‘Good Trouble’ Finale: How the Showrunner Reworked the Season 5 Ending Into a ‘Heartwarming’ Series Conclusion

Showrunner Joanna Johnson tells TheWrap how she wrapped up the Coterie’s storylines and love triangles after the Freeform series was canceled

Zuri Adele, Maia Mitchell and Cierra Ramirez on "Good Trouble" (Disney/Carlos Lopez-Calleja)

Note: This story discusses spoilers for the “Good Trouble” series finale.

“Good Trouble” had already delivered its Season 5 finale when an abrupt strike-prompted cancellation forced showrunner Joanna Johnson to shift the open-ended episode into a series finale.

“We were 99.9% sure that we were coming back for Season 6,” Johnson told TheWrap. “But the strikes were so bruising, and they went on for so long, the network had to make some tough decisions.”

Johnson and the rest of the “Good Trouble” team was given a heads up by October/November that a Season 6 pickup wouldn’t be as imminent as they thought, and word came in December that the spin-off series would end with its fifth season.

“It really felt like things just changed and it was out of everyone’s control,” Johnson said, adding that Freeform and ABC EVP of programming and content strategy Simran Sethi fought hard for the show to get another season. “The love for the show has been just really warming and I’m so grateful for it. If you have to go out, it’s been a really wonderful way to go.”

Despite the series’ unexpected ending, Disney approved the “Good Trouble” team to tap into their savings and film several additional scenes for a super-sized series finale, which Johnson noted isn’t the fate for other long-running series that conclude with a cliffhanger rather than a proper finale.

“There are a lot of really good people in the business, and they really took care of us and let us do that,” Johnson said. “It would have broken my heart if we had just pulled the plug and not been able to resolve things.”

Johnson and the team then began tweaking the existing finale, starting with removing references to stories that were plotted out for Season 6. As Season 5 storylines wrapped up within the finale, Johnson introduced a reason to prompt some goodbyes: the Coterie is shutting down.

In the series finale, Alice (Sherry Cola) gets word that the building’s owner has decided to sell the property, and the Coterie residents sit down for one last well-attended family dinner. Welcoming back Callie (Maia Mitchell), the friends update one another on where they’ll go in their next chapter, and which romantic interests will join them.

“You get the answers to a lot of your questions about the triangles, who chose who and what’s everyone going to do next and where’s everyone headed,” Johnson said. “Seeing all the cast together again, having their final Coterie family dinner was just beautiful.”

Sitting side-by-side with Ladle (Tetona Jackson), Luca (Booboo Stewart) reveals that he was selected as a dancer for Olivia Rodrigo’s upcoming tour, while Davia (Emma Hunton) tells the group she’ll be headed to New York to perform off-Broadway while remaining in a long-distance relationship with Dennis (Josh Pence), which Johnson revealed wasn’t quite in the cards had Season 6 gotten the greenlight. The same could be said for Malika (Zuri Adele), who starts campaigning to join the City Council.

“We always wanted to do those stories, but we certainly weren’t going to do them yet — we were going to have been involved more in the struggle,” Johnson said. “We had plans, but we accelerated everybody’s success.”

The finale also reveals Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) decides to pursue a relationship with Evan (T.J. Linnard) after his memory came back, officially ending her love triangle and flirtation with Joaquin (Bryan Craig).

“I think that’s what the fans wanted,” Johnson said. “I love Joaquin — I like Marianna and Joaquin together, but there’s something about Evan and Mariana, that just felt like end game to me, and I think most people.”

Johnson also worked in a couple “winks” at the audience into the finale as well, including when Alice — who has become the host of a ferret series — notes the sitcom for which she was offered a series regular spot got its “plug pulled,” calling the TV industry a “brutal business.”

The same can be said when Malika discusses her City Council candidacy and the Coterie residents sound off on young people entering politics, with Ladle telling the group, “You sometimes have to choose been the better of two old men when one wants to be a dictator.”

“I’m very concerned about this election and I’m very concerned about young people not voting because there’s not the perfect candidate … it’s never going to be perfect,” Johnson said of the reference, adding that “if you don’t vote for Biden, you’re basically voting for Trump.” “That was important to me to put a little of that in there, and the network’s always been good about letting us do that.”

Following the family dinner, the Coterie residents head up to the roof to reminisce on their time together, with Callie and Mariana lingering as the last two left.

“‘Good Trouble’ began with the two girls, I felt like it needed to end with them,” Johnson said. “It began with them coming to the Coterie and it ends with them leaving, and their relationship was very centered in the show.”

After starring in both “The Fosters” and “Good Trouble” for over 12 years together, Johnson said Ramirez and Mitchell had a hard time keeping it together for their final scene. They even asked Johnson how much they should cry or if they should hold back their tears.

Ultimately, the pair did a couple takes holding their tears back, before putting all their emotions into their on-screen goodbye.

“We ended up using the takes where they let it go,” Johnson said. “We were all in tears behind the scenes watching this … There couldn’t be a better way to go out.”

All five seasons of “Good Trouble” are now streaming on Freeform.


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