‘The Fosters’ Season Premiere Review: ‘Wreckage’ Picks Up the Pieces

Recap and review of The Fosters – Season 3 Premiere – Wreckage:

“Wreckage” kicks off Season 3 of The Fosters with one of the biggest bait-and-switch moments in recent TV history. And yet, I couldn’t be more relieved.

Although Jake T. Austin has left the show, Jesus is not actually dead. The show tries to trick us into thinking so by opening up with Stef (Teri Polo) coming across the accident scene, only to find Jesus being carted away by the EMTs, face bloodied beyond recognition. But Stef wakes up, revealing that Jesus’s death was just a dream. However, the accident was still very real, and although the person who died isn’t someone we know personally, the hit-and-run nature of the accident demands justice. So Stef is still investigating it, with the hopes of getting justice for the deceased while also finding out who nearly got her kids killed. And that’s a solid motivation for the character, particularly when someone as talented as Teri Polo is playing the role, as she gets some really great scenes here, particularly when she breaks down in front of Lena (Sherri Saum), horrifically reliving that moment where she thought her kids had been killed and she would “never be okay again.” It was among the most potently affecting moments of an episode that was filled with similarly effective drama. Sure, Jesus may be gone away at boarding school, but the show is soldiering on without him nonetheless. And the result is a season premiere that resets the table without rendering the show unrecognizable.

'The Fosters' Season Premiere Review 'Wreckage' Pulls No Punches

Credit: ABC Family

For one, there’s considerably more ripple-effect drama in this premiere. In helping a troubled foster kid named AJ, Callie (Maia Mitchell) ends up ruining the good thing she was setting up for herself at the youth center. In short, she lets him sleep in the youth center without anyone knowing, only to discover that he’s made off with all the center’s supplies the next morning. She fesses up, gets fired, and now she’s suddenly without a job for her independent study, meaning her ability to graduate is now in jeopardy. It’s an interesting story largely because it places Callie in the sorts of positions she was placing everyone else, as a troubled foster kid. Much like AJ, Callie wasn’t necessarily a mean kid, but her desperation made her do stupid things. When we learn that AJ was a brother from whom he was separated, it becomes clear that he’s a sort of mirror for what Callie might have become had she not had the stabilizing influence of Jude (Hayden Byerly). Because, really, how far would you go to be reunited with your brother? AJ is a desperate kid, and although Callie can understand that, in much the same way people like Rita and even the Fosters themselves could, those desperate actions don’t minimize the severity of the situation. It’s undoubtedly difficult for foster kids, but Callie is beginning to realize just how hard it is for the people trying to do right by those same foster kids. That’s a fascinating story, although I’ll openly groan if this leads to AJ being taken in by the Fosters and becoming Callie’s new love interest in the process. On the subject of romance, Callie might actually have more anxiety to get through if she finds out what a certain ex-boyfriend has gotten up to…

The Fosters Season 3 Wreckage

Credit: ABC Family/Tony Rivetti

Yes, Wyatt (Alex Saxon) slept with Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) at an end-of-school year party on the beach. It’s another instance in which the ripple effects of a single incident spread out to create larger consequences. Here, we learn Mariana has been helping Ana (Alexandra Barreto) raise baby Isabella, since she’s unable to herself due to the injuries she sustained in the accident. However, it comes across less like Mariana wanting to help out, and more concern that Ana isn’t entirely fit to take care of a baby on her own just yet, given her history. Mariana’s obsession with her new baby sister hurts her relationship with Mat (Jordan Rodrigues), who is leaving on the tour for three weeks after the end-of-year party. So she’s stressed enough as it is, but things get worse once Ana recovers and reveals that while she appreciates Mariana’s help, she’s feeling kind of smothered. Ana tells Mariana she needs alone time with Isabella, leaving Mariana feeling like an outcast. In an attempt to feel wanted again, she devises a plan to lose her virginity to Mat at the party. But when Mat refuses, saying the beach is too public, Mariana goes off to sulk on her own. Enter Wyatt, who offers a friendly ear, with a case of friendly beers. Before long, they’re drunk, and one thing leads to another and…well, I’m not sure how Callie is going to react, since she and Wyatt aren’t exactly together anymore, but I can’t imagine Mat is going to be thrilled. Worse, by becoming sexually active so early, Mariana runs the risk of repeating her mother’s actions. Granted, becoming sexually active at a young age isn’t the issue so much as doing it without protection, and we do know Mariana had a condom with her. So maybe this won’t result in a pregnancy. But the notion that Mariana is using sex as a coping mechanism already has me worried about her ability to keep from repeating her mother’s mistakes. Then again, Mariana is portrayed as a smart kid, so this is probably all just needless concern on my part. Still…

The Fosters - Recap and Review - Season 3 Premiere - Wreckage

Credit: ABC Family/Adam Taylor

As for everyone else in the Adams-Foster family, it’s a trio of identity crises: Brandon (David Lambert) discovers he’s been put into the Idyllwild Music Program as a composer, and not as a pianist. Brandon’s entire musical identity is centered on his skills as a pianist, and he doubts he’d even be in the same league as these other kids when it comes to writing music. It certainly doesn’t help that he’s paired with an egotistical, self-involved uber-student named Kat, who worries that having to work with Brandon for the semester-long project will prevent her from playing at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. But a pep talk from Lou (Ashley Argota) convinces Brandon that he does have the chops to stand with the best of Idyllwild’s students, and he eventually gives Kat a stern talking to, in one of his better moments in a while (“I’m the oldest of five children. I’ve seen every kind of tantrum there is. I don’t scare easy.”). Similarly, Jude is going through an identity crisis of his own, once the secret gets out that he and Connor (Gavin McIntosh) are dating. Jude has been labeled his entire life, as the new kid or as the foster kid. While he does have feelings for Connor, and wants to be his boyfriend, “gay” is still a label to Jude, and that makes him uncertain. “I just want to be ‘Jude’ for a while,” he says, which almost sounds like he’s dumping Connor. But it turns out this isn’t the case, as they hold hands on the beach in one of the sweeter images of the episode. Less sweet is the issue of Monte (Annika Marks) and Lena. Monte explains that she’s still straight, and that the kiss was a confused mistake on her part that meant nothing. She wishes things could stop being weird between she and Lena, but Lena doesn’t seem entirely able to get past it. This is all made more complicated by an upcoming symposium on education reform, which includes a trip for two. Monte wants Lena to come with her, but it’s obviously a bad idea. And Lena seems to recognize this, turning down Monte’s proposal once it becomes clear just how much pain Stef is in over the near-loss of Mariana and Jesus. I still feel like Monte is misrepresenting her feelings for Lena, but for now, this romance storyline appears to be off-the-table. And all the better, I say. The notion that either Stef or Lena would ever have an affair just strains credulity, to me.

Ultimately, “Wreckage” is a strong premiere for The Fosters. It’s an episode that offers more mature storylines for the younger characters, while still illustrating that they’re kids with a lot to learn. It’s an episode that pulls no punches, as these characters are learning their lessons the hard way. I love this approach, and I hope The Fosters is able to maintain this level of narrative coherence for the rest of Season 3. For now, they’re off to a very good start.

But what did you think of the episode? Sound off in the comments!

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Thanks for reading!

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