Cast: Christine Baranski, Cush Jumbo, Rose Leslie, Delroy Lindo
When The Good Wife went off the air in 2016, network television lost one of its best dramas. The show, which started off as the story of a scorned political spouse who went back to work as a lawyer, lasted seven successful seasons earning acclaim and awards along the way. Thankfully, CBS realized that the show’s characters still had great potential and the show’s mix of courtroom drama and masterful character development continues in the new drama The Good Fight.
The spin-off, which will be available on CBS All Access, begins during the inauguration of Donald Trump. Liberal lawyer Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) watches in dismay as the 45th President is sworn in. It’s a new day in this country but it’s also the beginning of a new life for Lockhart, who plans to retire from her successful career. Lockhart plans to use her last weeks at work to mentor goddaughter Maia Rindell (Rose Leslie), a new lawyer at the firm.
The plan seems perfect until Lockhart loses her savings when Rindell’s father — a successful investor — is arrested and accused of running a Madoff-type Ponzi scheme. Lockhart is forced back to work and hired by a predominantly African-American firm, where she reunites with Lucca Quinn (Cush Jumbo) and helps bring Maia into the fold.
Like The Good Wife, this show starts out with a woman who seemingly has it all but loses her privileged position after the betrayal of a powerful man. In The Good Wife, that man was Alicia’s husband: a political spouse who had betrayed his marriage and his values. In The Good Fight, that man is a rich investor who lost all of Diane’s money and all of the money she encouraged her friends to invest.
The comparisons are obvious but The Good Fight starts out more confidently— seemingly knowing its identity from its opening moments. This is a program that knows what it is and what it can offer viewers.
Baranski, who earned six Emmy nominations for her role as Diane, powerfully takes over as the protagonist here and she’s missing none of the fire she displayed on The Good Wife. Creators Robert and Michelle King, who created The Good Wife, really understand how to balance the benefits of a legal drama with the energy of strong plots that exist outside of the courtroom.
To their great credit, they flavor the first two episodes with some knowing nods to The Good Wife without relying too heavily on nostalgia. When Diane interviews for a position early in the pilot, a fellow lawyer tells her “You’re poison. No firm will hire you,” a line that feels reminiscent of Will Gardner saying “You were poison” to Alicia during that show’s brilliant season 5 episode Hitting the Fan.
Gardner, an important figure in Lockhart’s life, is referenced several times in the show’s first episodes.
The Good Fight has cleverly built off the legacy that its predecessor built but this show still feels unique. Lockhart isn’t restarting her life in the way that Florrick was. She’s restarting her career. Setting her up as one of the few white lawyers in a predominantly African-American firm really sets up a strong oundation for this program and one hopes that the Kings take advantage of this show’s uniqueness to cover some issues that other shows wouldn’t dare touch upon.
The creators have shown that they thrive outside of typical television boundaries in the past and I’m excited to see them do it again here.
Review by: John Hanlon