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13 Years of Diane Lockhart: Goodbye to a Singular TV Character Who Unraveled, Triumphed and Fought ‘The Good Fight’

Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart in The Good Fight episode 9, Season 6 streaming on Paramount+, 2022. Photo Credit: Elizabeth Fisher/Paramount+.
Elizabeth Fisher/Paramount+

SPOILER ALERT: This piece contains spoilers from the series finale of “The Good Fight,” which is now available to stream on Paramount+. 

The last glimpse that “The Good Fight” gives us of Diane Lockhart is, at least, a fitting one. Exhausted on every level, but resigned to keep marching forward anyway, Diane (Christine Baranski) and her law firm partner Liz (Audra McDonald) trudge back up the stairs to their office — only to get stopped in their tracks by the news alert that Donald Trump is about to run again for president. Baranski unfurls a low laugh and one of her signature smirks — equal parts rueful and reluctantly amused — and that’s it. That’s all “The Good Fight,” and a character Baranski has been playing for nigh on 14 years, wrote.  

The show, which officially ended as of Nov. 10, often felt like a leftwing fever dream. The penultimate episode even teased a Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson presidential run, with the star seemingly healing the DNC chief’s broken leg, as if he were the second coming of Jesus himself. But for much of its audience, the heightened surreality of “The Good Fight” was exactly the point, capturing the uniquely bewildering feeling of living through These Times even (especially) as it spun headlong off its own axis. At a finale screening, held in New York City a week before the episode dropped on Paramount+ (/when Republicans fumbled their apparent midterm election advantage), the biggest applause went to Diane’s frustrated monologue about all the ways in which the Democrats had failed to…well, fight the good fight. In that room of friends, crewmembers, and infuriated NYC liberals, Diane Lockhart and “The Good Fight” had captured the ineffable sensation of trying to make sense of a political world that consistently, infuriatingly keeps defying logic. 

When Diane first appeared on Robert and Michelle King’s “The Good Wife” (c. 2009), though, she was years away from giving drunken speeches at funerals about the death of the Democratic Party. A year after Barack Obama became president, Diane was more simply a formidable rival-slash-mentor figure to Alicia (Julianna Marguiles), a talented lawyer whose cheating politician husband undermined her authority at all the worst times. Baranski — long skilled at portraying women with killer instincts and a sly sense of humor — immediately established herself as a port in the storm. Even as cases piled up and Alicia and firm partner Will (Josh Charles) dove into a tumultuous affair, Diane was everyone’s stable, go-to resource when they needed a gut check. And when she snapped, as she finally did in the series finale when seeing Alicia off with a furious slap, there was hardly anything more terrifying. No one pissed off Diane Lockhart without feeling the consequences, whether through her icy remove or the string of her palm across a stunned face. 

Diane’s ability to cut through any and all bullshit came in handy on “The Good Fight,” her own spinoff that premiered in 2017 to a more disorienting political world than “The Good Wife” ever saw coming. Famously needing to rethink the entire series once Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump, “The Good Fight” let the typically unflappable Diane go into free fall. Her shock and confusion didn’t just mirror that of the show’s overwhelmingly liberal audience, but amplified it. Diane Lockhart — once the epitome of cool, calm and collected — was coming apart at the seams along with every other Democrat who assumed Clinton’s victory was a given.  

As “The Good Fight” careened from one crisis to another, Baranski and Diane alike got to explore new parts of the character and stretch her into different shapes. Her partnership at a largely Black firm and with Liz, played with such grounding force by Baranski’s Broadway peer McDonald, made her confront systemic racism like never before. Her marriage to Kurt (Gary Cole), a conservative Second Amendment enthusiast, became a daily test of character in such a sharply polarized world. Over six seasons, Diane’s personality and politics evolved as the country did — or at least, that part of the country wherein white, upper middle-class women had to reckon with the fact that maybe, just maybe, they didn’t know half as much as they once assumed.  

So for as much as I wanted Diane to give in to the temptation of her finale fantasy, in which she’d say “fuck it” and escape to some far-flung French cottage, that was never going to be the way she’d go out. Over 13 years on television, we’ve watched her dig deeper within herself than she ever thought she would, confront the ugliest parts of herself and her world, and forge stubbornly ahead no matter the emotional cost. There was no question that the finale would see her doing the same — and when Trump does indeed announce a 2024 run, we can at least know that Diane Lockhart will also be out there raising a wary eyebrow, taking a step forward, and saying, “game on.” 

“The Good Fight” and “The Good Wife” are available to stream on Paramount+.