Monday, June 17, 2013

The Fosters

The Fosters
Episode 2: Consequently
By: Carlos Uribe

The Fosters is a show about an interracial married lesbian couple that raises their biological son and adopted kids.

Spoilers Ahoy!

The pilot covered a lot of material for the characters that this episode shows the immediate consequences of some of the character's decisions. A pressing concern is what to do with Brandon. He skipped a musical competition to help out a girl with a situation that he knew a little about. He had put his life in danger carelessly without any warning to his parents. He had betrayed the trust of his parents. The general reaction from most parents would be to ground them. This punishment would deter any future misbehavior while hoping to promote the values they hoped to instil in the kids. This is where a lot of the conflict in this episode is created. Lena doesn't think that Brandon should be punished. She believes that he understands the consequences of his actions and that he has learned his lesson already. She convinces Stef to undertake this course of action but then they meet resistance from Mike. He's the father of the kid and he's not happy about this. He thinks his son should be punished but he's upset that he wasn't even included in the conversation. He was completely left out of a decision that directly impacted his son's development. The conflict here is pretty strong already. Two parents who disagree about the course of action is a staple of family dramas. It has to come up at least once simply because people can't always agree. It would make for a boring drama simply because there wouldn't actually be any. The belief is that every decision should be met with at least one obstacle. I don't always agree with this as it can lead to some forced conflict but it exists for a reason: it's conflict that ultimately drives the narrative. This familiar conflict between two parents feels fresh because the Fosters isn't covering a normal family situation. It's covering one that has popped up within this generation and it's one that mainstream media hasn't really covered. It's one that begs to question the parental roles that society has defined since time memoriam. In doing so, it has managed to use this familiar conflict to explore relevant family dynamics that are starting to take shape. The Fosters has become relevant to the culture we're living in.

How does it accomplish it? It's because of the way the conflict is set up. Stef and Lena are trying to raise Brandon but Mike is still the father. Stef is the bridge between the two as she used to be married to Mike before she came out of the closet. The conflict between what to do isn't just between Lena and Mike. It involves Stef as she has to do her best to maintain relations between the characters. She compares herself a peacekeeping force between Israel and Palestine and her comparison isn't that far off. This adds tension between her relationship with both characters. Adding a level of complexity is the roles of the parents. Stef is the mother and Mike is the father. What does that leave Lena as? What's her role? These characters are having to figure out how exactly their going to be navigating this new situation. It's good that the series is actually willing to tackle this as it's important to explore the social structures that are being reformed by recent cultural changes. It's surprising that not only is the series doing this but that it's able to handle this topic with the proper amount of delicate care. It never overwhelms the writing nor does it come across as insensitive. This is a serious issue that the characters are going to have to face and there's no real answer found at the end of the episode. What is Lena's role in raising Brandon? What is Stef's role? What is Mike's role? These are questions that this episode brings up and that future ones will hopefully continue to explore because it's partly what makes the Fosters such a relevant show. If it can continue to juggle all of the pieces as well as this week then we should be in for a great drama that challenges social norms while trying to at the same time find some answer.

The roles of the parents aren't the only ones in question as the fate of Callie and Jude is still up in the air. The two don't want to send them back in the system but they simply can't handle having two more teenagers in the household. They agree to allow them to temporarily stay until a permanent home can be found for them. Obviously, this will change and the two are going to be adopted but this basically allows the show to do two things. The first is that the tension that Stef and Lena might kick them out any day is always there. The second is that this will be a dramatic point in the future. It leaves the adoption plot for the future once it has explored all the angles of them being temporary house guests. Their presence in the house does come with some tension. Their going to be staying with the twins (Callie with Marianna and Jude with Jesus). There's also Marianna selling Jesus' plot. She's worried about getting away with it throughout the episode because she doesn't want to get in trouble. She's worried that her parents will hate her, a fear that's compounded due to her meeting her biological mother. The situation gets complicated when the parents find out one of the kids has been stealing Jesus' pills and selling them. Only they are lied to and they think it's Callie who is the culprit. It makes sense to blame the person who was in juvie. They don't know what kind of kid she is yet so it's very much possible that she's going to be dealing drugs. Marianna does feel guilty enough that she realizes she has to confess but Jesus takes the bullet for her because he thinks it's the right thing for him to do. At the same time, Brandon's girlfriend is finding herself jealous of Callie. The way that the kid's personal lives messes with Callie's and vice versa is being handled pretty well. There isn't really a weak plot this episode.

Consequently is a pretty good second episode of the Fosters. As I was watching this episode, I couldn't help but think how I wanted to see more of this show. That's only a good thing as it basically means I'm now hooked. The plots have all become surprisingly layered in it's exploration of non-traditional family structures. It's questioning of parental roles in this kind of family unit is fascinating because of just how relevant it is. The whole drama with Callie and her role in the household was well done as well. Consequently did one thing proved that the promise I saw in this show was real. It proved that this is a worth show sticking around. It fixed a lot of it's narrative issues, it fleshed out the character dynamics in new ways, and it's heart is uncompromised. The way it explores the family structure in the way that it does makes this a show truly for our times. As a consequence, this second episode hooked me. I call that a home run.

Other Notes:

Jake T. Austin seems to be getting more comfortable with Jesus as he's slightly better this week. Slightly.

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