There’s a version of The Good Fight that is essentially The Good Wife without Julianna Margulies, a law show about crusading liberal lawyers with complex morals trying to fight, well, the good fight.
There are elements to The Good Fight that are still that show, but in spinning-off Christine Baranski and Cush Jumbo into their own show and set of dramas, creators Michelle and Robert King (Phil Alden Robinson is credited as co-creator, but make no mistake, this is very much a show by the wife and husband writing team) set their sights of themes and ideas that make The Good Fight an epic work of satire the likes of which television has never strived for before.
The obvious thing to say about the series is that it contains the greatest credit sequence in television history, a literally explosive work of art that should never be skipped if whatever service you’re watching it on is offering it to you. Backed by a brilliantly over the top music from David Buckley, we watch in glorious slow motion as telephones, handbags, tea cups, and eventually television screens with Donald Trump or some sort of hateful GOP or famous conservative figure displayed on it is annihilated spectacularly while a choir goes into overdrive with what feel like anguished war cries.
The series that follows takes Diane Lockhart and Lucca Quinn, the latter introduced in the last season of The Good Wife, to Reddick, Boseman and Kolstad, a law firm made up mostly of African-American lawyers and people of colour, where Diana is basically a diversity hire after losing her money in a botched financial disaster that is clearly recalling the crash of many top financial firms of 2008.
Where that storyline, and much of the narrative in many episodes of The Good Wife took real life companies and figures and basically made fictional versions of them (Chumhum being a stand-in for Google, Facebook and You Tube in many of its stories), The Good Fight instead has committed fully to taking the real world on and be damned with the consequences. It would be so much easier for it to make a fictional Trump-like President but instead it deals with stories that are effectively dealing with the real world, and throwing it huge twists that feel like they could get the show into trouble for being slanderous and make the humour and satire outrageously great fun.
Best of all, the Kings’ aren’t afraid to dabble in moral quandaries and ask big questions of its audience regarding their characters. The Good Wife had elements of being an anti-hero show, albeit with it a female lead, by the time it reached its conclusions, Alicia effectively making decisions that were destroying the lives of those around her but which were beneficial to her own needs, a dark notion after seven seasons of watching a character as complex as her invite our sympathies at various points.
The Good Fight double downs on that right away. We’re watching crusading liberals engaging in the law and yet this is a law firm that covers up their own #MeToo scandal, while Diana becomes involved in a liberal resistance group that aren’t above hacking voting machines and sending SWAT teams to conservative politicians were the possibilities of them getting killed are high.
The latter storyline which takes up a large part of the third season asks the question as to whether we should play dirty against a political force that does the same. It’s only when the issue of ‘swatting’ is brought into the bargain that the series and the character effectively take their own stand against the issue.
Of course, it is all satirical and there is a touch of the absurd running throughout. The third season expands upon the more outrageous moments, with characters all of a sudden breaking the fourth wall, including one moment where private investigator Jay (Nyambi Nyambi) basically tells the audience that it’s okay to punch a Nazi, and musical animated sequences breaking into the middle of the episode to explain things and even pass comment on the very show you’re watching, although the latter got the show into a little bit of hilarious trouble when it came to an episode dealing with US business interests expanding into China and with it an animated sequence that got cut off by a disclaimer telling the audience that the content had been censored by CBS All Access.
Being a series on CBS’s streaming service means the show gets away with a lot more than The Good Wife, itself a 10pm series that went as far as it was able to go in a network television setting. There are occasional uses of ‘f**k’ and as well as nudity, but it’s never drawn out or used too frequently (an edited for network television version made its debut last year).
Best of all is how it takes Diana and Lucca and makes them front and centre in a wonderful way. The final season of The Good Wife wasn’t the best year of the show (it pretty much peaked in spectacular fashion during its fifth year which might surely be one of the greatest seasons of television ever produced), but Jumbo’s performance was by far one of its highlights and even away from the satire and more sillier leanings of the stories, the series has grabbed two of the best characters from the originating show and taken them on their own journeys which are wonderful; Lucca has become a mother juggling devotion to her child with her career, while Diane finds herself reconciling with Kurt (Gary Cole) and finding her own ways to deal with an increasingly conservative world that doesn’t give a damn about political correctness or doing the right thing.
It expands brilliantly on the wonderful world building that the Kings’ have been doing all throughout The Good Wife, with several characters from the original series showing up here at various points, while brilliantly utilising a law firm setting and a cast made of lawyers, that most popular of American television genres, and turning into a battleground representing the warzone that American politics has become.
It is without a doubt the most entertaining and brilliantly constructed series currently airing on television today.
The Good Fight is available on CBS All Access in the US and in the UK on All4 and Amazon Prime Video.