Image: The Good Fight (CBS All Access)
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In its third season, The Good Fight pushed the boundaries of its own universe. Characters broke the fourth wall; random musical interludes interrupted scenes; the story’s Big Bad was literally...Donald Trump. In its finale, the world is ending—from climate change-induced balls of lightning, maybe, or maybe from some sort of divine intervention-induced hellfire. It’s theatrical, but it also bizarrely taps into a very real feeling of despair, chaos, and disarray brought on by a crumbling democracy. The Good Fight often feels like if the maddening state of present day global politics were packaged as a cable legal drama.

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That’s a daring endeavor and one that the show only pulls off in turns, other times undercutting itself with either too much pontificating or selling its characters short. The balls of lightning and the power outages are theatrical elements in the finale that actually work quite well. This show has always felt a bit like an opera or a ballet—rhythmic and impeccably crafted but also undeniably heightened. Seeing characters here in candlelight, in shadows, is an effective visual choice. But do we really need Roslyn telling us exactly what the lightning balls symbolize? Do we need her spelling out the Revelations connection explicitly to Lucca? The balls of lightning are on-the-nose enough on their own (in a way that doesn’t actually bother me!) but having a character—especially one who is sort of just a device in the first place—literally expound the meaning doesn’t give viewers enough credit and takes one out of the moment too much. I’d rather just watch Marissa and Lucca silently watching the world crumble as they drop acid (which, blessedly, is an actual scene).

Diane Lockhart’s arc across the season is also sold short in the final moments of the finale when she decides that she has hope again because...Kurt gets kicked out of a Trump rally merely for not clapping? That is the grand display of protest from her wildly conservative husband that convinces her that maybe all is right in the world? That is meant to be a turning point for Kurt? Sure, people in real life don’t exactly change their political leanings overnight, but in the scope of a television show, there’s a little more leeway for dramatic character evolutions happening in a short amount of time. I don’t buy Kurt’s small act of “rebellion” as a reason for Diane to believe in the fight again. There has been some compelling material for the unlikely pairing of Diane and Kurt over the course of their arcs on both The Good Wife and The Good Fight, but it has gotten to the point where anything other than Diane leaving him just seems disingenuous to the character. Diane proved this season that she was willing to break the law (up to a point) to get Trump out of office, but then she’s quite literally sleeping with the enemy? And she goes so far as to help Kurt with his pro-Trump speech?!

It’s tempting to suggest that this schism within Diane’s outwardly political and internal private life is intentional. After all, a big theme of this season—and its smartest one—is that people so often act in their own self interest, even when they claim to be fighting the “good fight.” At this point, the show’s title is very tongue-in-cheek. With the glaring exception of Michael Sheen’s Roland Blum, these characters aren’t really drawn in extremes. They’re complex. But when it comes down to it, they all skew more selfish than selfless. Maia’s heel turn this season has been particularly juicy—though admittedly unevenly plotted. Her fallout with Melissa in the penultimate episode of the season is one of the best character moments of the whole damn season. And it’s telling that it happens outside of the scope of the show’s political narrative. The best stories on this show are still the ones that probe these characters’ psychological underpinnings and shake up interpersonal relationship dynamics.

The Marissa/Maia storyline is about betrayal on a deeply personal level, and it’s invigorating. Maia didn’t have to betray her friend, and yet she framed it to herself and others as a necessary evil. In the finale, Maia tells Diane she’s the one fighting the good fight on the behalf of Reddick Boseman & Lockhart’s past clients, but she gets something big out of it for herself. The Good Fight’s players so often play the game for themselves but frame it as a fight for justice. But how much of a part of the resistance can a corporate law firm really be? This season finally interrogates that in an interesting way. Diane and Liz have to step outside of the firm to stage a revolution, and when they do so, they realize their own moral limits. And so yes, it’s conceivable that the inconsistency in Diane—the fact that she’s desperate to see Trump out of office but willing to help her husband pen a pro-Trump intro speech—is all part of that narrative, a demonstration that sometimes people are too busy looking outside of themselves to fix a problem when they could be fighting the fight in their own damn homes. But the “hope” monologue she gives to Adrian at the end of the finale throws a lot of that out the window, reducing Diane and Kurt’s marriage to some sort of vapid love-trumps-all message.

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This season has been a descent into pure madness, and while there have been parts that don’t work (the musical shorts became too gimmicky and often weren’t as clever as they wanted to be), it’s surprisingly intoxicating to dive into a slightly fictionalized rendering of our supremely fucked reality. The Good Fight is anchored to the present day in a way that no other television is—a time capsule of Trump’s America. It makes one wonder how the series might age, especially since one of the downsides of that ultra-current setting is that it doesn’t allow for much reflection or distance from any of the issues it’s probing. The characters are processing in real time, alongside us, and it’s often dizzying and also hard for the show to make its points without coming across as overly simplistic and moralizing.

This season has seemingly been polarizing, and I get that. It’s much more off-the-rails than this show tends to go. This season gave us a fake Melania Trump storyline, a vigilante group of rich women trying to take down Trump that called themselves “the Book Club,” a Roy Cohn stand-in. The finale alone delivers absurdities like ASMR court testimony and, I’ll say it again, balls of lightning. More and more, the show leaned into satire, and in some ways it has been more successful than Veep’s recent seasons in that endeavor, cutting close to the bone but with enough levity and soap mixed in so that it doesn’t feel as bad as watching the actual news. The Good Fight’s third season finale plunges into the show’s own chaos and sense of doom in a visceral and often darkly funny manner. Only the parts that betray character are tough to stomach. The madness is part of the ride.

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Stray observations

  • The Lucca/Roslyn colorism storyline does not feel particularly organic or nuanced. There are some good parts in there, but as a whole, it prioritizes the Points over the people.
  • I did want at least one more Marissa/Maia scene here.
  • That said, the Diane/Maia moments are fantastic.
  • Roland Blum super didn’t work for me, but no one can say Michael Sheen wasn’t giving it his all...maybe...too much?
  • The show has already been renewed for a fourth season and the finale ends on a legitimate cliffhanger. Who thinks Kurt is gonna die?

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