The Good Fight s1 ep 7

What a completely magnificent hour of tv this was.

The cases of the week were basically Kresteva vs Boseman et al, and vice versa, as TGF’s biggest, baddest villain so far tried to bring down the firm in the Grand Jury room, and Elsbeth, Lucca and co fought back in civil court, which sounds boring, but was anything but. The wildly, joyously funny script hit almost every mark with panache and wit, managing, in particular, the incredibly difficult trick of weaving race into the story in a way that was both laugh-out-loud hilarious and insanely clever. Adrian, especially, was punch-the-air amazing, and Marissa’s sly swipe at the racial politics/make-up of TGW as smart, self-aware and, crucially, funny as it was meta. Elsbeth was an unmitigated, exuberant delight. Jay was quietly, unobtrusively great. Colin gets better and better by the week. Even the finance guys were fun. And watching Kresteva hoist by his own petard will never not be awesome. If I have one complaint, it’s my usual one – Maia is still too dull and passive to hold her own with such a fantastic bunch of characters, but, as usual, everybody else more than made up for it. This was just amazing.

The Good Fight s1 ep 6

After several weeks flirting with similar themes, the most tech-savvy drama on telly tackles social media, censorship and the rancid cesspool of hatred that passes for online discussion these days in earnest this week, as Neil Gross tasks Diane and co with writing terms of service for his various media platforms (essentially Facebook, Twitter and Reddit with less catchy names), and it all goes haywire. Or not, depending on your perspective – I suppose, if you’re Neil Gross, it goes entirely to plan.

The story gives everyone a chance to do a lot of slightly artificial talking/ yelling – I’m looking at you, Julius – in order to illuminate/ educate the audience on the issues involved, and it’s all exceptionally intelligent, thoughtful and balanced in a way that’s still clear about what’s right and wrong (unlike far too much news media nowadays). Unfortunately, it also, of necessity, means the audience having to sit through a lot of nastiness in the form of various deeply unpleasant alt-right talking heads and some “f***ing asshole” called Staples whose appeal to the Reddick and co panel takes up about a third of the episode, and is brilliantly done but, as a result, drove me absolutely nuts. I can’t emphasise enough how much I admired this episode and what it achieved, but the truth is that Staples and his ilk are so repulsive and so depressingly realistic that, despite plenty of humour, his scenes aggravated me significantly more than they entertained me. I swear that’s a compliment – this clearly wasn’t supposed to be a simple, entirely easy episode to write or watch – but it doesn’t make it an episode I’d be in a hurry to watch again. Even if Diane and Adrian are absolutely awesome.

As, in fairness, were Carrie Preston’s Elsbeth who, along with Lucca’s beau Colin – who frankly deserves better than her Kalinda-lite hot’n’cold schtick – is currently performing Herculean feats by redeeming the Rindell story, and Marissa and Jay who are an adorable investigating team and need to do everything together forever from now on, thank you please. If anyone’s looking for another spin-off….. J&M Investigations? Just a thought.

The Good Fight s1 ep 5

Ok, so now Kresteva’s definitely on the wrong side of annoying. But since the quid pro for that is the return of everybody’s favourite TGW eccentric REDACTED and since she’s on joyous, hilarious form and I’m delighted to see her kicking his ass, I don’t mind too much. Especially given how tremendous the case of the week is, covering as it does the “epidemic of Chicago shows,” the very real pressure being brought to bear on media outlets and First Amendment freedoms in general by the current incumbent of the White House and his cronies, and this.

Not that the fun ends there, either. Throw in the return of Gary Cole’s Kurt McVeigh (whom neither Diane nor I can resist); Diane herself getting her mojo back (if it was ever gone); Lucca getting a little sugar of her own; and all the usual awesomeness too, and we have another wildly entertaining, wonderful episode of The Good Fight. If I had to come up with a quibble, I’d say that what I assume is the running gag where any question about how or what Alicia’s doing is met with some sort of deflection or change of subject may pall in due course, but it’s early days yet and Adrian’s face when Ada interrupts this week is priceless so we’ll worry about running gags another time. TGW may have fallen off its game by the end but, right now, TGF is at the top of it.

The Good Fight s1 ep 4

This week on The Good Fight, Diane and Lucca went to bat for a client trying to recover her long-lost eggs; Mike Kresteva returned to wind everyone right up; and perpetual victim Maia was the subject of a particularly nasty, virulent strain of social media harrassment. All of which added up to a terrific episode, and a wildly entertaining one at that.

As far as the case of the week goes, I don’t know whether they were entirely correct on the law throughout and the shady director of the fertility practice got off way too easily, but overall, the story was intriguingly complicated, sensitively-handled, and leavened with a great deal of humour, as the best ones are; the judge – “Oh God, I HATE this.” Hee! – was a grumpy delight; and the gradual but unmistakable thawing of Barbara’s relationship with Diane genuinely heartening to see.

The Mike Kresteva side of things was slightly trickier to pull off, since he can be very funny, but also very annoying, and a couple of years ago I would have been saying “there’s no way someone in politics can lie so often and so brazenly, and keep getting away with it.” Real life over the past year has taught us I was wildly wrong about that, though, and the writers did keep the Kresteva story just the right side of infuriating, this week, at any rate – his scene in Diane’s office was great fun, even if the Grand Jury business seemed a tad unlikely (for now). Still, it tied in beautifully with Maia’s story and one of the main themes of the week (and of 21st century life) – the abuse of the Internet and social media to create fake news and destroy people with it. Maia’s ex-boyfriend is obviously a reptile, and what he did unconscionable, but it’s notable that, yet again, Maia was entirely dependent on the rest of the cast to fix her problem for her – a problem that she didn’t even know she had, in fact, till, yes, somebody else explained it to her. But no matter. It was an absolute joy seeing Marissa, Jay and Ayesha help her give the ex what was coming to him, and as for the awesome Adrian channelling Will Gardner and stepping in during the confrontation by the lifts – well. I love love love this show now, and that single scene was the highlight of my week.

The Good Fight s1 ep 3

Okay, it’s taken a couple of episodes but I’m now fully on board with The Good Fight.

This week’s compassionate, intelligent and still witty episode combined a complex, tragic case involving a doctor operating on patients in Syria via Skype, a joyously funny sub-plot with Adrian and Barbara having to out REDACTED as a Trump voter, and Marissa teaming up with both the wary office investigator and the wearing Maia (sorry, Jed) to remind us once again how much better she is at everyone else’s jobs than they are. Hurrah!

In terms of minor quibbles, I’m struggling to care about the ongoing “Who’s the real brains behind the Ponzi scheme?” story arc – as far as I’m concerned, every one of the suspects can pretty much go and raffle themselves – but I can live with it in return for all the other excellent stuff the show is serving up, especially if it involves Adrian who, I say again, is the BEST. I thought this episode was great.

The Good Fight s1 ep 2

Week 2 of Not The Good Wife, and we have more of the Good Wife Gang jumping aboard, as it turns out, firstly, that Julius – JULIUS! – Cain is a partner at Reddick Boseman too, which is great, because I love Julius, and then Marissa – MARISSA! – moxies herself into a job as Diane’s assistant there as well, which is great, because everyone loves Marissa, except that…. Well, Diane, like Peter Florrick before her, might think employing people because you “know” them has nothing to do with race, but TGF is trying to be more aware than that so it’s very obvious, even just from the expression on Barbara’s face that, in bringing with her a Caucasian associate and selecting a Caucasian assistant she knows (like Peter picking Cary for promotion over Geneva or Matan) over a roomful of African-American candidates recommended by the senior partner, makes it look very much like Diane is happily creating a Caucasian clique in a proudly African-American firm, and that does have something to do with race, whether Diane realises it or not.

Yes, Marissa is a terrific assistant, and Maia might one day reach the dizzy heights of a thoroughly mediocre associate (more on that in a moment) but since a hefty dose of privilege is what got them anywhere near Diane and the jobs they eventually landed, it’s difficult to say they earned everything have on merit alone.

And it’s even more difficult to say that when, as I said last week, Maia is so wet. Of course, she’s inexperienced and she’s in the middle of a horrendous family crisis, but she has no personality to speak of beyond “constantly terrified”; watching her cower through each scene is bordering on uncomfortable, as opposed to entertaining. Yes, she takes on a case off her own bat this week, but at every stage Lucca has to step in – and since Lucca has all the fire and presence Maia does not, it just makes the newbie look worse. Normally, I would root for the plucky underdog, but this is a show not tell situation – it’s no good for Diane or Adrian or whoever to tell me Maia is plucky and smart and a fighter, Maia herself has to show me (like those other newbies Alicia and Cary did before her), and so far she hasn’t.

What she has given us by taking on this week’s case of a man accused of theft by his employers, though, is a chance to get to know Delroy Lindo’s Adrian. He is awesome, reminding me a bit of Will in temperament and humour, and in turn, he gives us the gift of another chance to hang out with Denis O’Hare’s fabulous Judge Abernathy, another member of the Good Wife Gang who pops in this week with trainers and prescription sunglasses and, as usual, steals the show. I love that guy. Even if his ruling this week made no real sense, but there we go.

Characters old and new aside, however, this was a very good episode which felt a bit more like a show in its own right than last week’s did, even if it’s always going to have the usual TGW markers: this week’s including arbitration, sneaky Christine Lahti, an interesting and topical case, computer technology taking over every aspect of modern life, and such like. I enjoyed it a lot.

The Good Fight s1 ep 1

It’s Spin-off Sunday on unpopcult; now Jed’s covered Brother of The Blacklist, it’s time to tackle No, Not The Good Wife Even If It Features Most of Its Cast, which is currently calling itself The Good Fight and has a completely ridiculous opening credits sequence involving, amongst other things, an exploding handbag.

Since The Good Wife had no real opening credits at all, this is, I suppose an immediate (if unnecessary) statement of intent that this is Definitely Not The Good Wife, We Promise, and that’s borne out by the rest of the episode, which is resolutely downbeat and has – *clutches pearls* – swearwords in it. Heavens!

Like most pilots, there’s a lot to set up, but unlike most pilots, there are also a lot of characters and back story we already know. The magnificent Diane Lockhart is the focus: we start with her incredulous reaction to the Trump inauguration (so say we all, Diane), before moving on to her decision to retire from Lockhart, Lee and Several Trillion Other Named Partners to a gorgeous villa in sunny France; her case against old employee Lucca’s new firm (with Diane on the decidedly non-Diane side of it); and then sudden disaster in the form of the loss of her savings, her friends, her job and her reputation as a result of a million-dollar Ponzi scheme run by the parents of goddaughter and new associate Maia.

It’s a decent, if unspectacular start. There’s a sliver of the usual Good Wife wit with David Lee’s usual snark, and the irony of liberal legend Diane as a “diversity hire” at an African-American firm – if this is a sign the showrunners are tackling TGW’s previous lack of diversity amongst its cast, all to the good. And there’s a lot of the usual Good Wife topicality and interest in various types of legal proceedings: the Madoff references, the police brutality case, the metadata, the deposition etc. But it all seems quieter, gloomier and much less glossily-shot than its predecessor; for all The Good Wife could be dark and cynical and often heartbreaking, it had an energy and life and colour about it that The Good Fight doesn’t, not yet anyway. The sets seem smaller and more subdued. Diane and Lucca seem tired and sad, and angry, if justifiably so. And Maia seems nothing much at all – an entirely passive presence who is propped up entirely, both in terms of characterisation and plot, by the stronger women around her. I understand there’s supposed to be a parallel with Alicia starting over as an associate at the height of the Florrick scandal, but even while Alicia was down, she was never completely out; she had the personality, determination and ruthlessness to grasp opportunity and make a success of it herself, whether the world wanted her to or not. Maia, by contracts, has no gumption, no life, no oomph about her. Instead, she’s reliant entirely on everyone else – Lucca, Diane, her parents, her girlfriend – to step in and sort the world out for her.

It’s only episode one, though, and if Maia is not Alicia and The Good Fight is not The Good Wife, then neither was The Good Wife in the beginning. (Or at the end.) Throughout the episode, though, the memories and ghosts are almost overwhelming: photographs with Will in happier times (sob!), Diane’s estrangement from husband Kurt as a result of what she found out at the end of season 7 (albeit I didn’t believe it at the time – sob again!), the unanswered question as to what has become of Alicia (all we know is she’s definitely not working with Lucca) and the ongoing theme of women bearing the brunt of male misdeeds – like Alicia and countless women before them, Diane and Maia are collateral damage, their lives and reputations devastated by scandals they had no role in, and, again like Alicia and countless women before them, they have to harden themselves, keep their heads down and keep working till it passes, because work is their friend even when nobody else is.

Time will tell if those memories and ghosts will help or hinder the show in developing an identity of its own, and whether Not The Good Wife can come out of the shadow of its predecessor and become something special in its own right. The jury’s still out for now: I liked this well enough, but mainly because it featured Diane Lockhart, David Lee and Kurt McVeigh – Christine Baranski, Zach Grenier and Gary Cole are all, of course, terrific – rather than because of anything that actually happened in it. As I said, it’s early days, though. I want to love The Good Fight, so for now, I’ll keep watching and reviewing, and hoping I eventually do.