‘The Fosters’ Review: ‘Faith, Hope, Love’ Explores Spirituality, Depression, Consequences
Recap and review of The Fosters – Season 3 Episode 7 – Faith, Hope, Love:
The Fosters is in a strange place with me right now. After last week, I found myself more than ready to go all-in with the Callie-AJ storyline. Yet the best parts in “Faith, Hope, Love” have nothing to do with them. This is an episode that thrives on the strength of its exploration of spirituality, depression, and — ultimately — the consequences of one’s actions.
But first things first: AJ (Tom Williamson) gets kicked out of the Adams-Foster home for the kiss with Callie (Maia Mitchell), and to say that Stef (Teri Polo) and Lena (Sherri Saum) are disappointed in her would be an understatement. Even Rita (Rosie O’Donnell), who ultimately takes AJ in temporarily, lectures Callie on how badly she needs to break these terrible habits of hers. It’s a reminder, in a lot of ways, that for as far as Callie has come, she’s still got a whole hell of a long way to go. To be kissed by AJ is one thing. But to pull back, assess the question, and decide to dive headlong into an even deeper kiss just smacks of bad judgment, particularly since Callie knew the consequences. It’s a case where Callie won’t have the system or circumstances or bad luck/fat to blame when she doesn’t get adopted. In every conceivable respect, Callie is the one who should have known better. That’s why I find it so obnoxious when, at the end of the episode, Callie’s case worker says she can’t recommend adoption to the judge until she investigates the old restraining order taken out against Brandon (David Lambert). It was supposed to have been expunged, yet here it is, in Callie’s file. What really ought to have been Callie reaping the consequences of her actions becomes yet another case of Callie being able to once again blame the system, which seems cosmically aligned against her adoption. I’ve long held to the theory that Callie eventually becomes a Foster in the series finale by marrying Brandon. But whether that’s the case or not, there has to be more to the story of Callie’s repeated failed adoption attempts other than that the system is just out to get her.
I mean, for crying out loud, this is an episode where Callie and AJ get caught by police in a stolen car (in a misunderstanding), and yet neither that nor the kiss comes back to haunt Callie. I’m not saying the show should shame Callie for physical acts, only that her impulsive decisions should have consequences beyond getting grounded by Stef and Lena. This is a coming-of-age drama. And in a coming-of-drama, characters have to learn from their mistakes. But Callie keeps making the same mistakes because…well, she doesn’t have to suffer any long-term consequences over them. If that were the case, she’d have been dealt a hard blow for making out with Brandon in Season 2, but in that situation, it was Robert who was keeping her from getting adopted anyway. I love Callie as a character, largely because I love Maia Mitchell’s portrayal, and also because the Callie we have now is so much farther along in maturity than the Callie we first met. Yet she still has a very long way to go, especially when she’s so prone to making the same kinds of mistakes. Time and again. With that said, Callie does seem to recognize, at some level, that her actions have consequences, and that a serious change is necessary. It might take a while to see those changes go into effect, but the acknowledgment of her screw-ups at least feels like progress. And, again, Maia Mitchell is doing great work in a role that could easily be thankless. I’m interested to see where this story is going, even if I’m not in love with where it went this week.
But, once again, the best parts of this week’s episode have nothing to do with the Callie/AJ storyline. Instead, it focuses on the complexity of the family relationships at the heart of the show. Of particular interest is the issue surrounding Mariana (Cierra Ramirez), since the layers go much deeper than questions of right or wrong. In short, Mariana wants to be Isabella’s godmother, but in order for that to happen, she’ll need to be baptized. This is all well and good, except that those beliefs are incompatible with the people Mariana loves. On the one hand, Mariana wants to be Isabella’s godmother; on the other hand, she simply cannot abide the priest declaring her mothers sinners simply for daring to love each other while having the same gender. It’s a very realistic conflict, and one of the more natural issues a character has faced this season, as this is the type of dilemma Mariana would face as someone caught between two very different kinds of families (the traditional family of her grandparents, and the modern family of Stef/Lena). Ultimately, she must determine where her loyalties lie, and that ends up being a choice that puts her squarely with Stef and Lena, who’ve loved her and provided for her when no one else would. And, naturally, this ends up looping back around to the other big development of the episode, as Ana (Alexandra Barreto) appears at Stef and Lena’s door to express her regret for not allowing them to adopt Isabella in the first place. Ana declares she feels no attachment to the baby, and more or less states it was a mistake to keep her.
Stef and Lena chalk this up to postpartum depression, with Lena even going so far as to reveal that the tree in the backyard dedicated to Frankie is a source of her own depression, owing to the constant reminder of Frankie’s death that it represents. This is a major moment for Lena, and Saum delivers the scene beautifully, playing opposite the similarly excellent Barreto, who plays a character who wavers from sympathetic to off-putting. I would image it’s a delicate, tricky character to play, especially in a moment like this, where every fear Jesus, Mariana, and Ana’s own parents had about her becoming a mother again are essentially proven true. This is the moment that will determine whether or not Ana was ever fit to be a mother, and if she’ll ever be fit for motherhood again. I just can’t imagine there’s any way she comes back from this, in the eyes of her children and her parents, if she walks away. Ana is at a crossroads, similar to the crossroads Mariana found herself facing, and that’s a genuinely potent character conflict that borders on poetic in how the two situations parallel. I thought everything surrounding this story was terrific. That said, I couldn’t really say the same for the Brandon storyline, since I’m kind of ready to be done with Idyllwild. Hell, I was ready for Brandon to move on from that storyline the first time he got kicked out. But at least now it seems to be heading in a more clear-cut direction, as Brandon gets back into the program, but with a price, as it’s expected he’ll owe his “friends” in the program. I don’t love the story, but I’m willing to see where it goes before ragging on it, since David Lambert has a certain “normal guy charisma” that carries a lot of his storylines, and has me far more interested in what he does than I feel I should be. If nothing else, this should be another case where the narrative can investigate the consequences that result from the choices we make.
“Faith, Hope, Love” is a solid episode of The Fosters, although it never really reached its full potential. Still, for everything surrounding Mariana and Ana, this was an easy thumbs up, for me. As we barrel towards the end of the half-season, I’m fairly optimistic that this show will stick the landing, as it’s one of the few family-oriented shows on TV that functions as a genuinely compelling, real world coming-of-age tale.
But what did you think of The Fosters, “Faith, Hope, Love”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on The Fosters, check out my review of last week’s stellar episode!
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