Good Trouble is a show that never forgets, which, I suspect, is one of the reasons it so easily transitioned from a spinoff to an ensemble drama that stands on its own — the characters feel like fully realized people with a real history that affects and influences their actions. The plot isn’t always predictable, but the choices these characters make usually (I’m looking at you, Callie, always) make sense because those choices are based in a history that we’ve gotten to see play out. Character development, friends! What a wonderful thing!
This idea is especially on display in regard to Malika’s current story line. Malika’s broken relationship with her mother, the resentment and anger she feels over her mother never giving her what she needed and the guilt Malika carries for calling CPS on her and breaking up their family, was a central part of Malika’s story when we first met her in season one. The relationship was complicated, to say the absolute least, and when her mother died, there was never any real healing there — which is why Malika’s feelings toward her mother are still coming up now.
Because of her internship with Dignity and Power Now and her own experience with jail and the women she was in there with, Malika is beginning to see the whole situation with her mother from a new perspective. She’s angsting so much over this change in perspective that her mother is literally haunting her dreams.
For her intern project, Malika wants to start a fund that supplies mothers who are either in the prison system themselves or have a family member who is in the system with resources they need — things like child care when a single mother needs to appear in court (we saw how crucial this thing people take for granted was in Yvonne Byers’s case). To make this fund happen, Malika and Dyonte are interviewing women who have been affected by this to have their stories heard and stress the importance of what they’re trying to build. The stories are heartbreaking, women who couldn’t afford lawyers, women whose children were taken away from them, who turned to drinking because of the stress, and so much more, all because they just needed a little help and couldn’t find it anywhere. It hits Malika hard. She breaks down into tears and admits to her boss that she didn’t understand that her mother was actually “the victim of the system of mass incarceration in this country.” It’s a system that destroys lives, including those of the family left on the outside of it. When Malika’s father went to prison, her mother was left as the sole caretaker of two small children and she didn’t have any support system. Malika couldn’t see that she was trying her best until now. She worries that maybe if her mother had some type of support system, their lives would’ve been completely different. Maybe she’d still be alive. It’s a gut-wrenching moment, but it is a breakthrough Malika needs to have. By the end of the episode, she finally asks Dyonte to share the number for his therapist. She’s ready to get the help and support that she needs as she deals with all of this pain. It took a while to get there, but our girl is finally taking steps toward real healing, something that has been three seasons in the making.
Another thing that Good Trouble does so well is take story lines to some unexpected places, as it does with Alice’s comedy diversity workshop. The last time we saw her, it felt like things were coming to a head in regard to the Alice and Lindsay rivalry after Alice did an impression of her mother to great success and Lindsay angrily told her that she’s “lucky to have [her] ethnicity to fall back on.” But the story line takes a turn.
Alice realizes she “opened a pandora’s box” by doing that impression because now all the writers who are working on sketches for the comedians are writing her roles that are flat-out racist Asian stereotypes. She wishes she had never done it. But it’s Lindsay who makes sure Alice knows this isn’t on her. “You have every right to do your interpretation of your mom,” they tell her, apologizing for what they said earlier, “The problem is, we don’t have control over how people appropriate our humor.” Alice doesn’t know what to do to get out of this terrible situation she’s found herself in (oh, and by the way, the sketches aren’t just relying on Asian stereotypes but offensive caricatures of everyone in that group, which is especially maddening since it is a, ahem, comedy diversity workshop). Lindsay’s advice: “Show them that what makes us funny isn’t just what makes us different.”
Alice heads back into the workshop determined to show off some new characters (her “Obama doing DJ Khaled” is A+), but it doesn’t matter. Another comic in the workshop, Derek, tells her that sure, he’d rather not play a “bumbling jihadist” in every sketch, but he’s going along with it because this is the stuff the director, Scott, likes, and he is the one who picks who goes into the showcase at the end of the workshop. Their careers are on the line. And so Alice performs another awful sketch with a racist stereotype, but this time you can see all over her face that she hates herself for doing it.
Elsewhere, the Callie and Kathleen Gale stuff gets kicked up a notch. Or, like, several notches. After Kathleen’s heated warning last week that Callie better start trusting her or there will be consequences, the women seem to be in a much better place. In regard to the Jerod Murphy case: Kathleen notices something very interesting on the one sheriff deputy’s social-media feeds and decides that despite her previous belief that interviewing the deputies that were involved in Jerod’s assault would only give their case away ahead of trial, she now wants to interview them.
Callie and Kathleen are a formidable team. Through some savvy questioning techniques and a lack of discretion when posting pictures of tattoos on the deputies’ parts, the women reveal that they can prove these guards are part of a deputy gang and the beating of Jerod Murphy was an initiation ritual for a new recruit. The DA wants to call off the interviews immediately, but not before Kathleen reams them out for covering up “the gang problem in the sheriff’s department for years” and spending millions and millions of dollars to settle use of force complaints without doing anything about it. Even if the court won’t allow her to use the evidence she’s found, Kathleen’s more than happy to try this case “in the court of public opinion.” She’s coming for them and won’t be stopped. Anyone else just feel completely empowered after this scene? Constance Zimmer is so freaking good in this role.
Kathleen’s strategy works. The DA calls as soon as Kathleen and Callie get back to the office with a deal: They’re going to drop the charges and agree to a cash settlement — all of which will go to Jerod since this was a pro bono case — if they sign an NDA. They won. It’s over. This is a good day.
And then all those good vibes Callie is feeling about providing justice for someone and working under a kickass boss lady who doesn’t take shit from anyone all goes away when Jamie asks her to meet for drinks. Things were already awkward between Callie and Jamie since their meeting over the Yvonne Byers case (Jamie’s “Are you gonna get me fired from this job too?” line was such a petty bitch comment, and it truly brought me life), and then again when they ran into each other at a bar while both out with other people and there were some peak jealousy moves going down. So, yeah, there is tension as they sit down to chat. Jamie’s purpose for this meeting is twofold: First, he wants to stop being angry with her and move on. He doesn’t think they can ever be friends — this seems to physically pain Callie — but he wants them to be professional, since they’re sure to run into each other on the job.
But it’s his second item on the agenda that seems to do the most damage: Jamie tells Callie that through his job at the DA’s office, he’s learned that Kathleen Gale is under investigation with the FBI. He wanted to warn her about what she may be getting into. Callie immediately becomes defensive and thinks it’s just the DA’s office getting revenge or Jamie trying to make her doubt herself and her choices. She tells him to stop patronizing her before storming out. And for good measure, she adds, “I definitely don’t need professional advice from you of all people.” Another petty bitch comment! This breakup is bringing all the juicy drama, and it is glorious.
• Good Trouble always feels ahead of the curve with the subject matter and social commentary, and the decision to dive into and Alice’s story line is no different — filmed a while ago, Alice confronting racist Asian stereotypes obviously feels heavier in light of the reckoning the country is having with the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes. Shining a light on the way these offensive stereotypes are part of entertainment and comedy is a thought-provoking way into the larger conversation.
• After not getting funding for Bulk Beauty, the tech ladies are back to trying to find someone to pitch their app to and in the meantime are dipping into their savings to stay afloat. Rachel thinks she needs to move home to Indiana for a while, but the other women don’t want that, so Mariana invites her to stay at the Coterie. She instantly becomes unbearable — to Mariana, to Callie, to the entire living community, really. So, Mariana breaks her “no help” rule with Evan and lets him get her a pitch meeting to speed the process along. We’ll see how long until the truth comes out!
• Clare and Gina’s faces when Mariana suggests they take turns housing Rachel as a “team building” exercise are perfect.
• You want to know how to endear an audience to a character upon meeting them? Introduce them by way of a friendly bathroom conversation about stain sticks. Welcome Jamie’s supervisor, Nicolette!
• I feel like we could get an entire spinoff based on Tony and Rowan’s friendship. I want to know more about those two! I want to see the day they walked out with Kathleen!