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Review: ‘The Fosters’ “Things Unknown”

Sara Chaffee ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

David Lambert, Cierra Ramirez, Jake T. Austin, Maia Mitchell and Hayden Byerly in The Fosters episode "Things Unknown." Photo Credit: ABC Family/Ron Tom.
David Lambert, Cierra Ramirez, Jake T. Austin, Maia Mitchell and Hayden Byerly in The Fosters episode “Things Unknown.” Photo Credit: ABC Family/Ron Tom.

The season premiere of The Fosters started with some serious drama and many important questions–Why is Brandon just now showing he has a conscience? Why would Callie wear a crop top to court? When will the show finally let the Ana storyline die? And will Callie ever be happy and drama-free?

To answer the last question, no. At least not this season. The premiere found leading lady Callie (Maia Mitchell) once again denied for her adoption and then, in a shocking twist that disappointingly only lasted for 15 minutes, yanked from the Adams-Foster home after Stef (Teri Polo) and Lena (Sherri Saum) failed to renew their foster license. To make matters worse, Callie learned that in order for her to stay with her new family permanently, she must first find her biological father, who as it turns out may not be aware of her existence. Not to worry though, because in true Fosters fashion, the Court tracks down her father, Robert Quinn (Kerr Smith), two scenes later. But unbeknownst to Callie, Robert finds her too, with Mitchell look-alike Bailee Madison in tow. Whether Callie’s biological father and sister put her adoption in jeopardy or simply form a relationship with her, their introduction is bound to shake things up this season. The former will probably be true, considering that Callie’s life can never seem to work out the way she and the audience want it to.

The Fosters 3
Teri Polo and Sherri Saum in The Fosters episode “Things Unknown.” Photo Credit: ABC Family/Ron Tom.

Brandon (David Lambert) on the other hand, has been making his life difficult on his own accord. After a full season of making poor decisions, he has finally come to the realization that his actions hurt other people. It is not until Dani, played by Full House alum Marla Sokoloff, tells him that she is moving in with his father that Brandon begins to show remorse for sleeping with her in the season one finale. In his defense, he has been a little preoccupied with almost getting beaten to death and losing his ability to play the piano at full prodigy level. Taking Brandon’s musical ability from him was a great creative decision. Now the audience will get to see him struggling to get that ability back or looking for a new outlet. Whatever path Brandon follows this season, the accident and injury he sustained humanizes him. He is no longer the piano prodigy, the creepy older boy hitting on his foster sister, or the student stealing from his school to sell fake IDs. Brandon Foster is now a character the audience can sympathize with and relate to. This adjustment to one of the few problems The Fosters had in its first season is one huge step in the right direction for season two.

Another thing The Fosters could improve upon in its new season is dropping the Ana storyline. In the premiere, Stef and Mike (Danny Nucci) had yet another fight about Stef trying to track down Ana (Alexandra Barreto). But because Stef doesn’t really listen to anyone (and honestly no one should really being listening to anything Mike says anyway), she keeps digging. Stef finds the person who last saw Ana and he claims that he witnessed an argument between Ana and Mike right before she disappeared.

David Lambert and Jake T. Austin in The Fosters episode "Things Unknown." Photo Credit: ABC Family/Ron Tom.
David Lambert and Jake T. Austin in The Fosters episode “Things Unknown.” Photo Credit: ABC Family/Ron Tom.

While that is a nice twist, especially since Mike was seen with blood-covered hands in the season one finale, the Ana storyline has run its course. It was great in the beginning of the series, when the focus of the arc was Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) and Jesus’ (Jake T. Austen) relationship with her. But since the midseason finale, in which Lena told Ana to stay away from her children after Ana’s boyfriend shot and almost killed Stef, the need for Ana to exist has been limited. She only popped up in the second half of season one when Brandon offered her money not to testify in his father’s trial and then to exploit Stef with his bribery. Yes, that was dramatic and everything one would expect from an ABC Family series, but it wasn’t necessary, and neither is the current Ana storyline.

Because, here’s the thing: The Fosters is not like any other ABC Family series;it is not a show that needs to rely on random and cheap dramatics to keep its audience interested. The Fosters is at its best when it’s not trying to be a show for teenagers. Scenes like Lena explaining to Stef that Mariana’s dye job is about fitting in while living as a minority; or Jude reading his essay about finally finding a home and a place he belongs; scenes that are about family and life, and not about what is going to deliver the biggest ratings bump. A series doesn’t need gimmicks when it has heart. If The Fosters steers clear of the drawn-out Ana storyline (or wraps it up in a few episodes) then it can get back to the family dynamic in which it truly shines.

Overall Episode Rating: B+

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