One episode was provided prior to broadcast.
It’s hard to mention The Fosters, which returns to Freeform on Monday Jan, 25 for the second installment of its third season, without a discussion of diversity. Since its premiere, the show has been lauded for its diverse cast and portrayal of relationships not often seen on television – particularly on teen TV – such as same-sex relationships and those in a mixed and blended family.
Moreover, the show has always used what makes it different – its fearlessness in representing a wide range of issues that affect real teens (and not just the wealthy, white ones) – to create type of drama necessary to fuel and sustain a long-running soap. Unfortunately, the Foster family enters the second half of the third season on shaky ground, and the show itself follows suit – with a lackluster episode that wavers rather than building to an exciting finish.
Fresh off Callie’s (Maia Mitchell) adoption into the Foster family, as well as Stef (Teri Polo) and Lena’s (Sherri Saum) reconciliation, season 3B begins with the characters relishing in the calm that comes after the mid-season storm. As Brandon (David Lambert) plays his much-awaited concert at Disney Hall, Callie’s mind is filled with flashbacks to their steamy tryst from earlier in the year. After being approached by a recruiter from Julliard following his performance, Brandon’s excitement is short-lived, as he overhears Stef and Lena discussing their finances, and resigns himself to the fact that they’ll never be able to play the lofty tuition at a school like Julliard.
Meanwhile, Stef and Lena attempt to rebuild the ground that they lost following Lena’s indiscretion, all while coming to terms with the fact that their insurance company refuses to pay for Stef’s second mammogram, and worse – Stef might be suffering from breast cancer. At work, Stef attempts to uncover a secret that Mike (Danny Nucci) is keeping from her about AJ (Tom Williamson) and the role his brother played in the car accident that plagued the Foster family. AJ himself is busy cozying up to Callie, and finally gathers up the courage to ask her out for real.
Elsewhere, Jude (Hayden Byerly) waves a tearful goodbye to Connor (Gavin MacIntosh), who is escaping the home of his unaccepting father to go live with his mother in LA. After giving an impassioned speech on foster care rights and Fost and Found, Callie is approached by a wealthy investor who takes a suspicious interest in her and her company.
As if that weren’t enough, the whole family continues to adjust to the surprise of Jesus’ (newcomer Noah Centineo) return from school. But Jesus isn’t the only one back in the lives of the Foster family. In fact, he lands himself right back in the middle of a love triangle between Mariana’s (Cierra Ramirez) best friends, and his former girlfriends, Emma (Amanda Leighton) and Lexi (Bianca A. Santos) – who has just returned from Puerto Rico.
It’s hard to imagine that an hour of television with so much going on would feel tepid, hesitant even, in its execution, but “First Impressions” does. As always, The Fosters does an excellent job of servicing its large cast, with each member of the family receiving their own story, rather than simply being relegated to the backdrop. In fact, the episode has a lot of balls up in the air – it just doesn’t seem to catch any firmly with confidence. Even the emotional reveal at the end of the episode falls short – anyone who watches television or knows anything about narrative structure could predict the result.