SPOILER ALERT! This post contains details from the Season 5 premiere of Freeform’s Good Trouble.
Maia Mitchell has returned to The Coterie — but not under happy circumstances. The Season 5 premiere of Good Trouble ends with Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) and Callie reuniting in their old shared bedroom at the co-living space after Mariana spent the night at the hospital with her former flame (and boss) Evan Speck.
The episode picked up right where Season 4 left off, with Mariana trying to escape from a cult while saving Joaquin’s sister, Jenna. Joaquin (Bryan Craig) was tipped off that Mariana was missing by a concerned Evan (T.J. Linnard), who tags along to rescue the women. In the opening minutes of the episode, someone fires a gun in an attempt to stop the group from escaping, and the bullet hits Evan in the chest.
They rush him to the hospital, where Mariana spends the night with him. In the morning, she learns from Evan’s lawyer that he named her his proxy, meaning that she is technically the acting CEO of his tech company Speckulate.
“She’s going to feel so responsible and so guilty that he came looking for her,” said showrunner Joanna Johnson, who added that it was the “better emotional story” for Evan to be shot rather than another character.
In true Good Trouble fashion, this isn’t the only situation going down at The Coterie. Isabella (Priscilla Quintana) gave birth to her and Gael’s (Tommy Martinez) daughter, and then disappeared with the baby at the end of the episode. Davia (Emma Hunton) and Dennis (Josh Pence) are finally a couple, but they’re hesitant to tell anyone while so many of their friends are struggling. Malika (Zuri Adele) has been offered a massive promotion, but she’s starting to realize that her dedication to her activism is causing growing chasms with family and friends. And Luca (Booboo Stewart) is still trying to find a job, but he can’t until he sorts out his birth certificate.
Johnson broke down all this and more about the Season 5 premiere with Deadline.
DEADLINE: Did you know when Maia left last season that she would be returning this quickly? And if not, how did it come about?
JOANNA JOHNSON: Well, when I left, there was always the open door. She said she would come back and do episodes. I think Maia just wanted to go back to Australia for a little while. She missed her family, and I think she also just wanted to be open to pursue other things. But she always said, ‘I would love to come back when I’m available, if you guys want me.’ And we’re like, ‘Well, of course you’re welcome anytime.’ So, schedule wise and everything, it worked out great. I didn’t have this in mind when she left, because we just didn’t know when she would be able and ready to come back. She’s always going to be a part of this show. She loves it. It feels like coming home to her.
DEADLINE: It does make sense that Callie would come back to LA, given everything going on with Mariana. How did you decide Evan would be the one to get shot?
JOHNSON: We thought about it for a while. At first it was like maybe Mariana gets shot and then the whole family comes back. But the better emotional story is clearly Evan [getting shot], because she’s going to feel so responsible and so guilty that he came looking for her. And that’s going to give us tons of story to mine. Rather than seeing Marianna recovering from being shot, it’s so much better to see her struggling with guilt.
DEADLINE: Well, and now she’s Evan’s proxy. She’s supposed to take over as acting CEO of Speckulate. How is she going to handle that?
JOHNSON: She takes it on with her usual intensity. She feels like this is her way to make amends to Evan, and she’s got to protect him. This is something she has to do. She has to do something about the guilt she feels, so she has to do something to help him, and it is a huge thing to step into [this role] and to return to Speckulate. Also, the powers that be are not thrilled to have her there. So, it just seemed like another great storyline for her to return to Speckulate. So we were excited about that.
DEADLINE: How do you think Mariana has grown over the past few seasons to be able to handle a situation like this?
JOHNSON: She’s just matured a lot. She’ll always be a little impulsive. That’s Mariana, and that’s something she’s going to try to work on this season. It was an impulsive decision to go to the farm and not tell anybody, and stay the night because Jenna wasn’t there. It’s funny, Mariana has become more impulsive than Callie. But she is growing and she’s maturing. The other day we were looking for a flashback from the first season and when I saw it, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, she looks so much younger.’ She’s just matured into this beautiful woman and the character has grown to certainly become a little smarter and wiser, but still has that impulsive thing.
DEADLINE: There’s a lot going on in this episode. Isabella gives birth, and then at the end of the episode she takes off with the baby. How is that going to affect Gael, especially since he was defending Isabella to some of his friends who expressed concern about her wellbeing?
JOHNSON: I think Gael is such a nice guy, and I think he truly loves and cares about Isabella. He saw the other side of her that’s so damaged, and I think that’s why he’s defensive of her because he sees that she’s not a bad person. She’s just someone who had a bad childhood and hasn’t learned to overcome the places in which she’s broken inside. But I think he’s blindsided when she leaves with the baby. From her point of view, she’s afraid he is going to take the baby away. We all know that Isabella. She can go along and be quite okay and then something can make her snap, like when she smashed her parents car. That’s where she kind of keeps you on your toes as a character.
DEADLINE: Then there’s Luca, who is trying to get a job but can’t because he doesn’t have a birth certificate to get an ID. How did you decide to add Booboo Stewart to the Coterie and how have you developed this story for him?
JOHNSON: I think that the unhoused crisis in LA is huge and we didn’t feel like we wanted to ignore it. So many young people, people of all ages and all different backgrounds and for all different reasons, find themselves unhoused at times. A lot of people have jobs, and they still don’t have housing. So we really wanted to do something about that. It was interesting, we read Booboo for the role of Joaquin as well, and we loved him, but we didn’t think he was right for that role. We thought Bryan [Craig] was so good for the role. But we all liked him and wanted to find something for him. So this was kind of a natural place to put this character and to see a character trying to get on their feet without those bureaucratic things. I think people forget that people that are unhoused — they have dreams, too. They have things they want to do. And it’s fun to see that through him. And we’re in the fifth season so it’s nice to see new people.
DEADLINE: Malika is also involved in the housing crisis, but on the political side of things. I found it interesting to see her realize the toll that her job and her activism has taken on her personal life in the premiere, when this is something that she’s been confronted with before and refused to see. Her and Isaac used to argue about this.
JOHNSON: Malika so intently wants to help people and wants to change the world. [She’s been doing that with] activism and then now she’s trying to see if she can make change from inside politics. A lot of our social issues stories fall on her shoulders as well, and we really felt like the character was missing some of that personal life the last few seasons. We wanted to also just explore this idea of life-work balance, which is, I think it seems to be very much on the mind of millennials and Gen Z. They seem to have a better sense of work-life balance than the generations before them that tended to to think you just work work work, and that’s the ethic. I think it is important to have a balance. So we really wanted to explore that story through someone like Malika, who hasn’t had a balance and who’s just been about saving the world 24/7.
DEADLINE: Of course I have to ask about Davia and Dennis. With everything going on, they’re still reveling in the joy of their new relationship. How do you balance that with the other serious storylines you’re crafting?
JOHNSON: One thing that’s really important to me in the show is, I’ve always loved this idea of mashing up tone and mashing up different sorts of storylines. I remember when I was younger watching Terms of Endearment, and it’s this comedy that suddenly turns very, very emotional. But then it’s still funny, even through the pain of Emma’s illness. And I thought, ‘I love this.’ I love mixing and matching the tones. So, we’re gonna have fun with Davia and Dennis, because we’re going to explore just the fun of this newness of being together finally, but also the ins and outs of relationships where you both sort of live under the same roof. They both are going to have career things that haven’t been introduced yet to come in. And how do you maintain a new relationship when you’re suddenly really busy? With Alice, we always have comedy in her story and with her and Sherry is so funny. We want to keep the show funny, too. When you watch, I think our show can be very funny. I think our show can be very dramatic. I think it could be a lot of different things. That’s really fun to write, and I hope it’s fun to watch for the audience.