Good Trouble spins off from The Fosters in a way that’s kind of the same but also pretty different in the premiere, “DTLA”.
This recap of Good Trouble Episode 1, “DTLA”, contains spoilers.
People – even ones you knew when they were young – all grow up eventually, and growing up entails certain things. Sex, drinking, working, worrying – these are all adult commonplaces, but they’re still relatively new to the pair of twenty-somethings who have fled The Fosters to navigate adulthood in Los Angeles. They’re bound to get into trouble, but the title assures us it’ll be Good Trouble, and the premiere, “DTLA”, suggests it might be entertaining trouble, too.
Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) and Callie (Maia Mitchell) Adams Foster are the all-grown-up sisters at the heart of Good Trouble, paving their own way in alien, sometimes hostile new work and living environments. Callie is a clerk for a conservative federal judge; Mariana is a software engineer at a start-up. You can tell immediately that both of those careers are not going to go smoothly, but more on that in a moment. First: the Coterie!
“The Coterie” is the charming name of the communal apartment where Callie and Mariana find themselves shacked up with no furniture, a shared kitchen and bathroom, and a variety of affable personas including the closeted building manager Alice (Sherry Cola), Dennis (Josh Pence), Davia (Emma Hunton) and Malika (Zuri Adele), the latter of whom is closely tied to a high-profile criminal case in which a black man has been shot dead by the police. No surprises for guessing that the judge set to preside over that case is Callie’s no-nonsense boss Judge Wilson (Roger Bart), as Good Trouble seems to be set in an incredibly tiny version of Los Angeles where everybody’s lives intersect.
For example, the Coterie has a communal rooftop pool where Callie meets and sleeps with Gael (Tommy Martinez), a ludicrously handsome charmer who works with Mariana (she has a crush on him and moved into the Coterie partly to lovingly stalk him). This causes something of a rift between the sisters until they both spy him batting for both teams, so to speak, so that’s a thing that happened in “DTLA”. Another thing is that Mariana approached the eccentric CEO of her company, Evan Speck (T.J. Linnard), after having been told that despite being a woman in a painfully awkward boys’-club she has every right to take the initiative, and then she got publicly humiliated in the canteen for doing so. That was awkward.
A lot of Good Trouble was awkward, frankly, and not always in ways that strictly worked. A lot of what happened in “DTLA” seemed to happen for remarkably contrived reasons or thanks to a painful level of naiveté. Mariana getting dolled up for work and then being told by a fellow female developer to doll back down again in order to be respected felt a bit trite, and her loathsome team leader Alex (Dustin Ingram) directing her to a folder full of boob gifs felt a bit silly. Likewise Callie believing that her progressivism would sway conservative rulings was spectacularly dumb; would anyone clever enough to become a clerk in the first place ever believe that? Still, it means that she gets to clerk on the Malika-adjacent case that I’m sure won’t cause any friction at home, so what can you do?
Yeah, some of this is a bit daft. But most of it was also rich in heart and personality, the central relationship between the sisters – reminiscent of Vida, as it happens – is well-observed, and the difficulties in navigating fraught new perils were pretty spot-on. I wasn’t a fan of Callie or Mariana’s caricaturish co-workers, but the bigger personalities in the Coterie seem pitched about right, and some interesting peripheral characters such as Judge Wilson and Evan Speck show some promise. Good Trouble obviously wants to be about something, and it’s occasionally trying to be about too many things at once, but “DTLA” was also a funny, good-hearted hour of television.