‘The Good Fight’ Is Flawless This Season. How Do I Convince You Idiots to Watch?
It feels like screaming into the void at this point, but “The Good Fight” is currently airing a sensational season and, for the love of Christine Baranski, attention must be paid.
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The Good Fight Is on an Incredible Run Right Now
It was heartening throughout the pandemic to hear from friends and family how many people were bingeing The Good Wife. And I understood why anyone who sampled it became obsessed. The politician’s wife dealing with his scandal was a juicy hook. Kalinda was TV’s best character, until she was the worst. Alicia and Will’s sexual chemistry had me practically living in a cold shower.
I can’t remember the last time I was as shocked by an episode of television as I was by season five's “Dramatics, Your Honor,” an hour of television trauma my therapist and I are still working through. Then there was the show’s superhero in a smart statement blazer, the regal Diane Lockhart, played by Christine Baranski—and the series-ending slap I felt on my own damn face.
Whenever given the opportunity to delight in someone’s excited conversations about The Good Wife, a series that probably ranks in my top 10 favorites, I end with the logical question: So did you start watching The Good Fight next?
Inevitably and bafflingly, the answer is almost always no. Make it make sense. A sequel series to the show you just binged and loved exists, and critics have been screaming praise about it for the last five years at such a volume that there is an epidemic of TV journalists whose vocal cords have ejected from their throats.
Why in the world isn’t everybody watching?
I mention this now because The Good Fight, a series that should have won Best Drama at the Emmys twice by now, is having what may be its best season ever. The seventh episode of the fifth season premiered this week on Paramount+, continuing what counts among the most thrilling stretch of episodes in a TV series this year.
No series engages with the real world with such ballsiness. We’re not talking those tacky, ripped-from-the-headlines storylines on Law & Order: SVU that everyone insists are campy and fun when really they’re mostly exploitative, cheesy, and borderline unwatchable. Past seasons of The Good Fight have tackled everything from Trump’s surprise 2016 victory to the pee tape, and highbrow-lowbrow news headlines spanning the Bachelor in Paradise alleged sexual assault, the notorious Shitty Men list, the insufferability of Milo Yiannapoulos, and the location of Jeffrey Epstein’s, um… penis.
It’s not just that the series finds surprising, intelligent angles into discourses that may already seem saturated. It’s that somehow, and in a way that I’ve never seen on another TV show, it manages to stage each episode with something of an emotional mirror. It manages to reflect the spectrum of feelings you have as someone who has lived through these news stories but might not have had the space to process them. It sounds hokey, but it’s so vivid and smartly done.
That’s been especially true of this season. It launched with an episode that sprinted through the trauma of the year since the series last aired: the pandemic, Black Lives Matter, the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Trump’s election threats.
After enduring an upsetting number of other series that all faltered with their ambitions to cover the same topics, the idea of another TV drama doing a surface-level, patronizing string of episodes about COVID-19 was about as attractive as going into a bar packed with unmasked patrons while a scary, vaccine-resistant variant of the virus saunters through the country. (Oh wait…)
Of course The Good Fight tackled the pandemic in a way that was both powerful and inventive, yes. But it also employed that emotional mirror to striking effect.
You know that feeling of the last few years, where the fear and dread mutate into the anxiety-inducing suspicion that either everyone else has lost their minds or you have? It’s like there was once some sort of safety line that tethered you to reality, but someone cut it when you weren’t looking and now you’re spinning off into space, watching sanity, grace, and dignity disappear into the distance as you ping-pong against other people who are going through the same unsettling experience.
Somehow, the series has captured that. It’s also extremely fun.
Recent episodes feature a storyline in which Mandy Patinkin runs a kangaroo court called Courtroom 9 ¾ out of the back of a copy store that becomes popular because he rejects the laws and statutes that protect the powerful and often make real justice impossible. In a world where a state governor will show a slideshow of himself touching dozens of men’s faces as a defense against sexual harassment, Courtroom 9 ¾ leans into the madness but with a message: Every plaintiff and defendant must look each other in the eye and say “I respect and love you” after a ruling. Respect? Love? In this climate?
There was an episode that portrayed what life was like inside a hospital in spring 2020 for a COVID-19 patient that burrowed into me in a way I might not ever shake. Several episodes litigating people’s involvement—or not—in the Jan. 6 insurrection were fascinating. The show made headlines last week when a vision of RBG, played by all-time legend Elaine May, arrived to provide counsel to Diane. It wasn’t a gimmick or crass, as it might sound. It was glorious and moving.
This week’s new episode opened with a slideshow of photos of the likes of Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Scott Rudin, and R. Kelly set to “Ave Maria,” almost like the world’s most repugnant “in memoriam” reel honoring harmful jackasses. Then the characters started discussing the details of Armie Hammer’s alleged cannibalism in relation to cancel culture and I almost screamed. It’s wild that a show exists that would dare touch that.
No show has the swagger of The Good Fight, whether it’s recently daring to turn the audience against Diane, the protagonist, or sometimes waiting 20 minutes into the episode to launch the opening credits (truly a baller move). Now there’s just one thing it needs to do to really impress: Get you to freaking watch it.