As Good Trouble season finales are wont to be — remember last season’s cliffhanger-palooza? — this episode was a lot. A lot. So, I’ll dispense with the pleasantries (or, more accurately, my disappointment) and hop right into this recapping business.
Still stunned over the revelation that Sumi got an audition for the movie role she coveted, Alice wakes up and expresses her disbelief. Sumi reminds her that she’s the reason that she didn’t get the audition: she wasn’t committed to the scene. She insists that Alice is scared — afraid to own the air she breathes — and Alice has to be able to sell herself. Alice acknowledge Sumi’s point but says it’s moot anyway: she didn’t get an audition. But Sumi reminds her that she did and volunteers to let Alice go in her stead. Honestly, the fact that Sumi doesn’t take the audition for herself — that she doesn’t expand her idea of what’s possible for her — is, perhaps, the most surprising moment of the Good Trouble season finale.
Sumi sends Alice to the studio lot, armed with Sumi’s ID and secure in the belief that people cannot tell Asian women apart (“they always think we’re sisters,” Sumi singsongs). But Sumi’s assurances that everything would go fine fall short: as soon as Alice walks into audition, she’s face-to-face with the director they ambushed at the hotel. The director who knows, for sure, that she’s not Sumi Liu. Already thrown by the fact that she doesn’t look like any of the other Asian women who’ve answered the casting call — they’re all in make-up and heels — the director’s presence sends Alice into a bit of a tailspin. Suddenly she starts to share her inner monologue…and, somehow, talks herself out of a job.
Alice: I have a hard time selling myself but I’m perfect for the role of Kristi Chen.
Yeah, I was a total nerd in high school. A nobody. I’m still a nerd. I went to prom with my brother — yeah, we didn’t kiss — and I’ve always dreamed of going to my high school reunion, showing all those people that I’m a somebody. Of course, I don’t think I’d have sex with everyone who was mean to me in high school. I can’t even have an orgasm with another person. And I still see my mother when I look at my own vagina. So, I’m not really sure how this is gonna make me feel better about myself or why, honestly, this is supposed to make Kristi Chen feel better about herself.
I mean, I get that it’s funny but the joke’s kind of on her. This isn’t even empowering to women in general. It’s kind of offensive. Definitely not something I want to perpetuate. Huh. Maybe I really don’t want this part after all? Wow! But, hey! You know, I’m really proud of myself for doing this.
Alice returns back to the Coterie and Sumi’s there to greet her and ask how her audition went. She barely gets the words out before Alice kisses her and they collapse together on the bed. They have sex and, miraculously, Alice has her first orgasm from another person. Listen, I am thrilled for Alice. I’m glad this storyline was satisfying for somebody because it was wholly unfulfilling for me.
Good Trouble has a propensity for tackling these serious issues then executing those storylines in a way that belies their seriousness. Oh, that thing you think is rooted in deep-seeded cultural conservativism, homophobia, racism and misogyny? That thing that academics have spent years studying? Nah, this show posits, just stand up and decide this isn’t something you want to perpetuate…and magically, you’ll be cured. Everyone’s one epiphany, one head-clearing moment away from curing years of society’s programming about sexual pleasure. It’s trivializing. The Alices of the world deserve better (perhaps they’d be better served by checking this conversation between Xoai Pham and Jayda Shuavarnnasri, the Sex Positive Asian Auntie).
Malika returns to the encampment to share the news for its residents: Lucia is planning to use the money from her discretionary account to build the women’s center at the site. At first, they criticize her for going back on her promise not to allow the women’s center to drive the residents out but Malika defends her decision. The choice wasn’t about whether the encampment would continue to exist — it wouldn’t, that was inevitable — the choice was between the women’s center and some condo development. Eventually, everyone agrees that its preferable that something exist in the space to benefit the community.
Malika assures the encampment’s residents that they’ll have time before they’re asked to move…and, as soon as the promise comes out of her mouth, I’m absolutely certain that they won’t. Political staffers shouldn’t make promises. While she pledges to do everything in her power to secure housing for the residents in the interim, the specter of impending doom feels inescapable in the moment.
Later, Malika meets up with Marquis Jet Xavier and treats him to the cup of coffee she owed him. As they walk and talk, Malika admits that securing the women’s center doesn’t feel like a clean victory. Xavier admits that most decisions come with unintended consequences but urges Malika to take the win: she’s accomplished so much in a short period of time. He invites her out to celebrate her accomplishment over dinner.
“Thank you for the invitation but if I’m reading you right and I’m honest with myself, I’m still in love with someone I can’t get over…and I don’t think I want to,” Malika admits. It’s an admission that I don’t expect and one that, frustratingly, isn’t addressed any further in the finale.
There’s no time for any celebration about the women’s center or Malika’s admission, though, because trucks arrive to raze the encampment. Luca alerts Malika who rushes to Lucia’s office to beg her to intercede. The Councilwoman insists that the order came from the mayor and there’s nothing that can be done. Malika argues for compassion; the residents need time. Razing the encampment, with no notice, will mean everyone who lives there will lose what small piece of home that they have left. Sensing Lucia’s reluctance, Malika promises to act on her own but the councilwoman reminds her that, as a staffer, she can’t join the protest.
Malika reminds Lucia what brought her here, “Lucia, you approached me about this job. You said that you needed someone like me on your staff, an activist with passion who could just push back on politics as usual and make a difference. Did you mean any of that?”
Lucia insists that the women’s center will make a difference but Malika yells back that it’s not enough. She reiterates her intention to join the protest at the encampment and accepts the possibility that Lucia will fire her for her actions. Malika’s fire is enough to convince the office cynic, Tracy, to join her at the protest. They join Luca and Xavier at the site and stand between the city workers and the encampment. As Malika leads the fight with the megaphone, Angelica joins them: she saw Malika’s post about the protest and came to support her.
Their reunion is interrupted by the arrival of police cars. Things start to get tense but thankfully, Lucia arrives in time to defuse the tension. She takes the megaphone from Malika and urges the LAPD and the Department of Sanitation to fall back. Everyone cheers Lucia’s proclamation and joins Malika in urging “services not sweeps.”
Good Trouble Coterie Sundries
+ Mariana Adams Foster Hernandez spends the night at the farm, continuing her search for Joaquin’s sister. Meanwhile, the farm’s leader, Silas, searches online — a resource only he has access to, seemingly — for information on her. When his search proves fruitless, he approaches Mariana with platitudes and vagueries and, like a good fortune teller, one of them captures Mariana perfectly (“someone close left you”). The exchange is enough to placate Silas and Mariana stays focused on finding Jenna. Unfortunately, she’s being kept isolated — a consequence of Joaquin’s interference — and Mariana’s forced to spend another day at the farm.
Finally, they meet just before dinner. Mariana introduces herself as a friend of Joaquin’s and Jenna explains the abusive conditions she’s endured. Jenna’s tried to leave the farm before, only to be caught and brought back against her will. Once Jenna reiterates her interest in leaving, she and Mariana plot their escape. Under the cover of night, Mariana releases Jenna from her confinement and the two make their way towards the road. They run into Joaquin, who’s snuck on the farm to try and rescue Mariana and his sister, and make their way to his truck (where Evan Speck waits as the getaway driver). But Silas’ henchman tries to thwart their escape: chasing the trio and then firing a single shot (over Silas’ objections) from his rifle.
As the season fades to black, we hear the bullet hit someone and a body drop to the ground. We don’t know who it is or if they’ll survive. I guess that’s a question for Season 5.
+ Honestly, I want to feel some sympathy for Gael, I really do. But I can’t help but recall those wise words from Maya Angelou, “when people show you who they are, believe them.”
Isabella has shown him, time and time again, the kind of person she is. She admits having impulse control problems. She’s smashed windows and thrown things (assaulting him in the process). She volleys between loving him and not. She clings to him one second and throws herself at Dennis the next. She goes from wanting a child to believing adoption is the best course, only to change her mind again seconds later. When people show you who they are, believe them…and Isabella just keeps showing Gael who she is but he never wants to believe her.
In his first quasi-assertion of his rights as a father, he answers Isabella’s interest in adoption by proposing a solution: he’ll co-parent with his sister, Jazmin, and her new husband. The baby will have a home, surrounded by love, and Isabella will be freed of her obligation to focus on her own recovery. It’s everything that Isabella said that she wanted but, of course, she changes her mind. After giving birth at the Coterie, Isabella decides she wants to keep the baby. It’s a wholly predictable outcome but Gael’s shell-shocked because he never wanted to believe her. And now Gael has to contend with the fatherhood, help Isabella grapple with her mental illness and deny his sister, who has always wanted children, the chance to be a mother.
+ In the mid-season finale, Luca returns to the encampment and acknowledges how lucky he is to have found a home at the Coterie. He promises not to leave behind those not as lucky as him. When the sanitation workers arrive, Luca helps lead the protest. Given how he finished the midseason finale — recovering from a withering attack from Ivan — I’m grateful to know that he’s safe (even if Chekhov’s gun (AKA Ivan) never went off). That said, the show never made any effort to develop his character beyond his homelessness. What happened to that effort to find his birth certificate? What happened to his relationships with Davia and Joaquin?
+ Davia and Dennis got back together. This is my surprised face. 😐
I can’t help but feel like that the depiction of Isabella’s mental health/instability has gone uninvestigated and uncriticized by the recap and us readers/watchers.
It feels really weird to me that the show is really unspecific about what exactly Isabella’s actual “problems” seem to be – besides some semi-specified impulse control issues – and how apparently not only everyone in the show, but also everyone watching (including the recap) seem to just take her parents word at face value.
The show just seems to gesture that Isabella is “crazy” and not fit to be a mother because of this, but it feels really surface level to me.
I don’t take Isabella’s parents’ words at face value or, at least, it wasn’t my intent, @avasommer. They blackmailed Isabella. They want to get rid of their grandchild. They threatened their daughter with jail time, not help. They are not reliable narrators.
I’ve been frustrated by the show’s refusal to give whatever’s impacting Isabella a name (especially since she’s been seeing this therapist this entire time) because what are you really teaching your audience, if you’re not naming it? You’re right that it is surface level.
In lieu of an answer from the show (or some armchair diagnosis on my part), I’ve tried to focus on what Isabella’s done and what she says. It feels like the most legitimate thing we have to go on.
@pecola Thanks for the response. I think I understand your thought process better now and I do understand the difficulty of discussing something which the show doesn’t really wanna discuss. The issue is I think that it seems pretty intentional from the writers to have the character that was brought in as this “women as rivals” character and that seems to be not well liked by the audience overall be just this vague “crazy” that has been a staple in signaling unlikeability for TV writers and I feel this is left unadressed when we only talk about what happens on screen if I am making myself clear at all.
Again, I appreciate you taking the time to respond and I hope I wasn’t too harsh, because I can come on a bit strong when something/a topic strikes a chord with me (so nobody talk to me about Yellowjackets and how its violence was perceived please /s )
Hey! I’m so glad someone is commenting on this too :) this storyline has hit pretty close to home with me as well because I’ve experienced similar difficulties as Isabella (much less violently though) and I’ve really loved seeing this represented on TV.
It actually didn’t bother me that whatever her difficulties are are not named at the moment, because I think for a lot of people in similar boats, obtaining a diagnosis is hard, often takes years, and is not necessarily the right one immediately. So this somehow has looked pretty realistic to me, which felt good, and relatable. I do wish she finds relief because she’s going through a lot of tough times, and doesn’t seem to think there may be a gentler way to be with herself. I have to admit as well it has seemed from her sessions with the therapist that Isabella was not always honest, and we haven’t seen enough of their sessions to really get a feel for whether the therapist would have been in a place to put a diagnosis on her difficulties.
I haven’t engaged a whole lot with the watchers beyond recaps here, but it doesn’t seem to me people label her as crazy, at least not in the show. Mostly the coterie members seemed pretty respectful and supportive of her choice to keep the baby! the only thing I wish maybe would be that the other characters find with her the best ways to support her (and that also has to come from her therapy, but again, she doesn’t seem ready for that yet). i didn’t feel that anyone is thinking she can’t be a mother (except her parents) but she needs to find ways to accept love and to get the right support from her close ones (which she was getting close to with Gael).
This perspective is heavily rooted in the projection I make of my feelings onto her, and also I am notoriously bad at picking up subtle clues in plot so it may very well be that I didn’t really pick up the vibe you describe! It may very well be as well that I have massively misread your comments/complaints and in which case I’m sorry!
Anyway, I still love this show even though it seems to have been losing interest from viewers, and always always love reading the recaps and comments after watching!
Yeah I mean I also relate to some aspect of her storyline, but I wish they would discuss what’s up more explicitly because it could be really helpful for people who suffer with something similar.
I really agree with this, in regard to the show writers. I feel like they have telegraphed her as “the crazy ex” type from day one and have just had no idea what they are doing at all. It feels like it keeps snowballing and they could have done something better and they just don’t.
Jump the shark is not a strong enough phrase for this absurd episode. That cartoon bullet??? The cult storyline has been so annoyingly stupid the entire time and somehow they still outdid themselves with that ending scene. uuuugggghhh
I used to enjoy the mix of soapy and serious, but they have well and truly lost the plot.
I am really grateful for these writeups and comments though!! Thanks, Natalie.