Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Fosters

The Fosters
Episode 9: Virgil
By: Carlos Uribe

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

Spoilers Ahoy!


Can we all breathe a sigh of relief that the only character that died was the scary boyfriend of the biological mother of the twins? We find out what happened over the course of the episode. The two went into the house with their guns raised. Stef goes into a room by herself, gets shot at by the boyfriend, the boyfriend drops the gun, Mikes goes in and shoots the boyfriend. Mike thinks it's a clean shoot but he had really shot an unarmed suspect. The problem is that the mother was in the bathroom during the shooting and she had witnessed what had really happened. There is an internal affairs investigation into the matter and they might crucify one or both of them for what happened if they get a whiff of her testimony. The stakes are clear as their careers are now jeopardized. Mike could even go to jail. It is simply stunning to see the consequences of the actions of Jesus and Mariana. Jesus' decision to try to take his biological mother to a battered women shelter led to the shootout at the house. Mariana's decision to secretly meet her biological mother and give her money in the pilot has led to this. They are both at fault even though they were both trying to do the right thing. It's very smart writing because of the multiple levels present. At first, it seemed like the only consequence from that plot was that Jesus was going to get in trouble for Mariana selling his pills for the money. It has since evolved as their biological mother urged that Mariana steal something from her and tried to use the scary boyfriend to intimidate them into getting her some money. It resulted in the house shootout when Jesus was dragged into the plot because he didn't want Mariana to visit their mother's dangerous neighborhood by herself. He couldn't help but pity her so he tried to help her. The way to hell is truly paved with good intentions. In many ways, it also calls back to the pilot when Callie and Brandon went to get Jude from the abusive foster dad. Only this time somebody would actually get shot. Only this time the events set forth in motion were a consequence of actions that happened earlier in the season. In many ways, the season built up to Virgil and the finale is merely going to be an epilogue.

The smart decision that the writers took with this episode is that they never really pretended that Stef's life was in danger. Oh, they might have said her condition was critical and there were a lot of scenes of the characters worried about whether she was going to pull through or not. They put the pretense that Stef's life was in danger but it never really felt like her life was actually at stake. If anything, the writers use her comatose state to flashback to key moments in her life. The first time that she met Lena, while she was still married to Mike. The first time that she met the twins, after their most recent foster parents had abandoned them at the police station. The time she had to come out as a lesbian to her separated husband which made his drinking problem worse. The time that she and Lena really got serious because she revealed she had committed to her new lifestyle. These flashbacks helped give more background information with Mike that was merely hinted at before. They helped to briefly show the development of Lena and Stef's relationship. It's initial beginning as an affair to it's conclusion with them becoming life partners. It helped to give some more definition to Stef's relationship with the twins. I'll admit that the flashbacks were a little bit cheesy but I think they were otherwise used to really help land the emotional impact this episode had. It also helps land Stef's decision to wake up and immediately propose to Lena at the end. So, yes, Stef is going to be okay and it looks like there's going to be a wedding in the summer finale. No shock there but the journey to get there was very well executed.

The way the characters dealt with Stef's shooting was great. The twins felt guilty especially as most of the characters seemed to turn against them. Lena can barely tolerate to be in the same room with them. She admits that she's trying her best to forgive them but she's finding it impossible to do so. Brandon takes out his worry and frustration by blaming them. It was their fault and it makes sense he would blame them but he did it in a way that crossed a line when he talked about how nobody wanted them. The twins, guilty, were also understandably worried about the future. There's a moment where Mariana fears that their moms aren't going to want them anymore. That they've lost the love of their family. It's a strong moment for both of the characters because they don't know if the family will be able to get past their actions. Of course, this gets resolved largely by the end of the episode. Callie is able to make Brandon realize that he doesn't understand what it means to be in the foster system, to have nobody who wants you. He apologizes to them and makes them realize that he's still their brother. At the end, Lena is finally able to forgive them and even threatens to kill their biological mother if she ever comes near them again. This plot was handled pretty perfectly as it covered every angle they could have had: the fear, the effects of the foster system, and the guilt. It all felt very authentic. This is ultimately where the real strength of this episode lied: with the way that this shook the family dynamics to the breaking point.

Of course, we get some more development of the numerous sub-plots. Wyatt realizes that Callie has feelings for Brandon so he breaks up with her. He goes as far as to encourage her to seek a relationship with him. As he points out, it's not like she plans to live in the house permanently. What's the harm? Callie seems to listen to this and here's where the writing falls a bit. Wyatt was not the only thing holding her back from dating Brandon. It was the rule that if it goes on her record that she was sexually active, she would be stuck in a home until she became an adult. It's that threat that should keep her from seeing Brandon beyond fear of being removed from this home. Then again, Jude has pointed out how she has a capacity to do stupid things. It remains heartbreaking when she enters the hospital looking happy for the first time ever only to get brought down back to Earth when she sees him with Talya. Aww. I don't want Brandon and Callie together because it jeopardizes her place in the home but I also want her to be happy. Gah, this show is complicated and this forbidden teen romance is actually working because of the specific stakes involved. The other plot development is where Brandon decides he's had it with his alcoholic father. Mike's response is to finally seek some help when he starts to attend alcoholics anonymous. Is he too late? I've got to admit I'm happy that Mike is alive (I was afraid he would be killed) because his relationship with his son is a very compelling one. I'm very optimistic about his recovery plot arc.

Virgil is a pretty great episode of the Fosters where just about everything worked. The whole house shooting plot didn't just put Stef in a hospital bed and it threatens her partner's career. The flashbacks helped add definition to the backstory while helping to sell the marriage proposal at the end. The whole drama surrounding the shooting with the twins was all executed well. The sub-plots with the forbidden romance story feels like it actually matters and should conflict the audience. Mike's decision to get sober is a strong character choice that's going to tie into his relationship with his son. It really can act as a great climax to the whole season as the twin's decision to help their biological mother came to a head. I'm excited to see the summer finale because it's likely going to be a great hour of television as the narrative momentum doesn't deflate at the end but rather it continues.

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