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.

Public Service Announcement 11 of 2017: The Good Fight; The Blacklist: Redemption; Chicago Justice; 13 Reasons Why

Some heavyweights in this PSA. Top of the bill is The Good Fight, the spinoff from Unpopcult favourite The Good Wife, in which it looks as if executive producers Robert and Michelle King have managed to get the band back together minus the lead singer. This time Diane Lockhart (the magnificent Christine Baranski) is the main woman: forced to reconsider retirement plans when she’s defrauded, she finds herself the “diversity hire” at an African-American law firm where Lucca Quinn (the returning Cush Jumbo) also works.

Good Wife Kremlinologists – such as me – will recall the rumours of disharmony on the show towards the end of its run, and wonder whether there’s any significance to the fact that David Lee, Marissa Gold, Elsbeth Tascioni, Kurt McVeigh, and Howard Lyman, as well as Baranski and Jumbo, are all involved in some way, whereas Julianna Margulies is not. On top of that Justin Bartha, Delroy Lindo, and Justified’s Erica Tazel are all on board. The Good Fight was well-received in America, but it’s only available there on a CBS streaming service. So for once UK viewers actually have slightly better access, albeit a little belatedly, to a US show. It’s already been renewed for a second season as well, so there’s no excuse not to dive in. CJ, I think, will be reprising her own role as Unpopcult’s reviewer of the Good Universe (Thursday 30 March, 9pm, More4).

Meantime, The Blacklist has spawned its own spinoff, Redemption, in which Tom Keen’s mother Scottie (Famke Janssen) runs a private black ops organisation. A recurring theme during this season of the parent show has been Tom’s increasing curiosity about his origins, so presumably we’ll get some answers, and some more questions, in standard Blacklist fashion. As I said when this show was first announced, though, I wonder whether its creation is the best move, particularly as Ryan Eggold and the charismatic Edi Gathegi have been diverted to it. On the other hand, it’s only running for eight weeks, and renewal looks unlikely at the moment, so it may be that it’s a problem which will resolve itself. I expect to review the first one at least; and at most, if I’m being honest (tonight, 9pm, Sky 1).

A couple of others: Chicago Justice is the latest in exec producer’s Dick Wolf’s Chicago franchise, with Philip Winchester, Joelle Carter, Jon Seda, and others showing us the ups, downs, ins, outs, and (I’m guessing) ships of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office. I’m sure it’s fine, and in other circumstances I might even take a look, but the TV’s piling up in great unwatched groaning heaps at the moment (Thursday 30 March, 9pm, Universal).

And on Friday Netflix drops 13 Reasons Why, its adaptation of a YA novel about the story behind a teenage girl’s suicide. The advance critical word is strongly positive.