seems very frustrated that these two can never get their timing right but not me…I haven’t seen a single thing to suggest that the dynamics that doomed their relationship the first time around have changed.
+ One of my TV pet peeves? When someone changes their mind, easily, about not having children. It frustrated me when Arizona and Amelia changed their minds on Grey’s Anatomy and it bothered me on Good Trouble this week with Dennis. Every person I know that has said that they don’t want kids has come to that decision after serious thought…it’s not an easy decision. But here, Dennis plays with one kid for a little while and suddenly he’s open to the idea? Ugh.
+ Obviously there’s a burgeoning issue of Davia growing a little too close to the family she’s working for — the newly single dad, Asher, and his son, Elliot — but I’m still taken aback by how drastic the pivot has been on Davia’s character this season. So much of her storyline on Good Trouble has been about her teaching in low-income schools (with Teach for America) and learning how to engage black and brown students (and unpack her own privilege in the process). But now all that’s been thrown out the window and she’s home-schooling this one, rich white kid?
+ Can Rowan move into the Coterie? Cause he’s someone I’d very much like to see on my screen every week. Signed, The TV Team’s Resident Bisexual.
Next Week: Dis tew much
I’ve missed Callie since she left but this ep. definitely felt the gap of her absence. I admit I never liked Isabella but found her storyline more interesting as of late, especially after introducing her parents. Her behavior reminds me of The Fosters Callie and I wonder if I’m making a leap in connecting the Callie Gap with Gael’s new love interest when he and Callie likely only broke up to have her exit the show with Jamie which really felt like a huge step backward.
Penally, yeah. I haven’t missed Callie at all. Also I didn’t realise how ridiculous the switch up on Davia’s storyline has been till now. Utterly and a waste of Davia. Also I never knew Joaquin was pronounced Wakeen. Thought it was Jowaquin. Also I have a crush on all the good trouble men. I wanna marry Gael
I agree about Mariana and Evan, every time they tease a reunion between those two I get really disappointed.
I’m finding this Isabella story really interesting. I didn’t like that she seemed like such a one-dimensional villain and then I didn’t like that she was miraculously transformed by getting knocked up, and thus I very much like that both of those things were misdirects for a larger and more complicated story.
I was so delighted to have Rowan back. I wish we could also see more Kathleen because I have a big mommi crush on Constance Zimmer but Rowan moving in to the Coterie would be so great. Also, I looked up the actor who plays Rowan and dayum.
The depiction of Isabella in this episode reads to me like borderline personality disorder, or at least society’s view of it. Erratic or risk-taking behavior, aggression, fear of abandonment, manipulation. I love this show and I trust it to get stuff right (like the menstrual inclusion!) so I’m gonna follow this where it goes. But I hope they complicate this narrative in the next episode. It’s reasonable for Gael to be worried. Hopefully *for* her in addition to worried about himself and the baby they’re expecting. But so far Isabella and whatever mental illness or response to trauma she’s experiencing feels very one note to me and I hope they don’t just write her off as a villain or someone who’s crazy and unstable. She’s responsible for managing her behavior but she should be able to do so with the help of a therapist and some stability in her life. Anyway. This is a really sensitive subject for me so I’m gonna be very hurt if the show doesn’t do this right. I apologize if my read of this as BPD coding is totally off, but if that is what they have in mind, I hope I’m also right that they will explore it as sensitively and with as much nuance as many of the other hard topics the show has tackled.
I agree that Dennis changing his mind about having more kids didn’t feel earned, either. His story is also really sensitive for me because it was the first realistic depiction of grief that I saw after my partner passed. I think it would have been more powerful for him to set that boundary in his life and say, Having another child would be too painful for me, so that is something I am going to rule out. Healing doesn’t have to be “getting over” something, and I don’t think that’s depicted enough.
Final thought, I know they gotta focus on a few characters at the expense of others in each episode but damn it breaks my heart knowing Malika’s just sad and heartbroken while all this is going on. Hope Alice is caring for her. I’m sure we’ll catch up with them next episode and backburner some of this (I have not watched any episodes after this one yet).