On the surface, “The Good Fight” has much in common with its predecessor, “The Good Wife.” The power plays among Chicago’s elite lawyers lend the series a bracing wit. Role reversals happen with breakneck speed. Clothing informs characterization as much as dialogue does. There are, of course, familiar faces and names. Occasionally Alicia Florrick, the prickly lead of the original series, is mentioned in passing. But “The Good Fight” stands on its own because of the way it traffics in the thorny dynamics that arise among women who are navigating professional minefields, complex desires and identity politics. The way these women relate to each other as colleagues, lovers and friends powers the entire show.
Television may be bursting with challenging, even antiheroic leading ladies, but seeing depictions of women who mentor and rely on one another with such fierce loyalty is still a rarity. At one point, Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) gives the newly minted lawyer and associate Maia Rindell (Rose Leslie) a leather portfolio with the name “Pearl Hart” etched on its cover. Hart was the first female public defender in Chicago, and the gift is one Diane received at the start of her own career. This gesture is meant to be a passing of the torch from godmother to goddaughter, mentor to mentee. It’s a beautiful moment about the legacies women share and pass on. But there is enough tension hinting at the cataclysm to come to prohibit this from tipping into saccharine territory.
Maia is a somewhat odd choice to be one of the show’s lead characters. Even before her father’s Ponzi scheme is exposed, Maia seems like a wisp of a woman, lacking confidence and at times easily lost among the more towering personas that surround her. Leslie plays her apprehension with such nervous energy it borders on the neurotic. Maia clearly isn’t comfortable with the privilege that comes with her parents’ being Chicago power players: She grimaces when a partner at the firm, David Lee (Zach Grenier), gives her preferential treatment, and she looks downright queasy when her mother, Lenore (Bernadette Peters), suggests that she should have her own office.
And although Maia proves to be crafty, figuring out a key piece of evidence for a police brutality case, it’s obvious she has no idea just how much easier her overwhelming privilege makes things for her. Once her father’s Ponzi scheme blows up and she loses her job at Lockhart & Lee — now that she’s a social pariah — how will she reconstruct her identity?
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That’s a question that also lingers in Diane’s story. At the beginning of the episode, we see her decide to retire from the firm she created, buy a villa and start a new life. At her lavish retirement party, she even jokes, “It’s good to be wanted.” Colleagues compliment her legacy by offering her positions at their firms, should she ever decide to return to work.
But after losing her money in the Ponzi scheme, it becomes clear to her just how fickle her connections and friendships are in the face of tragedy. She’s broke, going through a difficult separation, and the firm that bears her name won’t welcome her back. Baranski expertly explores the cracks in Diane’s carefully curated facade without making her into a spectacle; the stakes at this point in her life may be even higher than those Maia faces. When Adrian Boseman (Delroy Lindo) offers her a place to land, it’s a chance for Diane to rescue the legacy she’s spent decades building.
It’s also a chance for her to rescue her protégé’s career, and despite the fallout from the Ponzi scheme, Diane sympathizes with Maia’s position and convinces Boseman to take her on, too. Maia’s start is hardly auspicious. But after being accosted at work by an angry man who says he lost his money because of her father, she finds an unlikely ally in Lucca Quinn (Cush Jumbo). Lucca was on the opposing team during the police brutality case and seems only mildly intrigued by Maia’s presence at best. But he was instrumental behind the scenes in getting Diane into the firm, and hence, in getting Maia in the door as well.
Lucca also gives a crying Maia some important advice that will ring true for many women. “When they see you cry it makes them happy,” she says, adding, “Keep your head down and keep working.”
Of “The Good Fight”’s three leads, Maia is set up to have the grandest arc. But it’s Lucca who proves the most fascinating. She’s steely and cunning with a presence that magnetizes, even if she is not the focal point of a scene. Cush Jumbo doesn’t get the best material of the premiere but she leaves the biggest impression. Diane and Maia are both mired in the painful process of shifting their sense of self, given how much their identities are tied to the work they do. But it’s the identity politics Lucca must navigate as a black woman that will likely provide “The Good Fight” its richest material.
• Like its predecessor, “The Good Fight” isn’t a visual spectacle like prestige shows such as “Legion” or “Atlanta.” But director Brooke Kennedy is intelligent in how she frames her characters, creating a rich visual language that conveys the power of simplicity.
• It is laughable how obviously “The Good Fight” was shot in New York, despite being set in Chicago.
• I’m intrigued with how the romantic and sexual dynamics of the show will play out, particularly between Maia and her girlfriend, Amy (Heléne Yorke).
• I’m apprehensive about how the racial politics of “The Good Fight” will play out. Diane and Maia are effectively in the minority at Adrian’s firm, which is headed by exclusively black partners.
• The racial dynamics of the police brutality case — Diane’s last assignment at the firm she created — at times felt like the series was heading in troubling territory. There is a sharp visual divide between Boseman’s all-black team, including Lucca on one side and the white lawyers on the other (including Diane, who is representing Cook County’s interests). But the fact that Lucca puts in a good word for Diane to one of the founding members of Boseman’s firm, who is apprehensive about bringing on a white partner, suggests that the show will handle these complex issues better than its predecessor did.
• The opening, with Diane watching in stunned silence as Donald Trump is sworn in as president, makes the show’s politics and relevance undeniable.
|From left, Bernadette Peters, Paul Guilfoyle and Christine Baranski in “The Good Fight.” Credit Jeff Neumann/CBS|
CBS's ‘The Good Fight’ Packs a Liberal Punch in the Trump Era
Seven years of The Good Wife promoting the agenda of Hillary Clinton weren’t enough, apparently, for the creators of its spin-off The Good Fight. After the defeat of Clinton in November 2016, creators Robert and Michelle King were so caught off guard they had to overhaul the show because “things seem to be more politically freighted now.”
In the opening scene of Sunday night's premiere episode, “Inauguration,” Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) watches television as Chief Justice John Roberts swears in President Donald Trump. The poor dear, like most lefties, is still in shock and turns it off as the swearing-in progresses.
Life goes downhill for Diane from there. She finds herself broke, thanks to her goddaughter Maia Rindell’s (Rose Leslie) father’s Ponzi scheme. His "by invitation only" investment fund comes to a halt with an FBI raid. Maia is a new associate at Lockhart’s firm who is let go after the arrest of her father. Diane had just tendered her notice of retirement, she now faces the daunting prospect of finding a law firm who will offer her a partner position. Her old firm has no desire to let her come back – she is poison due to her connection to the Rindell Fund.
In keeping with promoting Hollywood’s social engineering agenda, Maia is in a relationship with Amy (Helene Yorke) who is not handling the financial scandal well. Her mother – played by Bernadette Peters – will be disappointed. She was hoping the women would get married, now that the Supreme Court isn’t “in the way anymore.”
The dazed Diane struggles to comes to grips with her financial situation and that of the lefty women’s groups – EMILY’s List is name-checked – she advised to invest with Rindell. As Diane pursues other law firms looking for a job, she approaches another female lawyer and says, “We’re not done breaking the glass ceiling.” She even breaks out the F-bomb (that is beeped) when she laments her “f***ing meaningless life.” It is no wonder that Baranski described her character's "free fall" as similar to "what the country is feeling right now."
Along the way Diane goes up against Adrian Boseman (Delroy Lindo), a partner in a majority African American law firm, as she represents the City of Chicago and he represents a young black man claiming police abuse. Boseman ends up offering her a partner position with his firm – he jokes that she can be their diversity hire. Yeah, that would be funny if diversity hires were not demanded in today’s world. He tells her he wants to offer her the job because she isn’t poison to his firm – the Rindell Fund didn’t invite black folks in.
So, this show is checking off all the liberal boxes – lesbians, social justice warriors, diversity hires, abortion groups, and an aging white woman trying to adjust to life as an ordinary person. Who knows what episode two will bring?
'The Good Fight' Premiere: The Good Wife's Christine Baranski Is Back — Here Are Her Spinoff's Biggest Moments
Laying down the law! On the Sunday, February 19, premiere of CBS' The Good Wife spinoff, The Good Fight, Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) was back and better than ever … sort of. Like she said, “Bad things happen to good people” — but if you want to know what those bad things were, you’ll need to keep reading. Something good is happening to you, though, because you can download CBS All Access to watch the second episode of the show right now! In fact, the whole series is going to stream on the network’s app, so get it. (But read this first, of course!)
Raising the Bar
The episode started with Diane watching the inauguration of Donald Trump in shock, then turning off the television and walking out of the room. Elsewhere, her goddaughter Maia Rindell (Rose Leslie) was sitting at the Illinois bar exam. A few days later, Diane resigned from her firm, saying she was “ready to live [her] life.” Meanwhile, Maia got the results of her test: She passed. Guess where she was hired? Oh, you know, only the firm that her godmother just quit.
Diane took Maia on as a mentee and invited her to sit in on a deposition for a police brutality case. Once in the room with the opposing firm, which was helmed by do-good lawyer Adrian Boseman (Delroy Lindo), Diane learned Lucca Quinn (Cash Jumbo) had started working there. The two had to go head-to-head as a sickening video of brutality played, and Diane tried to lowball the victim, who was wheelchair-bound.
Things didn’t go well for either Diane or Maia for long. Maia’s dad, Henry Rindell, was arrested for allegedly running a Ponzi scheme. Even worse? He was Diane’s accountant. All of her retirement money was gone. Even worse than worse? The law firm wouldn’t hire her back, and no other firms wanted her, since she’d recommended the Rindells’ accounting service to them all.
Lawyers Need Lawyers, Too
Maia had to turn away her family’s lawyer when she realized he represented her mom. The associate lawyer needed a lawyer herself. Similarly, jobless and facing the threat of a frozen bank account, Diane pleaded with her estranged husband, Kurt McVeigh (Gary Cole), to divorce her and save himself.
Things were only getting worse for Maia beyond that. Her face was on the national news, given that people who lost money due to her father called for her to be arrested. A fake sex tape surfaced on TMZ purportedly showing her with her girlfriend, Amy (Heléne Yorke). She was even accosted by a man inside the firm who screamed that she had stolen all of his money, and he was going to sue her. See what we mean about lawyers needing lawyers?
Lucca, who was at the firm to represent her client, came to Maia’s defense and followed her to a bathroom, telling the younger woman to keep her head down and push through the media firestorm following her. Lucca said she learned from a friend that the headlines and fury would die down. Uh, Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), is that you?!
The Law of the Jungle
Don’t worry. Hope wasn’t lost completely for Diane or Maia. Remember how we described Adrian as a do-good lawyer? Well, he did some major good for Diane when — in spite of protestation from his partner — he asked her to join his firm.
“You got screwed here, Diane,” he told her before advising her to “screw them back.”
Screw them back she did. When Maia was unceremoniously fired from the firm, Diane enlisted her to join her at the new one.
Tell Us: Did Maia’s dad really do it?
The Good Fight streams Sundays on CBS All Access.