The Good Fight has dabbled in political fanfiction before, but in its four premiere, it goes all the way in on a fantasy fever dream. The opening scene apes the opening of the series, but instead of Diane reacting to Trump being inaugurated, she gets to react to Hillary’s inauguration, trading in her “what the fuck” for a popped bottle of champagne. Yes, The Good Fight rather indulgently and ludicrously asks the question: What if Donald Trump becoming president had all been a bad dream?
It plays out a bit like political Twilight Zone, the protagonist waking up in a new reality in which only she maintains memories of her previous reality and has to adjust to her new surroundings while also not seeming like she’s completely delusional. In this case, Diane Lockhart has woken up in Hillary’s America. Here, Trump’s campaign failed the second his “grab them by the pussy” remarks came out. But this also means that in this alternate reality, the #MeToo movement never happened. Abusers have gone unchecked. In fact, Diane is Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer.
Following the thread the alternate reality sets up—no Donald Trump in the White House equals no Women’s March equals no women coming forward about famous abusers—is straightforward enough. And it gets to the heart of a really important critique of Diane. A Hillary presidency is not the feminist utopia she had hoped for. The Good Fight punctures her fantasy the second it introduces Weinstein. The premiere thankfully doesn’t go so far as to say that a Trump presidency yielded good but rather presents the idea that a Hillary presidency isn’t complete salvation. It’s more nuanced than that. Sure, cancer is cured, the rainforest is saved, and polar bear population is on the rise in this alternate reality, but corporate, carefully packaged feminism is on the rise rather than a more riotous women’s movement. It’s a classic butterfly effect. It’s a trading of evils. Diane’s dream world becomes a nightmare in the blink of an eye.
The premiere achieves varying degrees of cogent commentary. At times, it just seems too much like a warped thought experiment to make any real conclusions—especially ones rooted in character. The Good Fight’s absurdism is part of its charm, but this presidency funhouse teeters too close to the edge of gimmicky. It’s funny, and it dispenses a fair amount of cultural commentary, but it’s not quite satire. There are opportunities to dig deeper that go missed, especially when it comes to Diane’s processing of this world.
The “dream episode as a character is about to die” trope is tried and true. Most recently, I’ve seen it done pretty effectively on Riverdale. Dream episodes are gimmicky but often a useful way to dig into a character’s subconscious and bring some of their internal conflict to the surface. You can get away with heavy-handed symbolism in a dream. And yet, there’s not a whole lot of that going on in the season premiere. We get into some of the more eerie dream sequence stuff toward the end once Diane unlocks the realization that Kurt isn’t around and goes back to her apartment. And Christine Baranski gives one hell of a performance in the final moments, especially when Diane thinks Kurt could be dead.
But we don’t get a whole lot of relationship or character work in the episode outside of that. Diane’s cooked-up fantasy indeed touches on her personal life and the political rifts between her and Kurt, and yet that never really gets touched on. The premiere questions the morals and motives of a certain sect of privileged liberals who seem to think that Trump is the only problem with the government and American politics today, and it does so incisively. But this doesn’t get explored much on a character-level. Instead, we’re just sort of watching Diane amble through this new world without a ton of introspection.
So it doesn’t really dig into Diane’s subconscious and it also doesn’t really propel The Good Fight’s narrative in any way. It’s a weird place to start the series from and a big swing to put the episode at the top instead of as some sort of dream sequence interlude midway. It lacks in character development. Sure, it does touch on a lot of the show’s themes and feels still distinctly within the voice and scope of this show. But it’s a literal bubble, concerned more with the conceit than with character or plot. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a sort of suspended-in-time thematic musing, but this one gets a little too caught up in the thought experiment to really
- TV Club will not be covering every episode of this show, but I’ll be back at midseason as well as the finale.
- The Snowpiercer adaptation is a real thing btw.
- The song over the credits is too much, but this show’s thing is being Too Much.
- Diane’s dream blazer is indeed a dream blazer.