‘The Fosters’ Review: Why ‘Vigil’ is the Best Episode Yet

Photo Credit: ABC Family

The Foster family came together during a family tragedy, but not without realistic, familial complications that show yet again why this is one of the best shows on TV.

In one week, The Fosters’ summer season ends and will undoubtedly leave viewers devastated after they’ve grown to love and care for the Foster family. This summer our eyes and hearts were opened to a non-traditional family of two adopted Hispanic children, one biological, and two foster children, whom were helmed by a lesbian couple. The ex-husband of one of the mothers often stepped in and was a part of the family as well. It has been groundbreaking television at best.

Tonight, the Foster family struggled in the aftermath of a shooting that left their police officer mother, Stef, fighting for her life. When she learned that her son was in contact and visiting his drug addict, biological mother, her mama instincts kicked into overtime and she raced to save him. At Anna’s house, she was met by Mike, who clearly loves all of Stef’s children as much as he loves their own son, Brandon.

Meanwhile, Lena was struggling with the lies that Mariana and Jesus as well as their other children kept from her. They’d been in contact with Anna behind her back and sold Jesus’ medication to get money for Anna. It was one of those rare and significant moments in a parent’s life when they are completely devastated and shocked by their child’s actions – so much in fact that Lena struggled with forgiving her.

Photo Credit: ABC Family

Photo Credit: ABC Family

Lena wasn’t the only one struggling with forgiveness. When Brandon arrived at the hospital and learned of the exact state of his mother, he lashed out at his adopted brother and sister, blaming them and wishing they’d never been accepted into their family. Isn’t pointing the finger in the heat of the moment what families do best? It’s always easier to lash out at those who love you in moments of pain and weakness because you know that those people will still love you when the moment’s subsided.

Of course, Jesus and Mariana felt loads of guilt. They’d been taken in and accepted when no one else would have them, when no one else would love him, and worried that Stef and Lena would regret ever having him. “What if they don’t want us anymore?” Mariana asked, terrified that she’d done something unforgivable that would make her unworthy of Stef and Lena’s love. This probably stems from Mariana feeling as if she did something to make her unworthy of her biological mother’s love.

While they struggled with their feelings, Lena mulled over her own and confessed to a sleeping Stef that she couldn’t quite forgive them yet, showing how heavy disappointment can be when it’s towards your own child. Lena’s struggle to understand what had happened while dealing with the reality of Stef’s condition along with her role in Stef’s life as a domestic partner, a Ms., and not a wife – were some of the best understated moments of the episode. They aren’t aspects of one’s life a person thinks about unless they’re living them.

The question that weighed on everyone’s minds was why Jesus and Mariana felt the need to contact Anna, give her money, and try to take care of her. The entire family struggled with this, but it was Callie who explained it best. She confronted Brandon about his attack on his brother and sister, pointing out that he has no idea what foster care is like, let alone the feeling of being unwanted. He’s always has loving parents and a loving home and never had to wonder why his parents didn’t want him or “why the people the people who were supposed to love you more than anyone else didn’t.”

Callie’s explanation caused Brandon to apologize in true brotherly fashion: by apologizing for being an ass. Jesus and Mariana are his brother and sister, so it’s no surprised they accepted it and moved because that’s what families do. Nothing Brandon says could make them love him any less or vice versa.

Photo Credit: ABC Family

Photo Credit: ABC Family

And after this moment, the kids really banded together. I mentioned in my preview for this episode that this is one of those times when you see children become adults. Their lives will be forever changed by this moment in time (especially considering the foreshadowing of legal issues if the truth about the shooting comes out). From the moment Lena handed Brandon the keys and told him to take the kids home to Jude coming home from his sleepover because he wanted to be with them to them sleeping together in the living room, they came together and became strong for each other and their parents.

Overnight, Jude woke Callie and asked if Stef would die like their biological mother, unaware that Brandon was listening. The next morning as Callie made comfort food – such a sweet, motherly act of kindness, one Callie said her mother used to do for her and Jude – Brandon asked for details about her mother’s death. As Callie kneaded biscuit dough, she explained her mother died in a car accident and her father was the drunk driver. He hit another car and killed people in that car as well, resulting in his prison sentence. Yet again Brandon was faced with the harsh reality of a life so different from his own. He apologized for what had happened to her and when Callie pointed out that it wasn’t his fault, he quickly replied, “It doesn’t have to be my fault for me to feel bad.” How many times have we lived that exact sentiment in our own lives?

Later the family rallied together at the hospital during Stef’s surgery. It began as a quiet vigil, heavy with the fears and regrets of the entire family. My favorite moments were when Jude tenderly slid his hand into Lena’s to comfort her and Brandon asked Lena if she’d eaten. The kids took care of their mother.

Throughout the day, everyone was faced with a significant turning point in their lives. Wyatt challenged Callie to stop being afraid of putting her heart out there and go after Brandon. She was willing – until she saw Brandon’s ex-girlfriend in his arms. Jesus was relieved to hear that the man who shot Stef was killed, but Mike quickly pointed out that it’s never good when someone gets killed, no matter what they did. Mariana truly realized the importance of her mothers. Brandon confronted his father about his alcoholism, which ultimately led Mike to attend his first AA meeting. His alcoholism has been carefully, and more importantly realistically, crafted. His struggles as a father, at losing his wife, and falling short in so many ways have turned him to the bottle. The drinking went unsuspected and unnoticed for so long only to reveal itself in the past few episodes.

And at the end of it all, Stef woke from her surgery and proposed to Lena.The proposal was so fitting, not only because Stef had survived a life or death situation, but because flashbacks were sprinkled throughout the episode. From Lena first meeting to an emotional coming out from Stef to Mike to Stef telling Lena she chose her. There was also Stef meeting the twins at the police station. Each of these were significant moments in time, that while short, led Stef and Lena to where they are today.

Photo Credit: ABC Family

Photo Credit: ABC Family

Somewhere in the midst of it all, Lena had a moment of clarity where she pulled Mariana aside and addressed her visiting Anna. It took some time, but she realized all her daughter wanted was a relationship with the birth mother, the woman who chose drugs over them. Lena reminded Anna that she and Stef chose the twins and they chose them in return. It was the penultimate moment in the episode, the one that clicked everything into place as Lena reminded her daughter that the biology of it all doesn’t matter. Being disappointed in your child is painful, but loving them through their mistakes and flaws is what a parent does best.

My heart feels a little heavy knowing the Fosters leave us – even if it’s just for a little while – after next week’s season finale. They’ve come into our lives, opened our hearts and our minds, and given us no choice except to love them. And I think in that way they’ve become our family, too, because as Lena said, “DNA doesn’t make a family. Love does.”

Amber Cunigan
Amber Cunigan is a sarcastic mid-twenties undergrad, extreme book hoarder, Netflix addict, and reality TV aficionado. She enjoys excessive amounts of chocolate and caffeine, tweeting, and all things Ezra Fitz and Ryan Gosling. When it comes to TV, she expects to be thoroughly entertained and when not, she will slam and mock you, but still tune in next week. She's a glutton for punishment. Basically, she's awesome.

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  1. The man wasn’t armed. The gun was on the floor when Mike shot him, so this will create a lot of trouble. I think that’s what Stef was trying to tell him when he told her to be quiet. We’ll have to wait and see if she keeps the secret.

  2. Mike shot an unarmed man even tho there was a presence of a gun. That would be my guess.

  3. at the end of the episode when stef has a flashback to the night she got shot, what happened? im very confused.

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