The Good Fight

Controlled chaos is the oxymoronic space where The Good Fight does its best work. Best exhibited by its very extra opening sequence, The Good Fight revels in chaos but in tightly executed, beautifully crafted chaos. Its season one finale, aptly titled “Chaos,” weaves several dense plot lines together without ever going off the rails.

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Guided by fluid, urgent direction from Robert King, the interlocking stories all bleed into one another seamlessly. Diane rushes away in an elevator to meet Kurt, who is in the hospital after injuries from saving a baby from a carjacker, just as the entire DOJ bursts out of the adjacent elevator, storming the office to apprehend Lucca. Yes, there’s chaos, but it isn’t sloppy or clumsy. In fact, “Chaos” is one of the more cogent and connected episodes of the first season, bringing some of the series’ central themes into play as it snakes through the maze of stories that have palpable personal and professional stakes for the characters. “Chaos” no doubt revels in upending its characters’ lives, but it does so in a way that is far from random: The first season has been building to these huge character moments.

Sidelined at the firm by her family scandal, Maia finally gets her big moment in court. The episode begins with Barbara and Adrian pushing Maia to become bolder, to break out of her shell. We’ve seen fight from her in small bursts along the way, but Maia comes to life in “Chaos,” and her primary motivation comes from an interesting place: her friendship with Lucca. Since the pilot, there has been a sense that Lucca has been looking out for Maia. Sometimes it’s just communicated in little glances, other times in tightly delivered pep talks. But Lucca has been there for Maia during this scandal more than anyone else, and in “Chaos,” it’s finally Maia’s turn to protect Lucca.

“Chaos” sees the return of Dylan Stacks (Jason Biggs), otherwise known as the elusive and skittish Mr. Bitcoin on The Good Wife. Stacks comes to Diane claiming that a hacker has planted malware on his computer to frame him for an impending attack on Chicago’s power grid. The flash drive he presents turns out to be a Trojan horse, with Lucca unwittingly bringing it to the DOJ in an effort to broker a deal to protect Stacks and introducing the malware to the government’s system. Suddenly, Lucca finds herself charged with being a co-conspirator to a cyberterrorist. Throughout the court scenes, Maia and Lucca share their little glances, the connection between the two evident. But “Chaos” doesn’t quite get into Lucca’s head as much as it should. She’s a major player in this main storyline, which also taps into her relationship with Colin, but just like she’s being used as a pawn in this cyberattack, The Good Fight uses Lucca in this finale rather inattentively. The chemistry between Cush Jumbo and Justin Bartha still sizzles, and Lucca’s playful but meaningful dynamic with Maia becomes a surprising strength of the finale (Jumbo’s “she’s gonna fuck you up” is one of the show’s best delivered lines to date), but character development for Lucca has been uneven, and “Chaos” is a Lucca-centric episode only on the surface.

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Instead, the big emotional moments are given to Diane and Maia. Maia has one of the clearest character arcs of the season, shaped by the scandal. In the finale, that scandal comes to a head when Henry is presented with a plea deal. He has to decide whether to take 35 years in prison, go to trial, or flee the country, leaving his life and family behind. That decision gets complicated when his lawyer tells him that the DOJ plans to use Maia’s perjury against her if he doesn’t take the deal. Henry, Lenore, and Maia share one last meal together, and Henry finally tells Maia the truth. He’s guilty. Jax is guilty. Lenore is guilty. They stole people’s money, and they paid off anyone who suspected them. The reveal isn’t necessarily shocking; in fact, it effectively disturbs because of how unsurprising it is. The Good Fight has done an excellent job of keeping us in Maia’s head, unsure who to trust and what to believe. But even she doesn’t seem surprised by her dad’s revelation. The real twist comes at the very end, when Henry opts to flee the country, recasting that earlier conversation with Maia not as a cathartic moment of confession but as a display of even more guilt about what he is about to do. Henry doesn’t make things right. He makes things worse, especially for Maia, who is thrown into a new level of chaos in the final seconds of the episode when the DOJ shows up on her doorstep, rudely interrupting her mac and cheese and wine celebration with Lucca.

Diane’s life is briefly, suddenly upended when she gets a call that Kurt is in the hospital. The callback to Will Gardner’s death in the hospital scene is overly manipulative and a little too extra, even by this show’s standards, but Christine Baranski’s performance from the moment she gets the phone call through her conversation with Kurt in the hospital where she admits she thought he had died punches all the right buttons. Kurt and Diane have one of the most compelling relationships in the Good universe, and the finale brings them together again convincingly. Their reconnection also touches on some of the show’s larger themes when Diane exasperatedly compares herself to Kurt. “I represent unscrupulous people, and you, you save children,” she says. Despite its title, The Good Fight makes no pretense at its characters being heroes. In “Chaos,” Diane has to offer the returning “alt-right” leader Felix Staples legal services in exchange for help in the Stacks case. Diane, Adrian, and Barbara are all fighting the good fight, but they make compromises to do so. They aren’t superheroes. They’re lawyers.

Aside from the Henry reveal, “Chaos” throws more uncertainty into the mix when it comes to Stacks’ innocence. Sure enough, he tricked the firm into executing his own agenda. He was working with Felix Staples to make the blackout happen. A Bernie bro and an “alt-right” troll team up to hack the government with the shared goal of disruption…sometimes, The Good Fight’s tries too hard to be extremely of-the-moment. But the show’s strong sense of the present and widespread post-election anxiety is communicated effectively throughout “Chaos” in more nuanced moments. When the blackout finally does hit Chicago, mass chaos doesn’t ensue in the way I sort of expected. Rather, tense, uncertain darkness sets in. Talking to Diane in the dark, Adrian remarks that the world feels like something has become detached, like a piece of machinery that doesn’t quite work. Their conversation builds on the growing relationship between these characters while also succinctly encapsulating the show’s overall anxious feeling.

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The Good Fight’s first season has been very ambitious in its attempts to root the show in current politics and sentiments, and it isn’t always successful, but “Chaos” largely delivers on the show’s ambitions. It’s an exciting, political, and unsettling but ultimately satisfying finale, the twists sinking hooks into the characters. The Good Fight is confident in the way it establishes an overall feeling and look, the strength of its ensemble elevating those elements. Its chaos captivates.

Stray observations

  • The Good Callback: I know I already mentioned it, but woo boy, that hospital shot that directly referenced Will’s death was a lot. I’m curious to know whether it worked for some people better than it did for me. It weirdly took me out of the moment instead of pulling me into Diane’s fears. But Baranski pulled me right back in.
  • The Good Fashion: I know I said they aren’t superheroes, but Diane in red and one of her signature chunky chains would definitely be her superhero uniform.
  • Every moment shared between Colin and Lucca is just so good. That shot of both of their hands on the flash drive is so simple and yet somehow says everything about their dynamic. King’s camerawork throughout the finale is some of the best of the season.
  • I’m not really sure what to make of Barbara eavesdropping on Adrian and Diane. More so than anything else in the finale, that felt like a weird afterthought. The writers still haven’t figured out how to use Barbara.
  • “My convict!” “My lawyer!” Yeah, yeah, yeah, of course I ship these two.
  • Thanks for reading my coverage of The Good Fight’s first season! I had my doubts about this show living up to its predecessor, but those doubts promptly blew up like the objects in the show’s opening sequence the second I saw the pilot.

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