Good Trouble: Less Good, More Trouble, Still Queer

Good Trouble: Less Good, More Trouble, Still Queer

The late, great US Representative, John Lewis, tweeted in 2018:

Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.

A tweet from June 2018

When Freeform chose that title for their spinoff of The Fosters, I was skeptical. The show was about the lives of two of my less favorite characters, and honestly while I could see them both being inspired to some good trouble, it wasn’t the direction I really saw for them as a group.

To my delight, Good Trouble turned out to be witty, savage, smart, and yes, some good, necessary, trouble. We got seasons of the important, small, fights. People’s decision to prioritize passion over career, and others to put the whole above the self. We saw struggles we could all connect with and empathize more. Sure, it was a touch sensational, but not outside something most of us could believe.

As we reach into season five, the show has still from good trouble into just trouble for the sake of trouble, and I’m not enjoying it.

Where Season Four Left Us

The saga of season four wasn’t all bad. We got Alice on the road, Sumi stepping up to be more than just a one-note character, Mariana and her Bulk Beauty team finally making something of it, Callie leaving, Davia trying something new since she lost her teaching gig, and then we got into the good trouble. There was the new character, Luca, a young man struggling to survive on the streets, and Malika (who also spent the season romantically struggling with her sexuality and love life) began a new career helping the city. Or so she hopes.

When I look back on what was general trouble, however, the plot lines that jump out are not the smaller fights that this show was so good at. In past seasons, they expertly drove home the issues of racial micro aggressions and how they make you doubt yourself with Alice, and then how they can grow worse with one moment. Showing us Malika’s struggles in the system, and how they parallel Callie, but a sharp turn due to skin color was also done well. And to their credit, the initial issue of Luca being homeless is treated well… until he turns into what is basically the Coterie mascot.

That is, ultimately, the problem. Because the rest of the season, the plots I’ve yet to mention, are the Isabella/Gael plot line, and the Mariana/Evan/Joaquin complication. Well and Dennis, but frankly his is neither ‘trouble’ nor ‘good,’ at least in that sense. It is a good story, and he’s finally coming to terms with his son’s death, and allowing himself to love. But because the actor is missing for many episodes, and Davia has to carry that story and the panic attacks of her student, it weakens both storylines.

Isabella and Gael take up a lot of time. And honestly I hate it. Gael devolves from being a passionate artist who had been working for Spekulate to make money, right into a staving artist baby-daddy who is screwed over by his art patron/boss. He becomes a passenger in his own life, and loses the ability to make decisions. This is compounded because Isabella is incredibly mentally unstable. In her defence, she’s screwed up because her parents are so self-centered, they don’t see her, and she had no solid adults to base herself on.

The other deeply time consuming plot is new guy Joaquin, who is looking for his sister. Joaquin, an investigative journalist, also did a story on Luca, looping that plot back in, and honestly if they had stuck on that angle, it would have been great. Instead, the storyline of his sister went right into cults.

No, I’m not kidding. It was a cult. And Mariana ended up spending a night there, which resulted in someone being shot.

And Season Five Continues That

First of all, you will find out exactly who was shot. Honestly that surprised me, and I think that is bad. This is not the kind of show who should have a surprise like that. It’s not a crime drama. Mariana going into the cult was more of a Callie choice (remember when Callie got in the van with the pimps and we all screamed at her about it?). It felt wildly out of character for Mariana, who prefers to make good trouble with her mind.

Mariana has, like Gael, been devolved. She stopped using her mind and tech skills to change the world. Bulk Beauty? Not terribly wrong, and I can see that, but it feels like so much less than her Fight Club Girls when they tried to tackle sexism and the pay disparity. I had worked for companies, not like Spekulate but in the same vein, and her struggles there were so damn representative of the good trouble you have to cause just to get a change.

On the other hand, Bulk Beauty’s biggest struggle (besides money and tech theft) was with an Influencer. It felt so weirdly low stakes, and like the women had no idea how to do anything except code. Maybe that was the point, but I didn’t felt it matched with how they’d behaved in the pay fight the season before. They all lost skills and were dialed back.

Mariana will be at the center of who was shot, and much of her story will be entwined, which takes her away from the day to day at the Coterie. Over at the Coterie, you’ll get the continuation of Davia/Dennis becoming a them finally (a couple I actually ship, but would like to see more depth in), Luca trying to get his birth certificate (which is hit by a complication I approve of), Malika continuing her political aspirations while her personal life struggles, Sumi and Alice trying to improve the latter’s career (sadly that continues to be the joke storyline), and of course Isabella/Gael.

If you thought the tribulations of a Coterie baby would slow down after birth, hah, we’ve gone full on soap. I’m sure there were ways to make that less frustrating, but the storyline just drags.

And of all of that, only Luca and Malika are anywhere near good trouble.

Good Trouble Returns March 16

The Coterie will be back on the 16th, and I’ll be tuning in, but if the changes continue down this road, I’ll be making my personal farewell to the series. At least until they return to their roots of good trouble.


The fifth season sadly continues the rapid decline of this show, concentrating on the sensational acts of “trouble” instead of the smaller fights of good trouble.

About Mika A. Epstein

Mika has been deep in fandom since she could say 'Trekkie.' With decades experience in running fansites, developing software, and organizing communities, she's taken on the challenge of delving into the recesses of television for queers long forgotten. Making this site with Tracy is nothing short of serendipity. Mika lives with her wife and their cats in Southern California. Of course she has a hybrid, but she'd rather ride her bicycle.

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