When Good Trouble was first conceived, it was built around two characters — Callie and Mariana Adams Foster — that the audience had gotten to know over five seasons of The Fosters. While we’d get to know and love new characters after moving into the Coterie (figuratively speaking), the heart of the show remained these two sisters, these young women who we’d watched grow up on our screens. So Maia Mitchell’s departure from Good Trouble at the start of season four is no small thing…it is a fundamental shift in what this show has always been. Moving on from Callie Adams Foster was never going to be easy.
But even in those moments, there’s opportunity. An opportunity to reset and/or reaffirm the show’s voice or to reimagine it entirely. It’s an opportunity to expand the show’s depth…to dig deeper into the characters we know and make them feel more authentic. It’s an opportunity to introduce new characters and inject new energy into a space. In short, it’s an opportunity for a big swing.
This season, Good Trouble took a big swing…multiple big swings, actually. It moved Davia and Malika out of the spaces in which we’d come to know them — teaching and activism, respectively — and challenged their characters with new environments. The show added new depth to existing characters like Isabella, Alice and Sumi…giving its audience a chance to see them in a new light. And with the addition of Joaquin and Luca to the cast, the show injected itself with new energy and sought to reset the show’s voice…to reimagine what it could be.
The problem with big swings, though? Sometimes big swings lead to big misses and, at least for me, much of Good Trouble post-Callie fourth season has been a big miss. Joaquin and his search for his sister was a miss…the storyline never fit in, tonally, with the rest of the show. Davia’s foray into burlesque had interesting moments — especially because of her friendship with Luca — but, ultimately, felt like a miss because the show waited too long to connect it with her story from the last three seasons. And the show’s last minute pivot with Luca? For what and for why? And while I looked forward to some character development for Isabella — especially now that Gael’s baby ensured that she’d be part of the Coterie fam — but Good Trouble seemed all too willing to discard it to advance whatever story they wanted to tell.
As I watched last night’s episode, I kept thinking back to last season’s midseason finale. After it aired I wrote, “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.” In contrast, so much of last night’s midseason finale felt like a waste. Don’t get me wrong, I love Emma Hunton, she looked absolutely amazing and her burlesque performances were flawless but did the midseason finale really need three of them? It was just too much and took time away from other stories that could’ve used it. And tonal balance? That ship sailed on this season from the moment we met Joaquin.
But while much of this episode and much of this season have felt like a miss, Alice and Malika’s storylines have been standouts. They are proof that the big swings are worth taking. They’re proof that Good Trouble can still connect with their storytelling…and it’s enough to give me hope for the rest of the show’s fourth season.
As Malika makes her way into the office, she accepts a call from Dyonte who, apparently, she hasn’t been seeing as frequently lately. He suggests that they get together later but Malika already has plans with Angelica and suggests doing something tomorrow instead. He invites her to a protest he’s leading to secure a greenspace in Chesterfield Square. She accepts the invite and disconnects just in time to see Councilwoman Hernandez emerging from Lucia’s office. Will informs Malika that Hernandez has come to ask for the favor she’s due for co-sponsoring Malika’s proposal for the women’s center. He chides Malika for putting Lucia in a very difficult position.
Later that night with Angelica, Malika admits that she’s worried that she might get fired. She’s already pissed Lucia off by seeking out sponsors for her proposal and, if Lucia knows, Malika’s relationship with Angelica might only enflame tensions. Angelica questions whether Malika truly wants this job, given Lucia’s efforts to undermine her, but Malika acknowledges that the fastest way to get services to the women she wants to help is with public funds. Plus, Malika doesn’t want to quit because it’ll prove that Dyonte was right that she shouldn’t leave activism for politics. It’s an unexpected jab at her other partner — one Angelica compounds by snarking, “maybe Dyonte shouldn’t be judging your choices,” — and I wish more time would’ve been given to explore what’s at the root of that tension.
Instead, Angelica encourages Malika to apologize to Lucia and while, initially, Malika’s convinced it’ll take more than that to get back in Lucia’s good grace, she ultimately agrees it’s a good place to start. The next day, Malika steps into Lucia’s office and apologizes for not coming to the Councilwoman first before seeking additional co-sponsors for her legislation. She admits that she’s still learning about politics and promises to ask permission before making any huge moves on her own. She also confesses the truth about her relationship with Angelica.
“You asked if Angelica was seeing anyone and I didn’t know how to respond, on the spot,” Malika shares. “But we are seeing each other. We are in a relationship. I just wanted to be totally upfront with you. ”
Lucia forces a smile to her face and thanks Malika for her candor but when Will replaces Malika in her office, the Councilwoman’s true feelings are revealed. She waves Will off his effort to find cause to fire Malika. Lucia shares that Malika just told her she was dating her ex and laments that a firing could look like retaliation. Will wonders if Malika only told Lucia to save her job — “of course she did,” Lucia spits — and Will can’t help but be impressed with Malika’s political gamesmanship.
As she sits back down at her desk, Malika receives a reminder from Dyonte about the protest. Malika realizes that the protest is in Councilwoman Hernandez’s district and that being there might imperil her women’s center proposal so she tells Dyonte that she can’t make it. Later, she tries to explain the situation to Dyonte but he criticizes her for prioritizing the optics over the protest and over him. He accuses her of trading her integrity to get the women’s center built. It’s a quick escalation of the fight — though completely consistent with Dyonte’s character — and Malika is, rightfully, indignant
“I’ve done nothing but support you and your rest campaign,” Malika reminds him. “Meanwhile, you’ve just questioned all my choices since I took this job. And now you’re questioning my integrity?”
Dyonte, again, laments that Malika ever got involved in politics and wishes that she’d gotten the job at Dignity & Power Now (DPN) so she wouldn’t have to choose sides. At this point, Malika’s so upset by Dyonte’s attacks that she spills the secret that she’s been keeping from him all season long: she did get the DPN job and she didn’t tell him to spare his feelings. Dyonte chastises her for treating him like a child with a fragile ego — to which I yell at my TV, “if the shoe fits! — and suddenly, he starts to question whether their relationship will work.
Taken aback, Malika lashes out at Dyonte, reading him for absolute filth for leaning so heavily on the women in his life. She admits that she feels unsupported by him, “especially when [his] solution for all this is to break up.” Dyonte snidely acknowledges Malika’s point and says he needs to be alone to figure things out. And just like that, the guy who help Malika realize that she’s poly, walks out of her life.
Meanwhile, Sumi comes home to Alice foraging in the cabinets for food and she asks Alice when she last left the Coterie. Alice can’t recall and Sumi wonders if she’s scared to leave. Sumi asks if she’s still planning to attend Davia’s show but Alice pretends like she’s coming down with something. When Sumi texts to check on her later, Alice lies and says she has a fever and chills. Soon thereafter, she’s tagged in a video from her final performance on Margaret Cho’s tour…and, of course, the video is of her interaction with the heckler/assaulter. The comments on the post are effusive — everyone’s raving about how Alice handled the heckler — but Alice can’t feel their positivity, all she can recall is the fear she felt that night. The memory immediately brings tears to her eyes and she jumps up…and desperately searches the Coterie for someone else to keep her safe.
(Have I mentioned recently that Sherry Cola has some range? Because she absolutely does. Watching her react to that video was heartbreaking.)
She decides to go to Davia’s burlesque show after all — anything to just be around other people, anything to just feel safe — and she’s awed by Davia’s bravery. Davia admits that she’d thought about quitting burlesque but realized that her fear was most crippling when she didn’t face it. She leaves to get a drink and Sumi asks Alice what made her change her mind about coming to the show. Alice explains that someone posted the video of the guy heckling her on stage and that everyone was commenting about how brave she was.
“But I don’t feel brave at all,” Alice admits. “I…I’m scared to even leave the house. Or to be alone. Which is why I came.”
She realizes that she should’ve said something about what happened to her and Sumi reminds her that it’s not too late. Alice decides to follow Davia’s example and face her fear head on: she heads to a nearby open mic and shares the truth of what happened to her from the stage. She shouldn’t carry the shame of what happened that night, the guy that assaulted her that night should. With Sumi videoing her proudly from the front row, it’s clear that Alice’s healing has truly begun.
Good Trouble Coterie Sundries
+ Again, I loved Davia coming into her own — owning her identity and her sexuality — through burlesque. And the performances were phenomenal (and so, so hot). But did I really need three of them? No I did not.
+ Now that Evan’s doing everything the Fight Club girls want — buying Revitalize Beauty and Bulk Beauty so he can merge the companies and then handing the reigns back to the girls — they’re totally fine with Mariana dating Evan? Why is Mariana’s personal life any of their business? It really is hard for me to cheer for them and, by extension, Mariana’s professional success, when I find them so insufferable.
+ Evan walks into the Coterie at an inopportune moment and catches Joaquin kissing Mariana. Though they’ve had an ongoing flirtation this season, the kiss feels like more of a product of Joaquin’s gratitude and Mariana brushing it off feels like a recognition of Joaquin’s vulnerability. But Evan doesn’t know that…and after witnessing the kiss, he stops replying to Mariana’s texts. Is he about welch on his promise to buy Revitalize and Bulk Beauty because he misinterpreted a moment and got his feelings hurt?
+ When Isabella got the invitation from her parents was there anyone, besides Isabella apparently, who didn’t expect the meeting to go badly?
Good Trouble returns for the second half of its fourth season on July 7.