The Fosters Closes The Season By Making Its New Family Members Official
Though, in retrospect, calling the episode 'Adoption Day' might have jinxed it.
I'll say this for The Fosters: they found a lot more ways to keep the Callie/Brandon romance viable for this back half of the first season than I ever would have guessed.
First, Callie runs away. Then, Callie comes home but moves into a group home, where she starts taking steps toward getting her own apartment and living independently -- maybe, eventually, with Brandon! Then she changes her mind and moves back in with Stef and Lena, whereupon Brandon decides not to confuse things further and moved in with his dad to keep himself from feeling too much like he and Callie are sharing a household as siblings. Then Callie and Jude's biological father signs away his parental rights and clears the path to their being adopted by Lena and Stef...but on the eve of the adoption, Brandon (on Dani's great advice) is about to declare himself to Callie before everything becomes official...but Callie blows him off so that she can arrange emergency accommodations for a just-returned Wyatt, who can no longer sleep in his car because it's been towed. Callie is so determined to cut off her romantic relationship with Brandon that she lies about having slept with Wyatt when they ran away together. But THEN, after ALL OF THAT, Callie's adoption can't be finalized because there's a different father's name on her birth certificate and no one knows where that dude is?
And all of that took place in just eleven episodes. It's an impressive number of switchbacks for a pretty compressed timeline. But it's also kind of worrisome. Granted, it wouldn't be realistic if all of Callie and Brandon's feelings for one another just evaporated as soon as Callie decided that she did want his moms to adopt her after all. But ending the season with one more technicality that could keep her from becoming his sister in the eyes of the law just makes me wonder: are we supposed to think that Callie was fooling herself when she gave Brandon that speech explaining that if she's not his real sister, Stef and Lena won't be her real moms? I mean, it's a fictional show -- its producers don't really have any kind of obligation to make the show an activist platform -- but at the same time, it's one of the few pop cultural products depicting later-in-life adoption; if the upshot of this plotline is that bringing an older child into your household may result in her hooking up with one of the kids who already lives there, it's not doing any favours for the real-life kids who might love the chance to be in Callie's shoes, minus the part where they'd want to try kissing on their possible siblings, you know?
And the other problem with the Brandon/Callie pairing is how much space it takes up that could be used to service the other characters, of which there are many. I've already written about Mariana and Jesus as (collectively) The Pierce of The Fosters, and nothing much changed in that respect as the season drew to a close: their plotlines, even as they evolved, stayed entirely self-contained and separate from every other member of the family (even from each other, and you know that shit wouldn't fly on with the twins on Beverly Hills 90210). Though there have been hints from time to time that Jude might be gay, the matter was apparently forgotten until the finale, when he gets asked out by a female classmate and feels confused about his jealousy when Connor expresses an interest in her. Don't get me wrong: they're all compelling, well-drawn characters that I'm happy to watch: I just wish they had more interaction with one another. But Callie and Brandon's no-mance makes the two of them so self-involved with their forbidden yearnings -- and that was true even before Brandon slept with his dad's recent ex, which, GOOD MOVE, GENIUS -- that their brothers and sisters get short shrift.
And now, on top of everything, there's going to be a baby?! I realize that producers had to figure something out when Sherri Saum got pregnant for real, and I also realize that when women see the end of their fertility approaching, they contemplate having one last baby while they still can. But come ON. Stef and Lena have a house that's literally full of teenagers and one pre-teen, four of whom came to the home from distressed background and thus need special kinds of attention, while the fifth is spending most of his time trying to fuck one of the other four. Three have gotten into serious trouble at school over the past eleven episodes; a fourth just got arrested, and is at risk of even bigger trouble if it comes out that he tried to bribe a witness in a shooting death. On top of all this, you want to add sleep deprivation and...whatever other kinds of hassles come with raising an infant? (I'll be honest: when I try to imagine it, I get to the sleep deprivation and then can't go any further.) It would be one thing if it were a family full of no-trouble apple-polishing nerds, like I was at the Foster kids' various ages. But borrowing trouble in the form of a baby -- not to mention one who's already in legal limbo because its father won't sign the papers giving up his parental rights -- seems nuts. NEXT TIME GET PREGNANT ON YOUR OWN TIME, SHERRI SAUM.
This seems like a lot of criticism, but I'm critical because I love The Fosters enough to be hard on it. Callie, in particular, is still a fascinating character, even more so now that she's trying so hard to make wise decisions and ignore her more self-destructive impulses. Jude gets some really lovely material to work with as he tries to navigate his own dreams for his future and his loyalty to Callie. And Lena and Stef, even with their (many) problems, are one of my favourite TV couples, maybe ever. Saum and Teri Polo (who plays Stef) give them so many tiny moments of recognizable intimacy that remind us of how much they've already been through together. (Polo is so good with moments like the one where she gets lascivious about the Playpen magazine for the sperm donation makes me wish she had more chances to show off her comedy chops.) The show has such a great cast of characters all under the one roof that I wish we could see more of them just...you know, spending time with each other, and less of them dealing with tertiary characters' early-onset Alzheimer's. And god, that baby better not fuck everything up like STUPID BABIES ALWAYS DO.