Tuesday, January 8, 2019

REVIEW: 'Good Trouble' - Callie and Mariana Have Rocky Starts With Their New Lives in Los Angeles in 'DTLA'

Freeform's Good Trouble - Episode 1.01 "DTLA"

Living with a group of friends in a community style living space in downtown Los Angeles, sisters Callie and Mariana navigate the beginning of their careers - Callie clerking for a conservative judge and Mariana in the male-dominated tech space. The sisters and best friends will navigate love, sex, and the complicated relationships that come with living in a new city in your 20s.

Good Trouble certainly has a tall order for itself in needing to set up three unique environments during this premiere - the Coterie, the tech start-up and the legal offices of Judge Wilson. Each of these locations will play a significant role in this new series. Callie and Mariana from The Fosters are grown up now. They are navigating their individual lives in a new city. They are still fundamentally the same characters though. They may not be making the same mistakes that they did in high school. But they are still making plenty of mistakes as well. None of them happen to be all that dramatic or life-threatening at the moment. And yet, that could still be a direction this show pursues because both characters certainly found themselves in dangerous situations a ton on The Fosters. Here, there is the idea that they have experienced more of the world and know exactly what they want to do with their lives. Mariana has gotten this job at an exciting tech start-up and hopes to pitch her brilliant app to the CEO as soon as possible. Meanwhile, Callie has a clerkship for a well-respected though right-leaning judge. They are both pursuing the careers they want. And yet, this premiere also puts them into constant conflict because they need to doubt the choices that they have been making as of late. Should they move into the Coterie knowing that it is a communal living space that they can barely afford in downtown Los Angeles? How can Mariana maintain her sense of self in a male-dominated company that already has a ton of sexual harassment? How can Callie hold onto her ideals while facing the realities of what clerking for a judge actually entails? These are the questions that will be fundamental to the series. It will be a season of growth. And yet, both of them seem to land on their feet by the conclusion of this hour. It just also seems clear that they will still be plagued with doubts as they try to get their respective lives going.

Mariana knew what the Coterie was before she and Callie moved to Los Angeles as well. She heard about it from a guy she has a crush on at her new job. Gael is one of the few major characters who is given some defining characteristics in this hour. Sure, there are plenty of people who fill out these worlds that Callie and Mariana find themselves in. However, most of them are just broadly introduced because the hour has a lot that it needs to get done. It does so pretty succinctly though. It moves through its stories at a brisk pace. Moreover, things quickly get complicated when it comes to Gael. Callie actually sleeps with him before she knows that he is the guy Mariana has a crush. It plays as this huge secret that will need to be kept. It leads to a number of awkward situations where Gael and Callie have to play along even though Mariana is blatantly obvious as a stalker. She still seems a little immature in that regard. She is still keeping secrets. And yet, these secrets aren't poised to be kept for a long duration. Callie and Mariana get into a fight about this living arrangement. Callie is upset that Mariana withheld information from her. It seems like everything is going to implode very quickly. Of course, that's not a legitimate threat because the hour wouldn't waste so much time setting up this environment and the characters also living here if they wouldn't be important to the overall series. And later, Callie is honest about having sex with Gael. She tells Mariana the truth because she wants their bond as sisters to be strong. She doesn't want anything to come in between them. However, it's also fascinating to see both of them immediately look at Gael differently upon the realization that he is bisexual. In fact, that may prove that they are still problematic individuals because that moment of voyeurism means neither one wants to sleep with him any more. The series exploring that sexual identity will be very unique and meaningful. But Callie and Mariana should absolutely confront how they have big reactions to it when they really shouldn't.

Callie also has her expectations tempered when it comes to her clerkship. She is immediately thrown into the deep end with this environment. However, she is at least professional and knows how to care about this job and do it well. Sure, she is susceptible to the opinions of her fellow clerks. They went to Ivy League schools and believe that means they got the superior education. Judge Wilson likes having someone with different experiences and a state school backing in his office though. And yet, he also lets his concerns and criticisms known. He expects his clerks to have clear and precise answers about the cases that come across his desk. He also wants them to admit when they aren't well-informed enough to give a complete opinion. He would rather them do that instead of offering a perspective that is clearly wrong. Callie falls into that trap right away. And yet, she still wants it to be known that she has a voice that she is willing to back up with the legal precedents. Of course, that too may not sit well with this judge. He isn't looking for which of his clerks can make the most passionate argument. He wants them to be the most-researched to ensure the letter of the law is followed. He doesn't view himself as a conservative judge. That may be the perception of him to the outside world. And yet, he understands that the judicial system can't work if there is a political bias. That's something that Callie struggles with though because her politics and beliefs mean something very personal to her. She came in with the idea that she could make the liberal arguments and change the minds of those who preside over these cases. That may be foolish and naive of her though. That's not what her expectations should be. She has to learn how to navigate this world. She still aims to make a difference whenever she can. And yet, her fellow clerks and her new roommate Malika will make it known to her when she loses what should be a case that matters because of its public spotlight.

And finally, Mariana tries to maintain her confidence even in a world that is forcing her to question every choice she is making. Sure, it's right for her to pay after the U-haul is towed for parking in the yellow and all of the belongings are stolen. That means that the sisters come to the city with basically nothing. Of course, that's not a problem for very long. The people at the Coterie are more than fine pitching in to help decorate the room to make it more livable for the sisters. It started out so empty and disgusting. But now, it may actually suit both of them. That shows that these characters just have to learn how to adapt to these new environments. Mariana spends her day at work still crushing after Gael. But that also covers up some deep insecurities about being taken seriously in this business. She doesn't want to be seen as the requisite woman hired in order to boost the diversity statistics of this business. She sees herself as earning her place here. She went to MIT and is a very capable software engineer. And yet, her new team doesn't respect her. They give her menial tasks. When she does ask for more responsibility, they play a prank that shows just how juvenile and abhorrent they actually are. Mariana is able to turn the tables on them. She gets back at them to prove that she too can be a member of this team. And yet, that only comes after she is the one accused by HR of stepping out of line. She apparently disrupts the CEO's day by approaching him in the elevator. That seems to really startle him and she can't even pitch her idea for an app. Instead of making progress, she has the perception of becoming difficult. That's not something she wants. She knows how great she is. She believes in her own brilliance. She just doesn't quite know how to work in this environment. Sure, it's not welcoming to her in the slightest. She is crying alone in the bathroom with no one to help her but her sister. That bond is still strong. But she has to be secure in her independence as well in order to make this job work.

Some more thoughts:
  • "DTLA" was written by Joanna Johnson, Peter Paige & Bradley Bredeweg and directed by Jon M. Chu.
  • Alice is the woman who runs the Coterie. She may actually be the manager of the entire building. And yet, it's only important that she is the point person for the Coterie who welcomes Callie and Mariana while also showing them around. She also happens to be an out-lesbian to her friends in this environment but still closeted to her parents.
  • Malika is the woman at the Coterie who informs Callie about the latest case of police brutality. It soon lands on Judge Wilson's desk to review. It seems like Malika is a kindred spirit to Callie. However, she may also be the example of the failings of the foster care system because she grew up in that environment but never found a family that wanted to adopt her. She wasn't lucky like Callie and Mariana.
  • Rebecca and Benjamin are the other clerks in Judge Wilson's office. They loom over Callie because they have already been in this environment and know what to expect from the judge. They have differing advice for Callie as well. Rebecca is warm and welcoming to Callie. Ben just wants her to fail. And yet, it's also clear that it's annoying and unprofessional that Callie has her phone on vibrate at work.
  • There is no real dimension to the other three guys whose team Mariana joins. They are just collectively awful. They move as a group who mostly alienate Mariana from the project and their social circle. However, it seems like there is a moment where one looks at Mariana with admiration. Perhaps that could be a crush that actually goes somewhere. But it still may be complicated because of interpersonal dynamics in the workplace.
  • Callie and Mariana aren't able to keep secrets from the moms so far. They immediately break as to everything that has happened since they moved to Los Angeles. It is going to be fascinating to see how all of the other regular characters from The Fosters are incorporated into this show and how they react to the lives that the sisters are now living.