Good Trouble Series Finale Recap: It’s Not Where You Come From, It’s Where You Belong

“Do you think anyone will remember us? That we were even here?” Dennis asks, as the Coterie family enjoys one last celebration together on the Coterie rooftop.

It’s a question about them — they’re all forced to leave the Coterie and find new places to live when their landlord opts to sell the building — but it’s also a question about the show. It’s a question about Good Trouble (and, by extension, The Fosters) and if it’s made some dent in the landscape. I imagine it’s easy for those behind the show — the writers, the actors, the producers — to wonder about their legacy, after an abrupt and unanticipated cancellation, and to doubt their impact.

I’ll remember this show. I’ll remember Callie and Mariana’s heartbreaking fights and Dennis’ battle with suicide ideation as he grappled with his grief over his son’s death. I’ll replay Malika’s incredible arc: from a young woman, bearing all the scars of time in the system, reluctant to trust anyone and let herself be loved, to someone willing to embrace love in whatever way it came. I’ll remember stories like Malika’s Black Lives Matter activism and Alice’s encounter with Asian Hate at the height of the pandemic. I’ll recommend everyone watch the groundbreaking LGBT storylines: from Gael’s bisexuality to Joey’s gender nonconformity to a queer love triangle between three Asian women to Jazmin’s path to becoming a mother.

But, above all, the thing I’ll take with me about Good Trouble is this is how diversity should look.

Lots of shows have diverse casts, but very few shows bring that diversity to the fore on a consistent basis. Far too often characters of color and LGBT characters become a way for shows to check diversity boxes. Even a progressive show like Grey’s Anatomy let Taryn Helm and Casey Parker languish without storylines or love interests, and left shortchanged stories for Vikram Roy and Dahlia Qadri. No one was window dressing on Good Trouble: everyone had a story to tell and Good Trouble was sincerely invested in telling it. For me, it set a new bar with respect to diversity against which all other shows will be judged.

For a proper send-off for this final episode of Good Trouble, I revisited some earlier episodes to find out — as a play on the meme — “how it started” and “how it ended.”

Callie Adams Foster

How it started/How it ended meme - Callie in her thrift store finds in the Good Trouble pilot vs. Callie looking amazing in the Good Trouble finale

How It Started: After graduating magna cum laude from law school, Callie takes a job as a counter-clerk — a clerk hired precisely because they often disagree with a judge — for a conservative federal judge. She’s quickly overwhelmed: a boatload of cases to review, a bench memo to write for a prized clerkship, and the bar exam to study for. But then Mariana calls and, even though they’d been fighting since they arrived in Los Angeles, Callie drops everything to be there for her sister. Ultimately, she decides that even if she has to share a communal bathroom with a bunch of strangers and wear the same thrift shop finds everyday, there’s no one in the world she’d rather share this experience with than her sister.

Well… her sister and Gael…

How It Ended: She’s not getting married… at least not yet. Apparently, a lot of Good Trouble fans thought that the show would end with Callie and Jamie finally exchanging their vows but, instead, we just got Callie returning for one last family dinner.

We don’t get an update on Callie’s life — I suppose “All These Engagements” will suffice for that — but we do get a look back of Callie and Mariana’s most indelible moments together on The Fosters and Good Trouble. I successfully made it through the entire episode without getting emotional… until this moment. We’ve spent 11 years with these girls — Maia Mitchell was just 19 when we first met her on The Fosters, Cierra Ramirez was 17, getting tutoring on the set, and now she’s directing episodes and getting married IRL — it’s emotional to reflect on the journey we’ve gotten to witness.

“It’s been quite the journey,” Mariana acknowledges, as they share their final scenes together on the Coterie rooftop.

“It certainly has,” Callie agrees, with tears clouding her eyes. “And there’s no one that I would’ve rather done it with.”

Mariana Adams Foster

How it started/How it ended meme - Mariana in her thrift store finds (woefully overdressed for her first day at Speckulate) vs. Mariana in the Good Trouble finale, toasting the last hurrah at the Coterie

How It Started: Soon after graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mariana lands a six-figure gig as a software engineer at Speckulate, a Los Angeles tech start-up. She’s excited to start this new phase of her life, with her sister by her side, but then everything that could possibly go wrong, does go wrong.

Their loft? Disappointing. The Coterie members? Weird (except Gael, she’s totally gonna “smash him”). Their U-Haul? Towed. Their stuff? Stolen. Her job? Awful. Her colleagues? Somehow, even worse. Her one interaction with her boss? Mortifying.

The bad start frays the relationship between the sisters, temporarily, but then Callie reminds them of who they are: they are Adams-Fosters, they don’t give up, they don’t give in, they stay and fight.

How It Ended: Mariana awakes from her night with Joaquin — following their failed trip to the farm to find evidence of his misdeeds with the police — with a start. She imagines herself in Madison’s place, being tormented by the charismatic cult leader. She wakes up beside Joaquin who gives her an out over their shared night together. Convinced that Evan will never remember what they were to each other, Mariana assures Joaquin that she’s ready to take the next step with him.

But just when Mariana takes a step in another direction, Evan shows up at her door. He asks her to talk about things. He’s almost giddy with excitement and it’s a testament to how defeated Mariana feels that she can’t see it. Joaquin interrupts, pulling Mariana away for one final confrontation with Silas. Later, though, she returns and invites Evan back to continue their conversation. He confesses that he has all his memories back, including memories of what they meant to each other. He proudly proclaims his love for her. I’m not particularly married to Mariana with either of these dudes, but even I was shocked by the speed by which Mariana ran to to Joaquin to break up with him. It was that “distracted boyfriend” meme come to life but worse… I almost felt bad for Joaquin.

But three months later, Evan joins the Coterie family for their last dinner together and it’s clear that Mariana’s personal and professional lives are going well.

Alice Kwan

How it started/How it ended meme featuring pictures from Alice in the pilot to Alice and Sumi celebrating her success in the final episode

How It Started: When we first meet Alice, the manager of the Coterie, her hands are full with two Costco sized packages of toilet paper. She apologizes to Callie and Mariana for keeping them waiting and then scolds herself for apologizing. She takes the girls on a tour, showing off all the communal living areas and introducing the sisters to the other various members of the Coterie.

The next day, after the sisters return from work, Alice invites them to join the group for their first Coterie family dinner. At the table, Alice laments her mother’s latest attempt to fix her up with someone. The group reminds her that she could avoid all the matchmaking if she’d just come out to her parents but she refuses. She’s already enough of a disappointment to her parents, she can’t add another thing for them to be disappointed over.

How It Ended: In an effort to make her case to the network that she’s the best candidate to host America’s Funniest Ferrets & Friends, Alice dons a ferret costume and records a ferret-focused reel to convince the network execs. The guys are all there to support her: Morty serves as the director, Morrie handles make-up and Murray operates the boom mic. It’s a really adorable — and, much to my surprise, funny — team effort.

Later, Alice meets with the network executive who admits the reel was hilarious but it didn’t dissuade them from having Derek host Ferrets & Friends. Instead of the hosting gig, Alice is offered an opportunity to become a series regular on a forthcoming sitcom. Alice asks about the future of AFF&F and the network exec muses that they’ll hire a new head writer who, most likely, will want to start fresh with an entirely new writers’ room. Alice doesn’t mention that part when she returns to the writers’ room to share the news with the guys. They’re all happy for her but the reality of the moment quickly dawns on them: if Alice takes this job, it means she’s leaving them.

Much to my chagrin, Alice passes on the job opportunity because she didn’t want to leave the guys. I wish the show had allowed Alice to put herself first for once. Instead, we get a repeat of exactly what happened with the CBTV Diversity Program. Good Trouble minimizes the impact by having Alice announce at the final Coterie family dinner that the show was sitcom was cancelled anyway, but I would’ve preferred to see Alice prioritize her own ambitions. There’s a silver lining: she’s eventually made the host of America’s Funniest Ferrets & Friends and she and Sumi are buying a house together!

Malika Williams

How it started/How it ended meme: Malika the activist from the Good Trouble pilot vs. Malika the candidate for higher office in the Good Trouble finale

How It Started: Upon meeting the Adams Foster siblings, Malika laments living in the Coterie — “don’t leave anything you wanna keep in the fridge,” she warns — adding to the sisters’ concerns about their new living arrangements. But later, her character is afforded more depth: like Callie and Mariana, Malika spent time in the foster care system but unlike them, she was never adopted.

“I’m sorry,” Callie responds.

“It’s okay. I survived,” Malika answers, hinting at a tumultuous experience. Still, she’s clearly found a chosen family at the Coterie: reassuring Alice when she doubts herself and ribbing Dennis when he criticizes her cell phone addiction. Upon hearing about the sisters’ troubles, Malika organizes a group effort to get Callie and Mariana the essentials they need for their loft. She finds a kindred spirit in Callie, as two people trying to change the world: Callie from within the system and Malika from the outside.

How It Ended: Malika arrives at Douro, apparently shortly after saying goodbye to Isaac, to talk to Angelica. She pulls her aside and asks for a definitive answer about their future. Before Angelica can answer, Malika interjects: she wants to be with Angelica, but she feels obliged to note that her work commitments likely won’t change. She ambitious and has ideas about what her future might hold. She warns that she’s about to make a bold move and, if they’re going to be together, she’d need Angelica to be on board.

Meanwhile, Councilman Hauss has won his race to be council president and, as promised, immediately moves to put Malika’s women’s center up for a vote. Both Lucia and Tracy seem taken aback by Hauss’ about-face but Tracy quickly susses out what happened: Malika made a deal with Hauss to put her women’s center back on the agenda. The Women’s Center passes, 11-4, and Tracy congratulates her for getting what she wanted. Unfortunately, she notes, it comes at the cost of having Hauss and his support for bolstering police funding leading the City Council. Tracy derides Malika as a typical politician.

But there’s a method to Malika’s madness: yes, she made an agreement with Hauss to get the women’s center passed, in exchange for not thwarting Hauss’ candidacy. She never agreed to stay silent on his record, though. Tracy wonders how she’ll do that and Malika slyly announces that she’s challenging Hauss for his seat on the council. That certainly is a nonsensical bold move.

Angelica shows up before Malika’s press announcement and proclaims that she’s in. She recognizes how important what Malika’s doing is and she wants to be there to support her. She wants to be with Malika and they kiss to celebrate their reunion. Afterwards, Malika makes her way down the steps and announces her candidacy, with Tracy and Angelica looking on.

Three months later, at the final Coterie dinner, Malika’s coy about her campaign’s prospects. Angelica, however, isn’t nearly as reserved she touts Malika’s recent town hall performances and her steadily improving poll numbers. Malika gives all the credit for her success to community activists and organizers. They toast Councilwoman soon-to-be-elect Malika Williams.

Gael Martinez

How it started/How it ended meme - Gael in the Good Trouble pilot vs. Gael in the Good Trouble Finale

How It Started: After taking a late night dip in the Coterie pool, Gael happens upon Callie, who retreats to the roof when she can’t sleep. They settle into an easy rapport, sharing a joint as they get acquainted. He admits to spending his days as a graphic designer — he jokes, at first, that he’s a doctor — but, by night, he’s an artist. She confesses that she’s a lawyer who once wanted to be an artist. He invites her into his loft/studio and their shared passion for art quickly turns into a shared passion for each other.

The next morning, on their way to work, Mariana and Callie run into Gael and Callie pretends not to have met him before. Later, Callie explains that she didn’t realize who he was when they hooked up the night before but she doesn’t want a guy coming between her and her sister. Her resolve is quickly broken, though, and she spends another night in Gael’s bed.

But when Callie tells him that they can’t be anything more — because of Mariana’s crush on him — Gael takes the news in stride and fills the spot in his bed with another guy.

How It Ended: Gael returns to his studio and finds Yuri wanting for him there. His former boss recognized the tag on the mural outside his exhibit — admittedly, I didn’t understand the significance of the tag until Yuri pointed it out — and he is fuming. He’s derisive of Gael’s new work and style and the former apprentice retorts that at least he does his own work. Yuri tries to correct him, insisting that he painted everything for his new show, but Gael notes that they’re all just derivatives of the work he did and he insists that Yuri owes him commissions. Yuri contends that he doesn’t owe Gael anything but, out of the goodness of his heart, he’s set up a meeting with Frank Barda, a prominent local tastemaker who would ensure Gael a career in the fine arts.

It’s a bribe and Gael recognizes it as a bribe — a favor in exchange for his perpetual silence — but it may be too good of an offer to pass up.

Later he bounces around the studio with excitement, as he shares the news with Jay. Gael’s mind is racing, imagining what his future might hold if Barda exposed his work to all the people who matter in the art world. Jay seizes on Gael’s words and challenges him for “kowtowing to a bunch of elites.” Offended, Gael lashes out, reminded Jay that, as a doctor, he’s part of an elite group and he shouldn’t judge Gael for wanting to be somebody.

Gael shows up to his interview with Barda and makes a strong case for him taking on the role of apprentice. This is all he’s ever wanted to do, Gael confesses, but “Good Angel Gael” looks at him skeptically and questions what he’s doing. After the interview, Gael returns to the studio where Jay is waiting and announces that Barda offered him the job. But, as he reveals at the family dinner, he didn’t take the apprenticeship, opting instead to continue to build his career in street art.

Davia Moss

How it started/How it ended meme - Davia at family dinner in the Good Trouble pilot vs. Davia captivating the audience with her performance in the play.

How It Started: Davia joins the Coterie fam for dinner and clings to her phone, much to Dennis’ chagrin. In her defense, though, Davia is body-positive Instagram influencer so she needs to keep her phone close to monitor her account. She sees her work as an influencer as an extension of the work she does during the day as a teacher. She wants the girls she teaches to know that they don’t have to starve themselves, like she once did, and that a healthy body doesn’t have to be a skinny body.

How It Ended: Davia wakes up next to Dennis, still smarting from the producers handing her role to her understudy. She still can’t believe she trusted Ethan after he’d let her down once already. Unable to do anything to ease her pain, Dennis wraps her in his arms. Later, though, Ethan blows up Davia’s phone, begging her to return to the show. Her understudy is sick and they need Davia to do the staged reading of the play. She resists at first — not eager to do Ethan any favors — but Dennis reminds her that she worked really hard on the show. She should do it, not for Ethan, but for herself.

At the reading, Ethan admits that Davia’s understudy isn’t really sick… they’re just pretending she is to appease the producers and to allow Davia to reclaim the role that should be hers. After shaking off some pre-game jitters, Davia takes the stage and delivers a great performance. That said, I did wonder: does Good Trouble know that they can have a season finale without Emma Hunton belting out a couple of numbers? Don’t get me wrong: Emma is incredibly talented singer but, in an episode — a series finale, no less — that was already short on time, did we really multiple performances? I don’t think so.

Post-performance, the producers join the cast at Dennis’ restaurant to toast the show. They announce that they’re already fielding requests from potential investors. Ethan steps in and attributes the show’s success entirely to Davia and insists that if the show is to go forward, she must have the starring role. The producers absolutely agree and are effusive with their praise. Based on the response to the performance, they want to bypass LA entirely and move the show to New York.

At her first opportunity, Davia rushes to share the news with Dennis and wonders how they’ll handle the distance that could span two years or longer. But Dennis insists that two years apart is nothing when they’re going to spend the rest of their lives together.

Dennis Cooper

How it started/How it ended meme - Dennis at the Coterie's dinner table in the pilot vs. the finale

How It Started: Dennis is a bit of an enigma in Good Trouble‘s first episode: though he prepares the family dinner (“the world’s best vegan chicken adobo”), he doesn’t give off the “Coterie dad” vibes. He’s clearly older than the rest of the Coterie residents — more elder Millennial than Generation Z — but he seems just as uncertain about the world and his place in it as the 20-year olds with whom he shares a table. Based on Davia’s reaction, Dennis’ two weeks of abstinence, is an anomaly and Dennis is every bit the playboy as Gael.

How It Ended: It’s a busy night at the restaurant so we don’t get to see much of Dennis this week until Davia pulls him aside and tells him about the producer’s plans to move the show to New York. Dennis doesn’t even hesitate: he wants to keep their relationship going, long distance. He’ll travel to New York when he can and she’ll come back to LA when her schedule allows for it. Two years is nothing, he says, particularly in the scheme of their whole lives.

Joaquin Peréz

How it started/How it ended meme - Joaquin in his season four debut and Joaquin toasting the end of the Coterie in the finale

How It Started: Joaquin moves into the Coterie in the season four premiere and sees determined not to ingratiate himself to his new housemates. Even when Mariana — the imminently charming Mariana — approaches him at the launch of Dennis’ food truck, he refuses to open up. The independent investigative journalist responds to every question she asks with a question of his own, in hopes of pivoting the conversation away from himself. Unprovoked, Joaquin shares that he’s seeing someone and calls Mariana out on coming over to flirt with him.

How It Ended: After their most recent effort to implicate Silas in Madison’s death fell short, Joaquin and Mariana ease their pain by giving into their shared attraction. Joaquin hadn’t wanted this — he wanted to be sure that Mariana was truly over Evan first — but the pain of seeing his sister back at the farm was just too much. He gives Mariana an out the next morning but she doesn’t take it. Joaquin laments that his sister went back to Silas and wonders what to do next but Mariana acknowledges that, maybe, there’s nothing they can do.

Later, though, Joaquin gets a call from his sister and she gives him the heads up about Silas’ plans to move Madison’s body. He interrupts Mariana’s meeting with Evan and shares the news with her. She urges him to call the police but Joaquin’s convinced that they won’t listen to them after last week’s folly. He suggests they capture Silas on camera and then take the footage to the police. This seems like a particularly dumb idea but, at this point, I’ve just come to expect that with this storyline.

Joaquin and Mariana drive up to the farm and snap some pics of Silas digging up Madison’s corpse… but then Joaquin tries to move in for a closer picture and Silas discovers him. They fight and just when it looks like Silas is getting the upper-hand, Mariana slams Joaquin’s truck into him. Mariana rushes to check on Joaquin and they peer together into the shallow grave. But then Silas pops up — will this man ever die! — and smashes the shovel against Joaquin. He faces Mariana and threatens to do his worst to her… and, in the original iteration of this finale, this is where the episode would’ve ended. I would’ve been apoplectic. Instead, a shot rings out and Jenna strikes Silas down.

At the Coterie dinner, Joaquin shows up alone and clean shaven. He announces that his writing on cults has garnered the attention of a few magazines and that, following Jenna’s release from rehab, they’ll be returning home to Oklahoma to work out some family issues.

Luca Ryusaki

How it started/How it ended meme - Luca reacts to his belongings being trashed vs. Luca celebrating in his first real home with his girlfriend, Mabel

How It Started: We meet Luca early in season four, he’s the subject of a story that Joaquin is working on, about the homelessness crisis in Los Angeles. He admits that he’s been unhoused since he was 14, following the death of his parents. But even after 10 years of homelessness — 10 years of constantly moving from one space to the next — Luca works to find a piece of happiness everyday. He hopes for a future where he finds a home, indoors, but he also wants a career as a dancer.

But Luca’s sense of happiness is threatened by police who raid his encampment and throw all his belongings away. He laments to Joaquin, “That’s the thing about being invisible. No one cares when they erase you.”

How It Ended: Luca’s back in dance class and his teacher selects him as part of a trio to spotlight their dance routine in a video. He absolutely kills it — seriously, Booboo Stewart is so good at this — and, afterwards Riley rushes over to commend his performance and ask why he felt comfortable to perform on camera this time, after having declined the opportunity before. Luca explains that Callie was able to track down his alien ID number so he no longer has to hide in the shadows. The couple — who broke up in last week’s episode — make plans to get together after his shift to talk about things between them.

Luca shows up to work and, after their kiss last week, things are slightly awkward between him and Mabel. He admits that he’s confused and doesn’t know what to tell Riley when they meet after work. We don’t get to see that conversation but three months later, at the last supper, it’s Mabel that joins Luca as his dinner date. Later, he announces that he’s booked his first professional gig, as a dancer on Olivia Rodrigo’s tour.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!


A black biracial, bisexual girl raised in the South, working hard to restore North Carolina's good name. Lover of sports, politics, good TV and Sonia Sotomayor. You can follow her latest rants on Twitter.

Natalie has written 396 articles for us.

Contribute to the conversation...

Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated by the guidelines laid out in our comment policy. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation and thanks for stopping by!