“There’s a whole lot of people who want to see this country fail, Diane,” Adrian Boseman tells Diane Lockhart in the season finale of “The Good Fight.”
Spoiler alert: Do not read until you’ve watch the season finale of “The Good Fight,” titled “Chaos.”
The spinoff of “The Good Wife” concludes its first season with a strong episode, “Chaos,” that does a good job of capturing the unsettled, post-election moment. Protesters are screaming in the streets, hackers are running amok, fake news is pervasive, Internet trolls are malicious and government is overtaxed at best and corrupt at worst.
“It feels like something’s come detached — like a piece of machinery that doesn’t sound right,” Boseman says.
In this environment, it’s a gift to have “Good Fight” to pick up the mantle of its predecessor and offer an entertaining and thought-provoking weekly look at defense lawyers who are basically trying to do the right thing. Like “Law & Order,” the “Good Fight” provides a comfortable prism to examine issues of our times in a format that offers some closure after 45-ish minutes. Moving from seven seasons of “Good Wife” on CBS to the premium TV environment of CBS All Access allowed “Good Fight” showrunners and co-creators Robert King and Michelle King the chance to stretch out with their storytelling and add a dose of saltiness to the language that would naturally roll off the tongues of their characters.
Like “Good Wife,” the pleasure of escaping into an hour with “Good Fight” is greatly enhanced by a hands-down phenomenal cast, ably led by Christine Baranski as Lockhart. Delroy Lindo has finally found the TV character worthy of his talent, the crusading civil rights attorney Adrian Boseman, who recruits Lockhart to his largely African-American law firm as a “diversity hire” after she’s humbled by her association with a Bernie Madoff-esque financial scandal. Rose Leslie as baby lawyer Maia Rindell (daughter of the Madoff-inspired Henry Rindell character), Cush Jumbo as rising star lawer Lucca Quinn, and Erica Tazel as Boseman’s longtime partner Barbara Kolstad fill out a core ensemble that does not have a weak link. Sarah Steele, Justin Bartha, Nyambi Nyambi, Paul Guilfoyle and Bernadette Peters were strong supporting players.
On top of all this, “Good Fight” made expert use of guest stars, just like its predecessor, with memorable turns from John Cameron Mitchell, Jane Lynch, John Benjamin Hickey, Fisher Stevens, Carrie Preston, Dylan Baker, Jason Biggs and Jayne Houdyshell, among others.
The Kings tried to keep a balance between bringing back characters established from past “Good Wife” episodes with the need to allow the spinoff to stand on its own. “We started the season with some people who had some familiarity from ‘The Good Wife‘ and we thought we’d thin it out as we went,” Michelle King told Variety. “I don’t know that we necessarily stuck to that, there are so many characters that we loved. But we’re always looking for new people to join this repertory company.”
Among the welcome aspects of working in the streaming arena was the new-found flexibility of episode running times, which the Kings used to their advantage. “On network you have to deliver 42 minutes. In this case, if the show really should be 46 minutes or 49 minutes, you can do that.”
The lighter commercial load also allowed them to move to a four-act structure, compared to five for “Good Wife.” “It allows you to free up the storytelling and play a little bit more with your act-outs,” Robert King said.
Robert King also gushed about the difference in the visual palette of the streaming format versus broadcast. “Streaming allows for truer colors. The way the color-correction is done allows for a much better representation of how it was designed,” King said. “Broadcast tries to brighten every image. This allows for a more filmic look,” he said, which was a delight for the long-serving “Good Wife”/”Good Fight” cinematographers, Fred Murphy and Tim Guinness.
“Good Fight’s” storylines were very of-the-moment, with references to Donald Trump and the political upheaval in the nation. That didn’t come as a deliberate effort to offer commentary on our times but to reflect how the characters would be feeling at this time.
“We really have known Diane for years now. These people are very aware of the world around them. They are very political beings,” Michelle King said.
Robert King was quick to acknowledge last year that Trump’s ascent to the White House was great material that influenced the development of the show, which bowed Feb. 19.
“Everything feels unsettled. It feels like the world has moved into a very chaotic place. It’s not just Trump — it’s Brexit, it’s Europe moving in an anti-immigrant direction,” Robert King said. “It’s just this feeling that we’re nearing a turn of the gears of history and it makes everything feel detached.”
One of the standout segs of the 10-episode season was the sixth installment, “Social Media and its Discontents,” written by the Kings. The episode busted convention at times with quick-cuts of young white characters delivering screeds and a glossary of au courant terms such as “cuck” and “dox” and “SJW.” It was a clear effort to reflect the disturbing level of anger out there on the political extremes, right and left.
“We were on the horns of a dilemma not trying to stay so current because the zeitgeist changes so quickly,” Robert King said. “On the other hand, there is a mood and you want to address that mood. This is about the culture and what has happened since Trump has been elected.”
The episode involved the Boseman law firm being recruited to help police sexist and racist content from a social media network — a losing battle, as the characters begrudgingly admit in the end.
“We’ve always been interested in addressing social media and the fact that now people have a hard time knowing what is up and what is down,” Robert King said. Putting the task to lawyers was a good way of exploring the issues of fake news and the rising tide of nastiness online. “These are people who are used to being pragmatic and addressing the facts,” King said. “Here the facts are shifting underneath them all of the time.”
The dramatic center of “Good Fight’s” first season was the impact of the financial scandal on Maia Rindell. The collapse of her father’s once-exclusive investment fund comes just as she’s starting her first week at Lockhart’s old law firm. In short order, Lockhart, a longtime Rindell family friend, has lost all of her money and reverses plans to retire but she’s now a social pariah shunned by Chicago’s white-shoe firms, so she takes a job with Boseman’s firm, bringing Maia along for good measure.
“The deconstruction of Maia’s family and her sense that her family was good is the conceit of ‘Good Fight’ just as the deconstruction of (Alicia Florrick’s) marriage was the conceit of ‘Good Wife,’ “ Robert King said. “Maia’s family is now being reconstructed through her work.”
The finale finds Maia’s father (Guilfoyle) delivering one last blow to his only child. He’s preparing to flee the country even though he knows it will encourage the feds to prosecute Maia for perjury. Meanwhile, circumstances bring Lockhart back together (at least for one night) with her estranged husband, Kurt McVeigh (Gary Cole). And during all this, the Boseman firm gets duped by a stealth hacker who uses them to advance his agenda of crippling the city of Chicago’s power grid.
Maia’s legal saga will resume in season two of “Good Fight,” but there will be a new focus for the central story engine. The Kings plan to open the writers room again in August.
“It will be very much in the ‘Good Wife’ (model) with about 20% of the series returning to unresolved stories from season one,” Robert King said. “The country will have changed by the time we start writing again. This (Trump) administration has sped everything up by being so quirky.”
No matter what may come, in the world at large or out of the “Good Wife” writers room, the Kings’ ethos is nicely summed up in the finale by Boseman in his conversation with Lockhart as they stare out at the blackout-enhanced darkness of their fair city.
“The only constant is the law. Everybody running around out there doing god knows what — the only constant we have is the law,” he preaches.