[Warning: The following contains spoilers from Monday night's episode of The Fosters. Read at your own risk]
Monday night's episode of The Fosters concluded a dark chapter for the Adams-Foster family after Mariana's (Cierra Ramirez) boyfriend Nick (Louis Hunter) was arrested for confronting her with a gun in her bedroom. Though the immediate danger may be over, ending the show's harrowing (and expertly crafted) two-part arc tackling gun violence, Mariana will feel the effects of Nick's actions as she moves forward.
"It's definitely going to set the mood for Mariana for the rest of the season. It's going to put her in a very dark place. She's left with this guilt that she thought it was all because of her," Ramirez tells TVGuide.com. "It's definitely something she's going to have to live with every day."
The initial aftershock of Nick's unraveling will haunt Mariana, but the youngest Adams-Foster daughter will eventually find a way to use the experience to empower herself. She'll turn to a new school activity to focus her energy and help rebuild her self-esteem.
"This season she's going to get into robotics. We've seen her get into coding and that's something she's really loves," Ramirez says. "That will be her light for the season."
For Ramirez, the Nick storyline and Mariana's journey afterwards is an important one to show young girls who are also involved in emotionally volatile relationships. She hopes that seeing what Mariana has gone through — and how she'll rebuild afterwards — will be an inspiration for young women to empower themselves.
"You never thought that [Nick] would go to this extreme. It is important for girls to see this and to know that they are not alone," she says. "I'm really excited about the robotics that Mariana is getting into...It's important to show girls that it's cool to code — to be a girl and to code. Hopefully Mariana can inspire girls to get into that field as well."
As for Mariana's romantic life — she'll be using a good portion of Season 4 to heal before jumping back into the dating pool.
"She's probably going to go with her heart, but after this situation she's left afraid to love," Ramirez says. "She needs to take time for herself."
The Fosters continues Mondays at 8/9c on Freeform.