‘The Fosters’ Season 4 Premiere Review: ‘Potential Energy’ Addresses Gun Violence
Recap and review of The Fosters – Season 4 Premiere – Potential Energy:
It’s nothing new for The Fosters to address controversial issues, but this is one of those rare circumstances where the show comes face-to-face with an important issue only weeks removed from a tragedy of an unimaginable scale. It’s hard not to think of Orlando while watching “Potential Energy”, as the threat of gun violence looms large in both the world of the story and the world of the viewer. It gave the episode an uneasy tension, a sense of dread that it might not otherwise have had if we weren’t already so deeply aware of just how quickly things can go from scary to downright tragic.
Having Nick parading around school with a firearm isn’t exactly surprising, given how last season ended. But it’s an act that essentially effects the each of the characters, particularly within the context of their relationship to Mariana (Cierra Ramirez). For instance, Lena (Sherri Saum) and Stef (Teri Polo) both want to break protocol in order to search the school halls once they learn Mariana has not been accounted for among the students in lock down. Even Jesus (Noah Centineo) is distraught about his sister, especially since others have been noticing Nick acting strange, among them Mat (Jordan Rodrigues). Mariana does eventually learn that Nick saw her goodbye kiss with Mat, and she tries like hell to talk Nick down from his rampage. The show succeeds largely by painting Nick as a troubled soul rather than an out-and-out bad guy, since that’s more or less what he is throughout this episode. Sure, he’s seriously unhinged, but he at least comes across as someone who can still be reasoned with. When Mariana tries to get through to him, you can see the wheels turning in his head. Naturally, he’s too far gone already, what with the arson of his dad’s warehouse coming to light (and, to make matters worse, his dad’s decision to sue the school, since he never gave permission to use the warehouse for Brandon’s play). Nick is someone who’s basically spent the lion’s share of last season at war with his inner bad boy, so it feels like a natural extension of his character that he appears to struggle internally with his anguish over what he feels is Mariana’s betrayal. While it can feel iffy to extend the troublesome gun conflict into another week, it appears we’re setting up for what might be an interesting bottle episode, with the Fosters trapped in their house with a psychotic Nick. But even if that’s not the direction next week’s episode takes, it’s clear the business with Nick is far from over.
Of course, with Nick roaming around with a gun, the relationship drama seems kind of superfluous this week. But we get it anyway, as Stef and Lena assert their shock that Callie (Maia Mitchell) could be carrying on with Brandon (David Lambert) underneath their noses. This is one of the situations where I’m glad the show didn’t simply skip ahead to several months later, allowing us to instead deal with the fallout of Callie’s admission from the finale immediately. Granted, her admission does get pushed to the side once the business with Nick goes down, but Callie at least gets to let Brandon know the truth. And, in a move that’s both surprising but not really, Brandon is completely on her side, letting Callie know that she doesn’t have to apologize to him for letting Moms know the truth. Still, Callie omits the whole Justina Marks side of things, and how their sexual encounter isn’t exactly a public secret, what with people spreading nasty rumors on Fost and Found now. While Brandon and Callie’s relationship is still very much up in the air, there at least seems to be a bit more clarity to all this than there is with Jude (Hayden Byerly). Callie and Brandon know they can’t be together, and they know why. But Jude can’t really think of why he can’t be with Taylor other than that he simply doesn’t know for sure what his sexual orientation is right now. It’s a direction that, much like Nick’s descent into complete, balls-to-the-wall madness, feels natural for Jude’s character. Byerly is an actor with a remarkably expressive face, and I really get the sense of his internalized struggle without Jude having to say all that much.
It’s kind of strange to even confront these sorts of relationship issues in an episode with a much more ominous undercurrent. But these vignettes into the love lives of the characters break up the constant dread and terror. Whether shifting from terror to romantic angst is an appropriate tone for the episode depends largely on the viewer. I felt it worked here, but I wouldn’t argue with anyone who thought it didn’t, particularly since everyone is going to react differently to an episode like this. I’m probably more invested in Mariana than most other characters, so I was naturally scared the show might kill her off. But not everyone is as invested in Mariana. Others might want to know how the Callie/Brandon relationship will turn out, or how Stef/Lena handle their marital troubles. Part of the strength of The Fosters is that there’s likely to be something else a viewer can invest in if they aren’t feeling the main storyline. And such is the case with “Potential Energy”, albeit less so than in other episodes, since Nick’s potential rampage completely engulfs the story. I’m glad The Fosters is back for Season 4, if nothing else, as these characters were definitely missed over the spring hiatus. The show is maturing, and I’m anxious to see where the stories are headed this season.
But what did you think of The Fosters Season 4 Premiere, “Potential Energy”? Sound off in the comments!
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