The Good Fight

Plenty of nefarious forces have threatened Reddick, Boseman, & Kolstad in the first few chapters of The Good Fight, but in Matthew Perry’s Mike Kresteva, The Good Fight has found its first classic, corporeal villain. Crusty Kresteva raised hell on The Good Wife, and he’s up to his old tricks on The Good Fight, rewriting meeting notes and blatantly distorting the truth in the same exact way he once did to Alicia.

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Kresteva arrives with supposedly good intentions, informing Adrian that he’s looking for guidance on how to curb police brutality in Chicago (Adrian’s straightforward response is to get rid of the cops guilty of police brutality). But Diane smells trouble, knowing all too well that Mike Kresteva is starkly conservative and self-serving. Sure enough, Kresteva summons all the top lawyers of Reddick, Boseman, & Kolstad to a grand jury hearing where their motives are put on trial. Kresteva alleges that the firm profits off of police brutality. As it turns out, he isn’t interested in curbing police brutality so much as curbing cases brought against the police force. He just wants it to look like there’s less police brutality in Chicago. Kresteva is a master of manipulation. As Diane puts it, his account of their meeting isn’t just inaccurate; it’s “bizarrely inaccurate.” Kresteva’s lies are so preposterous and large-scale that they’re almost more difficult to combat than little white lies. His insidious scheme to lower the perceived rate of police violence, disguised as a plan to lower the actual rate, is pure evil and probes at the ways public perception is manipulated by the government and judicial system.

There’s a strong connection between this storyline and Maia’s subplot throughout the episode, which also shows how power can be wielded to distort truth. After a few confusing interactions with coworkers on the elevator, Marissa informs Maia that a fake Twitter account pretending to be her has been tweeting up a storm regarding her parents’ scandal, discrimination at work, rather explicit details about her sex life with her girlfriend and, most randomly, canning. Things take a turn for the creepier when the account tweets out actual naked photos of Maia. The photos were taken by her ex-boyfriend Ted, who also made the Twitter bot, which didn’t really gain any traction until Maia started making headlines in the wake of the scandal. I can’t think of a more 2017 storyline: A jealous and spiteful ex-boyfriend exacts cyber-revenge on his ex-girlfriend with a seemingly harmless Twitter bot that then devolves into a fake news shitstorm.

Marissa and Maia try confronting Ted, but he just insists that he hasn’t done anything wrong and clearly has an issue with the fact that Maia has a girlfriend now. Marissa and Maia got up to shenanigans last episode, and once again, they’re great together. Sarah Steele delivers such unconventional line readings that she can make anything hilarious. Her delivery of “I’m not gay, but I could be” had me choking on my coffee. The Good Wife doled Marissa Gold moments out in small doses, and it’s so rewarding to see her having a more prominent presence on the spin-off.

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The storyline doesn’t merely deliver funny Marissa Gold gold, though. It’s a smart and incisive look at the damaging effects of fake news. Though they take some creative liberties with the finer technical details (I don’t think, for example, that what Ted says about the bot duplicating itself if he tries to kill it makes a lick of sense, but correct me if I’m wrong), overall, the writers nail the hellish cycle of misinformation that plagues the internet. The Good Fight takes a recent societal problem and grounds it in a specific and personal narrative. The issue doesn’t drive the story; the characters do. Maia’s life has already been turned upside down by her parents’ scandal, and now she’s the target of a personal attack that transcends legal jurisdiction. It’s waged from the nebulous and boundary-less land of the internet, and yet it has real ramifications on her life. Fake news sites start repackaging the content spewed by Ted’s Twitter bot, and suddenly there are articles out there talking about her getting fired and spending thousands on jewelry. It doesn’t matter that none of it is true. It’s out there.

Fake news is a dangerous weapon. Like Kresteva’s blatant lies, it has the power to alter public perception, and for Maia, it’s happening on a very personal level. A quarrel between two exes turns into an uncontrollable black hole of misinformation and manipulation. Maia eventually gets Ted to back off by countering with a cyber attack of her own (with the help of Marissa, of course), but it doesn’t even matter. Reddit users pick up where Ted left off and keep the fake news cycle cranking.

In addition to the Kresteva’s budding plot against the firm and Maia’s run-in with the dangers of fake news, there’s a very strong case of the week that isn’t as thematically tied to the rest of the episode but still unearths complex ideas and convincing character work. Laura Salano, the firm’s first client, comes to Barbara seeking to reclaim eggs she donated several years before that have outlived their initial contract and thus rightfully belong to her. The first act of the case unfolds like a frantic ballet, Diane and Lucca desperately dancing around town to track down Laura’s missing eggs, which have changed custody numerous times. Eventually, they discover that only one egg remains, and it has already been fertilized. Laura wants her embryo back regardless of who the father is, but the couple won’t relinquish it. As it turns out, they only want her egg for its genetic makeup. Laura Salano just wants to maintain her last shot at having a biological child, but her case amounts to a jumbled mess of contract law, property rights, and car analogies utilized by both sides that take humanity out of the issue.

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The Good Fight stands out from its predecessor in how often its characters lose in court. On The Good Wife, the protagonists almost never lost. While it’s fun to watch people win, there’s something more real about The Good Fight’s pessimism that actually raises the stakes. In “First Week,” the case of the week reached an ambiguous ending, falling apart when the main witness’s honesty was called into question. In “The Schtup List,” Diane and Lucca technically won, but it didn’t matter because it was all a ruse anyway. In “Henceforth Known As Property,” Diane and Lucca initially lose in court. They turn things around slightly in the end, with Laura getting her embryo back, but it still ends on a dour note. The Good Fight remains committed to its thesis that fighting the good fight is fucking hard and more complicated than the seemingly straightforward term “good fight” suggests.

Amid all the lies and manipulations of the episode, Colin and Lucca’s flirtations escalate. Yes, their game is another form of manipulation: They’re both playing each other, teasing one another and adding a thick layer of pretense to their interactions. Lucca goes so far as to pull her burger guy into the fray, recruiting him to lie so that Colin is forced to take half of her burger and therefore talk to her. He probably would have talked to her without the burger move, but that’s not the point. She likes playing the game. He does, too. Colin and Lucca are putting on an elaborate performance, but underneath it all, there are hints at their true selves. There’s authenticity to their manipulations. “I’m nice when I drink,” Colin remarks. “Really? I’m mean,” Lucca counters. They both want things from another on both personal and professional levels. Lucca enlists his help with the Kresteva situation, and Colin obliges. They agree to get milkshakes together. With their banter and their obvious attraction to one another, they’re the kind of television couple that’s easy to root for. But there’s also a sense that there’s more here than just fun and games. As with the other parts of The Good Fight’s unfurling narrative, Lucca and Colin’s dynamic is layered and captivating in its specificity and dance-like energy.

Stray observations

  • The Good Callback: Several characters from The Good Wife make appearances in this episode, but I was most delighted to see the same scrappy processor who often served summons on The Good Wife show up here to serve the folks of Reddick, Boseman, & Kolstad.
  • The Good Fashion: Lots of excellent makeup and costume choices in this episode (Barbara and Lucca both sport a striking black eyeshadow look), but my favorite has to go to Lucca and Diane’s contrasting pink and green coats (see header image) when they’re trying to track down the missing 12th egg. It visually bonds them together very nicely.
  • This is small, but I like how Diane has to scroll back through her recent calls for a while before she lands on Kurt. It’s an easy detail to overlook, but it succinctly conveys the distance between them by implying they haven’t spoken on the phone in a while.
  • Barbara and Diane’s conversation about how work gives everything meaning is a standout scene.
  • Adrian’s conversation with Maia at the end is great, too. “At this firm, we stand up for each other,” Adrian says. Reddick, Boseman, & Kolstad indeed has a much more familial vibe than Lockhart Gardner, which had more of a dysfunctional family vibe.

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