The Good Fight

With the attack on Reddick, Boseman, & Kolstad wrapped up after last week’s episode, “Reddick V Boseman” turns the fighting inward. An internal struggle at the firm breaks out when founding partner Carl Reddick (Louis Gossett Jr.) shows up hoping to snatch his firm back and redirect its course after what he sees as a dangerous deviation under Adrian’s leadership. As he explains to Barbara, he wants the firm to lead with its heart rather than its head. He invokes Selma and civil rights movements, positioning the firm as a staging grounds for an attack on Trump’s America. But Adrian believes he’s pushing the firm in the future and doing what’s best for everyone.

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If its intro sequence is any indication, The Good Fight is rather explicit—explosive, even—with its central themes. And those themes get a lot of play in “Reddick V Boseman,” the episode with the highest use of the words “fight” and “fighter” in the series so far. Reddick represents the past, and while the firm can use lessons from the past to fight in the present, the fights have changed. At least, that’s how Barbara puts it when she casts her vote at the end of the episode that results in a dead tie between Adrian and Reddick, who were both trying to oust one another. But according to Reddick, the fights haven’t changed.

Shifting and warring power politics within a firm is territory The Good Wife often dealt with, and The Good Fight backs the fight between Reddick and Adrian with compelling ideas about being on the right side of things, further complicating what “the good fight” means. But the struggle isn’t executed seamlessly. First of all, the tension at the end hinges on Julius Cain tipping the vote in favor of Reddick. The fact that Julius’ vote is still eligible (which Julius explains in some clunky dialogue) even though he has resigned only further proves that the character is more plot device than character. Then there’s the matter of Barbara, who is excluded from the title and the fight completely. It’s unclear why she didn’t cast a vote in the first place. It’s unclear where Barbara falls in this fight at all. Of all the principal characters on this show, she is written as the most one-note, which is unfortunate, because Erica Tazel is a delight. After her vote brings the fight to a tie, Adrian comes to her office to celebrate with wine. “To idealism,” Adrian toasts. “And pragmatism,” Barbara adds, their words drawing heavy-handed lines between the characters.

The case of the episode ties into the larger fight, heightening the tension between Adrian and Reddick and giving them even more cause to argue over being on the right side of things. Reddick brings in Pastor Jeremiah, another visiting character from The Good Wife, who is attempting to evict a young man, Paul Johnson, from the halfway house he runs. Paul accuses the pastor of raping him and hires Gabe Kovak, a smug and crude lawyer who flaunts evidence against the pastor and threatens to sue. Jay and Marissa work the case together, and the evolving work friendship between the two is becoming one of the best parts of the show. Their giddy smiles when Diane tells them to look into a new lead are delightful. Marissa notes that both men have FitBits, which leads to a new break in the case. Like The Good Wife before it, The Good Fight perceptively examines how technology redefines all areas of life, especially when it comes to privacy. They use data from the FitBits to prove the pastor and Paul were not engaging in sexual activity and then again to prove that Paul was meeting with Kovak before the allegations were made.

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Normally, I hate when television employs storylines that hinge on someone lying about sexual assault. How To Get Away With Murder has done it multiple times, and it always makes me uncomfortable. Instances of false rape accusations are very low, but the more attention they’re given in fiction, the more they can be used against women. The only thing that saves The Good Fight’s storyline is the fact that the false accusation has been concocted by an alt-right group, the exact kind of people likely to inflate false rape accusation rates and use them as a weapon against women. In a way, “Reddick V Boseman” characterizes the alt-right more discerningly than the episode that explicitly targeted the alt-right.

Freezing her father out after the selfish decisions he made to help Kresteva, Maia’s work life gets interrupted by her personal life when Henry shows up at the firm wanting to talk to her. She continues to shut it down, but when Amy also shows up at work to tell her that her dad has been calling her and saying scary things that sound like a goodbye, she realizes something’s off. Indeed, we next see Henry go through the motions of preparing to hang himself. Henry’s jump from reaching out to Maia to planning his suicide feels far too swift, especially since a lot of the Rindell drama has gone from being a focal point of the season to something unfolding on the periphery. Rose Leslie has been giving a brilliant and specific performance as Maia, but she’s working with very little. The character has barely been developed beyond her frustration with her family’s deceptions. Her girlfriend Amy is barely a character at all, and they exhibit zero chemistry, which chips away at my initial excitement over there being a queer relationship on the show. The Rindell scandal fizzled out too fast, and Henry’s failed attempt at suicide (which he has Maia make look like an innocent accident for fear of losing his bail) doesn’t pack the emotional wallop it’s intended to.

Though it also unfolds on the periphery of the episode’s more thematically bold central storyline, Lucca and Colin’s ongoing love story continues to be one of the more compelling parts of the show and also the most emotionally complex narratives, especially since it’s so character-driven. Even when their subplots engage with larger ideas, Cush Jumbo and Justin Bartha’s easy chemistry, along with the sharp writing for their scenes together that really digs into the characters’ minds keeps their scenes intimate, telling, and specific. In this episode, for example, Lucca accidentally meets Colin’s mom (played by guest star Andrea Martin!), which throws her into a lion’s den of casually racist white liberals. At Colin’s birthday party, rich white people tokenize Lucca at every turn, bringing up the latest Trump atrocities, asking her opinions on African-American voting tendencies, pointedly throwing out that they read The Root and listen to rap music. At times, it all verges on satirical, particularly when one partygoer asks Lucca if she knows Jay-Z, which feels more like a moment out of Black-ish or Portlandia. But the scene ultimately works because of how situated we are in Lucca’s perspective. We can see the tension she holds in her body, the uneasiness as she makes her way around the room, trying to ignore all the questions and statements thrown her way. We’re used to seeing cool, snarky Lucca, but this situation takes that out of her. As overt as the dialogue is, these characters represent very real people. I do not think it’s a coincidence that the show’s strongest episode when it comes to unspooling racial issues is one that is written by a Black man.

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Another partygoer suggests that Lucca is the perfect addition to Colin’s brand, revealing that he’s being primed to run for Senate in the future. It’s a demeaning and devastating moment, and even though it doesn’t come from Colin himself, it rattles Lucca, and she leaves the party. Later, she breaks things off with Colin. “I’m not an accessory; I’m not a trophy,” she says, putting up a wall and cutting him off before he can push back. Alone in her car, the walls fall and she cries, which is the most intimate Lucca moment of the series so far. There’s more to her than her wit and sarcasm. And even though all this feels very far from the main storylines in the series, it’s the most layered, the most human. Sometimes The Good Fight loses itself in its grand contemplations on what it all means, on being on the right side. The writers should listen to their own character and fight from their hearts and not their heads.

Stray observations

  • The Good Callback: The struggle between Adrian and Reddick feels very much like the struggle between Will Gardner and Jonas Stern.
  • The Good Fashion: How could I not go with Lucca’s art gallery getup?! Colin is right to want to live in her hamper. (Their banter is so good.)
  • Bernadette Peters flexes her skills here, as Lenore is finally given more to do than just flit around.
  • Lucca hates when Colin says “deets.”
  • I’m guessing Colin didn’t follow through on his promise to go down on Lucca twice in the bathroom given that they ran into his mother.

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