‘The Fosters’ Season 3 Finale Review: Compelling ‘Kingdom Come’ Spells Trouble Ahead
Recap and review of The Fosters – Season 3 Finale – Kingdom Come:
Well, when it rains, it pours. At least on The Fosters. “Kingdom Come” is a compelling look into how most of the characters are suffering from their world unraveling in disastrous fashion. Sure, Brandon and Jude seem to be alright, but things aren’t exactly going well for Callie, or Lena, or Mariana, or even Nick, who burns down the Romeo & Juliet set by lighting Mat’s love letter on fire, and then comes to school the next day with a gun in his glovebox. If you needed any other indication of just what kind of crazed hell Season 4 is heading toward, there’s your sign. And yet, it wouldn’t be The Fosters if we weren’t in a consistently compelling state of freefall, no?
I mean, yes, I would love for things to actually work out more consistently. But then, we wouldn’t have any drama to actually propel the season forward. As much as I loved the first season of the show, I don’t know if this is a series that could be sustained solely on romance drama. Granted, most of the disasters plaguing the characters stem from romantic entanglements, but they’re situated within a broader context. For instance, the major threat of the romance between Callie (Maia Mitchell) and Brandon (David Lambert) has always been that it would jeopardize Callie’s chances of being adopted. But the nature of the threat has changed now, because it could lead to farther reaching consequences, such as the downfall of the Fost and Found app, and possible legal action against Stef (Teri Polo) and Lena for allowing this to occur on their watch. This is the hook on which the climax rests, and it makes for a riveting sequence of events: When Callie learns that Jack’s death was the result of a for-profit organization assigning him to Pearson, and later discovers that Justina (Kelli Williams) was on that organization’s payroll, she decides to put her former mentor on blast, revealing the truth about Justina and torpedoing the legislative bill in the process. A furious Justina retaliates by digging up the old restraining order taken out against Brandon, and uses that as evidence to prove that Callie was engaged in a sexual relationship with her foster brother. Stef is livid and wants to sue for libel, but Callie reveals that they can’t…because it’s all true.
Part of me wishes we hadn’t been given that cliffhanger in the preview last week, but I suppose it’s my own fault for watching the preview in the first place. Naturally, Stef and Lena look like a bomb has been dropped in their laps, and it’s a credit to the acting of everyone involved: Mitchell plays Callie as someone who, while not regretful about the act of being with Brandon, is regretful of the circumstances through which it came to light. But more than that, she plays Callie as someone who’s simply tired of lying and being lied to. Between keeping her relationship with Brandon a secret, and discovering the depths of Justina’s corruption (provided that’s actually what it was, and not some gross misinterpretation of that paycheck in Justina’s office), Callie has been through a lot. Similarly, Polo and Saum are excellent as two parents who are suddenly processing and reassessing the context of every single moment they’ve witnessed between Callie and Brandon. You could practically see the wheels turning in their minds — the shock, the disappointment, the question of just how long this has been going on. It’s all there without any added dialogue than what we saw in last week’s preview. It’s frustrating that the show ends that storyline here for the season, but it makes a pretty great hook for Season 4. Of course, Callie’s partnership with Justina imploding, and her relationship with Brandon being exposed are merely two of the night’s highlights.
Lena (Sherri Saum) is able to get Monte (Annika Marks) cleared of any wrongdoing against Sally Benton, but ends up in the hotseat herself when the school board learns she hired Gabe (Brandon Quinn), a registered sex offender, to build sets for the school play. This is a big enough deal, but things somehow manage to get worse when Gabe, who’s out on parole, comes to the Adams-Foster household to ask who told his parole officer he was working around kids. Turns out, Jesus (Noah Centineo) thought it would help Gabe’s case somehow, although it ended up having the opposite effect, since Gabe has now violated the terms of his parole, meaning he’s heading back to prison. Jesus’s heart was in the right place, but his head really wasn’t. Then again, I don’t know how much he could reasonably be expected to know about the legal system. And yet, even then, you’d think he’d talk to someone first before going on a crusade in Gabe’s favor. As a result, Gabe essentially wants to cut ties with Jesus, which is a drastic move, albeit somewhat understandable even though it clearly wasn’t Jesus’s intent to do any harm. I feel awful for everyone involved, even Ana (Alexandra Barreto), who goes chasing after Gabe right in front of new boyfriend Mike (Danny Nucci). This, after Stef warned Mike earlier about Ana’s unreliability, and just hours after Brandon chewed out his father for never standing up to Stef. It was a strangely sad episode for Mike, who’s become somewhat of a punching bag in the show. A man who tries to fix people but ends up failing, whether it’s Dani, AJ or Ana. Hopefully, things turn out different this time for the poor guy.
Meanwhile, Jude (Hayden Byerly) is still grieving over Jack, and suddenly finding himself uncertain about what he wants out of the relationships in his life. When he admits to Taylor (Izabela Vidovic) that he might not be into guys after all, her crush is suddenly reignited. And this time, Jude seems receptive to the idea. After all, he’s never kissed a girl, so he doesn’t even know if it’s something he’d be into yet. But this soul-searching comes at the expense of his even-tempered nature. When Callie reveals that Jack wasn’t gay, Jude accuses his sister of lying, stating it’s what she always does. It’s an uncharacteristically cruel moment, but it’s perfectly in character for a teenager struggling with an identity crisis, and all the mood swings that such a struggle entails. It wounds Callie to hear it, and it wounds Jude to have heard what he did about Jack. Even if he didn’t have romantic feelings for Jack, that kiss told him that there could be a life after Connor. That others could want him in the same way Connor did. Discovering that kiss was simply to make him feel better prompts Jude to further question what he knows about himself. It’s no surprise that he marches into school the next day and plants a kiss on Taylor. He’s got to figure himself out somehow, and the sudden lack of clarity about Jack leaves him in a position where kissing Taylor probably sounds like the best possible solution to figuring things out. It’s a poignant story, and I hope Season 4 explores a bit more of Jude’s life than Season 3 did. Seriously, we went entire weeks without seeing Jude in any significant manner, and I feel like Byerly is too strong of a talent to be in an ancillary role. If anything, his storyline is a welcome window into the sexual frustrations and identity crises facing some teens.
At the very least, I found Jude’s story more compelling than the love rectangle between Mat, Mariana, Zoey and Nick. It’s not that this isn’t a good story — quite the opposite, in fact — it’s simply that it escalated so quickly that it ended up being genuinely jarring. When Nick (Louis Hunter) sees Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) sharing a final goodbye/relationship-ending kiss with Mat (Jordan Rodrigues), he misinterprets it as proof that the two are getting back together. So he burns down the set to Romeo and Juliet, just hours after trying like hell to convince his father to let the play continue for an extended run. The scene between Nick and his father gives us a window into why Nick has such a big chip on his shoulder. It really is one of the more understated, engrossing scenes of the episode, since it allows us to see where Nick is coming from. His father, who’s almost cartoonish in his a-hole qualities, doesn’t think Nick will amount to anything, and spends the better part of three minutes verbally berating him for showing any sort of ambition whatsoever. Granted, you could argue that Nick’s impulsive decision to burn down a set that could have made him money (via the musical continuing to run shows) is proof that his father was right about his lack of potential as an entrepreneur. But it seems clear that Nick’s father berating him, and offering now proper guidance for balance, is what’s really harming Nick. It’s not really that big of a surprise when Nick rolls up to school with a gun in his glove compartment. He’s never really learned how to deal with anything, because his father’s emotional abuse has stunted his emotional growth. It’s a sad story, and one that’s bound to end in tragedy, even if we don’t see what happens after Nick opens the glovebox.
And yet, while I feel bad for Nick, I also kind of feel bad for Brandon, who’s suddenly had the possibility of a successful show snatched away from him, without him even realizing it. The set is gone, and it’s going to be tough as hell to find a replacement space on such short notice. Of course, none of this is really on Brandon’s mind in the episode, since he’s blissfully anyway of any of this. After all, it’s his eighteenth birthday! And that means flaunting his adulthood to everyone, whether it’s telling his moms that his relationship with a single mother “isn’t up for discussion,” or whether it’s telling his father that he’s too much of a doormat. In a way, Brandon can come across as insufferable in how he carries himself with an air of unearned maturity — and yet, it’s very realistic for someone who’s just turned eighteen and assumes they have complete command of adulthood and all that it entails. Stef and Lena gift him a trust fund for Julliard, but Brandon quickly turns around and uses the money to buy Cortney (Denyse Tontz) a new place, since her ex kicked her out of their apartment for bringing Brandon home. It’s an impulsive move on Brandon’s part, but also the mark of what a selfless guy he is. Sure, I could make the case that he was woefully disrespectful to his parents this week, but then he goes and sticks by Cortney when she gave him every opportunity to get out of the relationship guilt-free. His argument that Julliard couldn’t happen without financial aid anyway seems to be a decent enough excuse for why Cortney actually accepts Brandon’s offer, since he wasn’t planning on using the money for Julliard anyway. Granted, I doubt Stef and Lena will be thrilled with that excuse. But hey, it’s technically Brandon’s money now anyway, to use as he pleases. I like Cortney, and while the relationship seems destined to fail, I’m glad she’s sticking around. She has a natural warmth to her that makes her a great onscreen love interest for Brandon.
All in all, “Kingdom Come” is a possible gamechanger for The Fosters, considering how the episode ends. Will Stef, Lena and Callie continue to deny the relationship with Brandon to the public, or will they let it all come to light and face the consequences? Will Lena lose her job over the decision to hire Gabe? Will Nick’s heartbreak end in a school shooting and further tragedy? And what other actions will Justina take against Callie? It’s a lot to take in, but it leaves a lot for Season 4 to settle. Season 3 was, in my opinion, the best season yet for the series. So my optimism is high that The Fosters will continue to produce compelling TV when it returns this summer.
But what did you think of The Fosters Season 3 finale, “Kingdom Come”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on The Fosters, read our review of last week’s epic, tragic “The Show”!