Welcome to Good Trouble, fam! This is not, I repeat, this is not The Fosters 2.0. At least, that’s what the first half of this spin-off pilot episode wants to drive home, and hard. The Mariana and Callie we watched grow up for five seasons on The Fosters have, well, grown up. They can hang out at bars! They’re learning how to navigate intense workplaces! They’re having lots of very steamy sex! They are telling each other they need to get laid with the no-nonsense mannerisms of a 45-year-old truck driver who has Seen Some Things.
But it’s not just the characters who have grown up: The format of the show seems to have gone through a maturing of sorts, too, what with the jumping back and forth in time and the deployment of some “artsy” editing in order to build some tension, sexual or otherwise.
By the way, none of this is meant to knock Good Trouble — it should be different! It’s a new show, told from a new point of view! It follows two 20-somethings as they head out to pave their own way in Los Angeles. Mariana and Callie are baby birds who have left the warm, pancake-filled nest of The Fosters. Good Trouble is rightfully messier and edgier than the mothership. But if all this change scares off some Fosters fans who worry Good Trouble is not for them, you should also know that Mariana and Callie are Adams Fosters — they don’t forget that and neither does the show. (I guess, in this case, it is “where you come from?” THANK YOU AND GOOD NIGHT.) By the end of the hour, there are tears and hugs and a reminder of the resilience their moms instilled in these girls. And, for what it’s worth, this show is still very much about choosing your own family. The connection to the original is in this show’s DNA.
All of that being said, this pilot is excellent for both Fosters fans and newbies. And pilots are hard! This one deftly maneuvers through introducing its two main characters and their world without getting bogged down in too much exposition. The drama begins immediately, just like we like it.
Callie and Mariana, fresh from moving out of the Adams Foster home (remember, we jumped five years while The Fosters was wrapping up), are speeding down the freeway in their U-Haul, singing and dancing and Instagram-living, excited for what the future holds. You know how I know this isn’t The Fosters? Callie looks like she’s having more fun in the first eight minutes of Good Trouble than she had in all five seasons of the former show. It’s a miracle!
But it’s still Callie and Mariana, so immediately, they run into some difficulties. Their U-Haul gets towed and then broken into and — surprise — it turns out the apartment Mariana found for them is an “Intentional Community” called the Coterie, which means that they have their own (very dirty) bedroom, but everyone in the building shares the kitchen and bathroom (and a rooftop pool!) and they have to do some community service. Callie is not pleased — she’s especially not pleased when she discovers that Mariana knew about the community living from the get-go. You see, Mariana found out about the place from Gael, a guy she met during her job interview who she desperately wants to “smash.” He is laughably hot and aside from being a graphic designer, is an artist who works in clay, so, like, I get it. But also it feels very stalkery, and would Mariana seriously be okay with sharing a bathroom?
Her entire plan for moving in and then moving on Gael ends pretty quickly anyway. It is Callie who smashes first. The first night in the building, she runs into Gael, sees his face and body, and they hook up. Once she finds out this is Mariana’s crush, she feels guilty about it, but also Gael is very good at sex, so they hook up again. Don’t worry! Callie eventually tells her sister, but before Mariana can get upset the girls spot Gael using his talents on some dude in his bedroom. That’s community living for ya!
Anyway, the Adams Foster ladies have more important things to worry about than boys. Neither of their jobs is the stuff dreams are made of. If you watched The Fosters, you may recall that Callie wanted to live closer to her brother Jude in Los Angeles, and so took a job as a clerk for a conservative federal judge. She thought maybe she could help sway his mind to more progressive rulings or something naïve like that. Judge Wilson, who seems very no-nonsense although not without a heart, quickly disillusions Callie of that notion.
You know where there is nonsense, though? Out in that law-clerk bullpen. Dear lord, co-workers Rebecca and Ben are the two cattiest clerks who ever lived to write bench memos. They don’t offer the warmest welcome, repeatedly give Callie conflicting advice, and bad-mouth each other. I was all set to declare Ben as truly The World’s Worst, but when Judge Wilson decides to make Callie clerk on an extremely high-profile case involving the death of a black man shot by the police, Rebecca’s passive-aggressiveness is revealed to have no bounds: She tells Callie that surely the only reason Wilson picked her was so that he’d be armed and ready to knock down the liberal argument — it’s not really a win for her. Rebecca and Ben deserve each other. Get out of here, you Ivy League monsters!
Mariana isn’t faring much better at her new gig. It’s no surprise that the tech start-up Speckulate is a big ol’ boys club — and Mariana’s team leader, Alex, is the worst of the bunch. He clearly doesn’t take a female software engineer in a dress and a fabulous bold lip seriously, and assigns her to work on code that turns out to be files of boob GIFs. Okay, so maybe Alex is The World’s Worst.
Not everyone at Speckulate is completely horrible. Mariana befriends the one other female software engineer, Casey, and seeks some advice. She tells Mariana to lose the dress and bold lip (blasphemy!) and instead sport more bro-friendly clothes (you can still wear a bold lip with a T-shirt, Mariana!), but to also not let Alex and the other guys intimidate her. She is worthy of a seat at the table — both literally (lunch at Speckulate is a high school cafeteria on steroids) and figuratively. Mariana also runs into CEO Evan Speck, who is extremely awkward but also receptive to her asking if she could run some ideas by him. That’s a win for week one!
Well, it’s a win until the head of HR comes to ream her out in front of everyone. How dare she speak to Mr. Speck, and other assorted ridiculousness. It’s awful for Mariana, but I always appreciate a show having a character cry in the bathroom at work, because it is a rite of passage that not enough people talk about. I feel seen, Good Trouble! Bless you!
Mariana, humiliated, calls her sister from the stall. Callie is swamped at work, but of course she comes to the rescue. She’ll always be there for her sister. Both girls had been lying to each other about how well things were going at their respective jobs, but they have a rooftop heart-to-heart and come clean. Mariana wants to quit, but Callie reminds her that they’re Adams Fosters — they never give up. And so she won’t. (In fact, afterward, she goes back downstairs and gives Alex a taste of his awful medicine, so suck it, Alex.) This scene on the roof of Speckulate is wonderful, and hopefully a sign that although Good Trouble is sexier and hipper and a little flashier than its predecessor, it, too, will always, always be full of heart.
We briefly meet the new family Mariana and Callie will be sharing the dinner table with at the Coterie: Aside from Gael, there’s the building manager, Alice, who has not come out to her parents yet; Dennis, the “old” guy; and Davia, a body-positive social media influencer (for as wonderful as The Fosters was about championing diversity, it always seemed to lack body diversity, so welcome, Davia!).
And don’t forget Malika! She also grew up in the foster-care system and she organizes some furniture donations so that Mariana and Callie aren’t completely destitute. Malika is also very involved in the police shooting case that Callie was just handed at work. So, she’s great, but also may cause some ethical “conflict of interest”–type issues for Callie very soon. Fun!
Oh, reader. I laughed so hard when Rebecca told Callie that she was only making things harder on herself at work and Callie responded, “Yeah, that’s kind of my thing.” It is her thing, you guys! The self-awareness is truly something to behold.
The Mamas were nowhere to be seen in this episode, but they were very much felt. We only saw Mariana and Callie’s side of their simultaneous phone calls with their moms, but the conversation still felt so perfectly Stef and Lena. I miss them!
According to Callie, Mariana is making six figures at her new job. Holy hell, did I make some terrible decisions in college.
Callie: “What’s a ‘Sad Girl Party’?”
Mariana: “I don’t know. It sounds perfect for you.”