SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched the Season 5 premiere of “The Good Fight,” streaming now on Paramount Plus.
The fourth season of “The Good Fight” was cut short because of the COVID-19 pandemic, running for only seven episodes last spring instead of its planned 10. Yet, it ended perfectly, with the final moments of the season lingering on a shot of Jeffrey Epstein’s undiscovered, disembodied brain and penis encased for time immemorial. Below the floating penis was a plaque that said “Bud.”
How could the finale have been better?
But what creators Michelle and Robert King didn’t get to resolve in the abbreviated season was tying up the arc about Memo 618, the mysteriously sinister cabal of corrupt Chicago judges that seemed to be run by people in the highest echelons of power in the United States — and which Diane (Christine Baranski) and Julius (Michael Boatman) were trying to expose. Nor could the show bid goodbye to co-stars Delroy Lindo, who plays Adrian Boseman, and Cush Jumbo as Lucca Quinn, who were both leaving the show. Luckily, Lindo and Jumbo agreed to return in order to bring closure to their characters’ stories, which have unfolded over “The Good Fight’s” past four seasons.
The fifth season premiere, streaming on Paramount Plus as of today, is called “Previously On.” And it was exactly that: In the episode, the Kings summarized a year in all of the characters’ lives, sweeping through why Adrian and Lucca are leaving, how COVID affected the characters, the election of Joe Biden (and the ouster of Trump) — and much more. You’d be forgiven if the structure of the episode confused you at first and you wondered whether you’d either forgotten some key events, or even missed the finale, because it began with “The Good Fight’s” usual “previously on…,” and then showed a series of scenes that were wholly original, bringing viewers up to speed for the show’s post-pandemic fifth season.
Here, the Kings talk with Variety about the season premiere and what’s to come.
Donald Trump’s presidency loomed over “The Good Fight.” How does Biden’s election recast the show?
Robert King: I was always for Biden. Our writers’ room — I will say this — no one wanted Biden.
Michelle King: There was a lot of Elizabeth Warren love.
Robert: I’m probably the most centrist of the room. There’s a moment in the first episode of “The Good Fight” where Christine Baranski’s character is praying to God, and saying, “I know this is not what christianity is supposed to be about. But please, I need a win!” And also, this whole superstition about, “No, please don’t sit on this couch; no, stay over there” — there was so much repetition from four years ago: the way Florida went, the way suddenly, “Oh my god, all these polls are just friggin’ wrong!”
And it was a nightmare, even as there were moments of humor with the Four Seasons plumbing — there were all these like chocolate chips of comedy throughout. But you still felt the country was kind of going insane. And I would say more impact on this season than anything is January 6.
Michelle: I don’t know if on the first episode you saw there were main titles attached — probably not?
At the very end? Yes, it did.
Michelle: With the little animals?
Yes, I loved that.
Michelle: That was our nod to how the world looks when Biden is president. It’s no longer everything exploding — it’s these cute little bunnies and doggies that are hopping around. That was our emotional state.
That the entire first episode is one big “previously on…” How did you come up with that as a device to bring everyone to the present?
Michelle: The first conversation we had in the writers’ room is, “OK, where do we start?” Do you cover this year — this insane year — 2020? Or do you start up in what would be present day when we start releasing the episodes? And the feeling in the room was, “We’re going to want to know what the pandemic was like for Diane and for Adrian or Liz.” And I think it was Robert that came up with, “Well, how about an entire episode that’s ‘previously on…’?” We just spent a whole episode finding out what 2020 looked like for all these people we love. And then we can shoot forward.
Robert: Two other things were involved with that: We had to say goodbye to two characters that we loved, and two actors we really love, still. And so there was a great emotional component to doing them justice. Last season, which was the fourth season, the first episode was a self-contained, kind of “Twilight Zone” episode of if Hillary had won. What I thought was valuable about that was this idea of kind of being given a freebie, in a way, before plot kicks in and you’re on your way for the season.
These are two spoilers I particularly want to ask about from the “previously on…” events. First, about Mike Bloomberg being on it. And second is the Rosalind Shays tribute to “LA Law” when Adrian and Diane almost fall down the elevator shaft to their deaths!
Robert: You know in “Tootsie,” Dustin Hoffman said, “I need to have an agent who when he tells me I can’t get a job, I believe it.” And Sydney Pollack, said, “Who is it?” And Dustin Hoffman said, “It’s you! I mean, if you’ve told me I can’t get a job anywhere in town, I would believe it.” So Sydney Pollack made himself the agent.
We needed someone who swept in, like, “You only have three to four lines on the show, but we need Diane to really believe there’s a chance to go in front of the Supreme Court with this case that we did on ‘The Good Wife’ years ago.” We had worked with him before on “The Good Wife,” so we just asked. He is into gun control, and that seemed to be what the case would be about.
With the elevator shaft — look, it didn’t play exactly the way we thought. What we thought is, there would be some question about how we were exiting Delroy from the show. And we thought this would be a funny joke: “Whoa! — we’re not going to exit him that way.” Because of the way we killed off Josh Charles as Will Gardner.
Michelle: The answer to every question is: really, we’re amusing ourselves.
Robert: We’re TV nuts! We loved that. We thought that was one of the more memorable things ever happened on TV, and why not quote it? It’s often about quoting things that you think are funny on TV — we’re TV Kids.
Michelle: And the writers’ room as well is also a big part of creating these laughs.
Is Diane now one of the animals dancing around in the credits? How do you see her going forward now that Trump is out of office?
Michelle: I just want to start by saying Christine Baranski — all the actors — are so spectacular. Christine Baranski is just amazing, and the only reason we get to do anything is because she can play anything.
Diane is in a very uncomfortable position, even though, yes, how grateful she is that Trump is out of the White House, that there’s a Biden administration. There has been a reckoning. And she is a white name partner at a Black law firm. And is that really appropriate? And so she is going to be struggling with that, and with the knowledge that Diane’s a good person, Liz is a good person, they like each other — but they don’t have exactly the same life histories, and they’re going to have different perspectives.
Robert: We always liked about Christine Baranski’s character that she was a fighter. But this seems to be one area you can’t fight. Because it’s, what is ethical? What is the way she should deal with this? It’s difficult. When Boseman was there, he was much more like let’s make this a firm that has more white lawyers, and so a white partner made sense, and she maneuvered a way into that position. But now there’s a certain reckoning, as Michelle said. It’s very difficult for Diane. So yes, she got some time to go, “Yay! Biden won!” But there are some repercussions from the last year or two that now have to spill out for her.
He’s not in the first episode, but Mandy Patinkin has a big arc this year as a judge in an alternative court he’s created. When did you come up with the court of Mandy Patinkin? And is there a name for the court?
Michelle: Circuit 9 3/4s, it’s Wackner’s court. One of the writers in the writers’ room had this brilliant idea — it was Aurin Squire, and it sprang from his head.
Robert: Aurin is this amazing writer who pitches things fully formed. He even pitched that the court was in the back of a Kinko’s. He tells this story, and you’re just feeling like, “I’m around the campfire, where’s he going with this?” For about three days, we were all wondering if it was too ridiculous. But obviously with January 6, in this balkanization of America, it seemed to touch on so many things. Is there a season-long way you can do “Network,” the movie? It starts in reality and certainty, and it becomes more and more absurd as it goes.
“The Good Fight” streams new episodes Thursdays on Paramount Plus. This interview has been edited and condensed.