God, I love The Good Fight. Sometimes everything the show tries to do might not work, but it’s never boring. Case in point, the two major plots in this week’s episode: a ricin scare at the law firm and a pulled-from-the-headlines case about sexual assault on a reality show. There are a few issues with both stories, but their sums far outweigh their respective problems.
Let’s start with the case of the week, which is clearly inspired by last summer’s Bachelor in Paradise sexual misconduct scandal.
This week, Diane and Adrian find themselves facing off against returning Good Wife guest star Christine Lahti’s Andrea Stevens as they defend Melanie, a contestant from the dating competition series Chicago Penthouse. During one of the parties on Chicago Penthouse, Melanie passed out from too much booze while hooking up with another contestant, who kept having sex with her as the show’s producers continued filming. Instead of suing her assaulter, Melanie decides to sue the network and show, which plies contestants with alcohol and goads them into raising the sexual content for ratings. Obviously, the network doesn’t believe it’s responsible for Melanie’s assault, but it definitely is.
When Diane and Adrian request all the footage from the horrific night in question, Andrea and the network dump all the current season’s footage on them. So it’s up to the giddy Marissa, who loves Chicago Penthouse, to dig through everything to find evidence of the show’s complicity in the assault, giving Sarah Steele another opportunity to prove why she’s the show’s secret weapon.
The footage of the night in question is scary, troubling, and also awkward. We see Melanie drunkenly stumble as she takes Blake, the male contestant, to the hot tub and removes her bikini top. (One of the male producers manipulated her into getting naked.) As was the case in the show’s premiere, the use of nudity here is rather awkward and feels like another moment where The Good Fight is saying, “This isn’t The Good Wife, because we’re on CBS All Access now and anything goes.” The nudity becomes a bit more problematic when we eventually see the actual assault on camera.
With Marissa’s help, the firm becomes aware of a third spy camera that caught the entire thing: A blacked-out Melanie stumbled out of the pool and passed out on a couch, at which point the aforementioned male producer picked her up and dragged her unconscious body back into the pool so the male contestant could finish what they had started. It’s upsetting and hard to watch, but the use of nudity definitely makes its depiction feel very gratuitous. However, you could make the argument that unsettling the viewer was the point, but I personally think the show could’ve cut away a bit sooner. Anyway, after this footage is discovered, Andrea and the network have no other option but to pay up.
While everything about the case doesn’t work, I appreciated the fact that the show even dared to take on such a fraught scandal, which rocked the entertainment industry for several weeks last year and already feels like it was forgotten. There was a particularly powerful moment when Melanie confronts her accuser and makes it clear that while she believes he was a victim of the show’s tackiness and ruthlessness to get ratings, she still holds him somewhat responsible too. “You didn’t get me drunk, you didn’t drug me, you didn’t hold me down and force yourself on me, and I didn’t say no. But at some point, I lost the ability to say no,” says Melanie to Blake, the male contestant she has no memory of hooking up with. “And your problem is you’re so sure you’re not one of those guys that you fail to realize that on that day, in that moment, you decided to finish what you thought I had started. You became one of those guys.”
(Next: Diane loses it)
But now it’s time to talk about the fun part of tonight’s episode: While Adrian is stuck in reality-show hell, the firm is hit by another problem: Diane receives a “Kill All Lawyers” letter from a seemingly disgruntled client that’s filled a white powder, which the letter claims is ricin. Marissa and Maia, who is now bored after wrapping up her father’s case, have the misfortune of being covered in the powder after opening the letter. They quickly alert the partners and Jay. The ensuing evacuation sequence is thrilling and just plain old fun, mostly due to David Buckley’s propulsive score. (Buckely is the Good universe’s MVP; it’s ridiculous how much both shows got away with just because of his music.)
Lucca returns to the firm as everyone else is rushing out of the building, but instead of following the crowd, she runs into the metaphorical fire. As she reaches the long hallway in front of Marissa’s desk, where Marissa and Maia remain frozen, the music cuts out and all you’re left with his the scary emergency alarm; it’s one of the show’s best sound-editing moments. Lucca goes into action and MacGyvers some masks for Marissa and Maia to wear. This entire sequence tells a whole lot about how fearless Lucca is as a person.
Meanwhile, down on the street, Liz, Diane, and Adrian talk to a policeman who happens to be Liz’s husband. Why is her husband here? I don’t know and don’t care. It’s a contrived move that doesn’t add anything to the story.
Back upstairs in the firm, the hazmat team arrives. Because she’s Marissa, she begins flirting with Drew, one of the hazmat guys. She invites him to get a drink with her and Maia if they survive this ordeal, which they do, as it turns out the white powder is just baking powder. As my colleague Darren Franich pointed out to me, what makes this entire crisis so great is how on a typical show, this sequence would take up an entire episode, but here it’s relegated to a single act. Brilliant!
That night, Drew shows up at the bar and interrupts Marissa and Maia as they’re in the middle of their best Alicia-Kalinda impressions, and Maia ends up heading home to give those two some alone time. (Dear Good Fight writers, pelase give us more Marissa-Maia drinking together scenes.)
Even though this entire ricin scare ends up being nothing, it still leaves Diane quite shaken. Liz decides to take advantage of it and suggests Diane go home for the day and leave the depositions to her. So that’s what Diane does, and in a surprising development, she ends up microdosing as she channel-surfs. The next morning, she returns to work convinced that she saw a news report about Trump buying a pot-bellied pig for the White House, and in court, she starts to laugh uncontrollably like she’s been doused with Joker gas after Judge Josh Brickner urges her to smile. It’s a glorious moment, and convinced me that I need Christine Baranski’s laugh as my ringtone because it’s the best thing ever.
Once the case is wrapped up, Adrian checks in with Diane and tells her the ricin scare was caused by an associate who wanted more time to finish some work. (What a silly resolution.) Yet Diane just starts laughing again. Adrian decides to take a moment and asks if she really plans on leaving the law. Diane says no, but explains that she’s found the key to happiness: insensitivity. How insensitive to the chaos is Diane? Well first, she’s quite happy that their earnings from the Chicago Penthouse case won’t be taxed as much, thanks to Trump. Second, she ends the episode by saying “F— you” to Liz in another one of my favorite moments of the episode. Baranski is doing such a fantastic job of conveying just how this topsy-turvy world has turned Diane upside-down too. I love it. I love this show. Sure, the show had to jump through some unconvincing hoops to get to this point — again, see the resolution of the ricin scare — but it’s just so fun and unlike anything else on TV that you gotta go with it.