The One About the Recent Troubles
Credit: Patrick Harbron/CBS
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“I’m happy.”

Those are the first words we hear in the season 3 premiere of The Good Fight, and they’re spoken by Christine Baranski’s Diane Lockhart as she lies in bed with her (Republican) husband, Kurt. Apparently, the only Goodverse couple I care about officially got back together during the time between seasons 2 and 3 and are finally living together as husband and wife. And, as her words indicate, Diane is content. But she’s also smart enough to question that feeling, and she makes Kurt assure her that’s actually the case. “Everything’s going to be all right,” Kurt says. (Of course, we the audience know the opposite is true, and a storm is coming in both the premiere and the season as a whole.)

If you’ve been reading EW’s recaps of the Good Wife spin-off since season 1, you’ll know by now that I’m fully in the bag for the show. It is my favorite my series on television. Although part of me is worried about writing about this season as a whole, mostly because my colleague Darren Franich perfectly captured what makes this show excellent in his insightful and palpably giddy review of season 3, I’m excited to dive right back into another sobering yet also somehow comforting season about what it’s like to live in these uncertain, collapsing, and absurd times, especially after watching this episode.

The season 3 premiere, “The One About the Recent Troubles,” is a great re-introduction of the show and quintessentially Good Fight, putting all the show’s strengths on display. Directed by Robert King — he of “Robert and Michelle King,” a.k.a. the legal drama’s showrunners and co-creators — the hour effortlessly moves between multiple, sometimes conflicting tones: serious topical material on #MeToo, absurdism (hello, Trump sons!), and straight-up comedy, with a Schoolhouse Rock-style animated explainer and a somewhat meta story about Maia.

As I mentioned above, the happiness Diane is experiencing doesn’t last long. As she and Kurt get dressed for their days, she finds someone’s blonde hair on Kurt’s jacket. Her mind immediately jumps to an affair because, well, we’ve been down this road before. Her day gets crazier from there because she, Adrian, Marissa, and Jay learn that Carl Reddick, who died in the season 2 premiere, raped his secretary, Cynthia (Ms. Cowley to you, if you never worked with her) for 15 years. He also raped the firm’s stenographer, Wendy. Given that Reddick was the firm’s founder, a civil rights icon, and Liz’s father, everyone is visibly shaken by this discovery. As the firm rushes to come up with an appropriate response, the episode never loses sight of Cynthia and Wendy, because we hear a recording of Cynthia talking about her assault multiple times.

The script’s handling of the firm’s response is interesting as well. Both Adrian and Diane are somewhat conflicted about how to handle the situation. On the one hand, they’re disgusted by what happened; however, they must temper their revulsion in order to focus on protecting the firm’s reputation. Their solution? An NDA. Having Cynthia and Wendy sign on is in their best interest, but it also does contribute to a culture of silence over issues like this. The episode understands the position the firm is in and why they go the NDA route, but it also tries to hold them accountable via a clever animated short that explains exactly what NDAs do.

The person most troubled by all of this is, of course, Liz. At first Liz is upset and tearful, because this destroys every memory she had of her father. But after she cries, she gets angry and aggressively asks Adrian if he knew about this, because she remembers her father complaining about Adrian deciding to install glass windows in all the offices. From there she maintains her anger, but she channels it into protecting the firm.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but Audra McDonald delivers a powerful performance in the premiere. After Adrian briefs her on the scandal, Liz joins the rest of the partners in the conference room, where she finds out her father also assaulted the stenographer. At that point, the camera pushes in on Liz as disgust, disbelief, and so many other emotions flash across her face while she tries to process this troubling news.

Next: Trump invades Diane’s life

Feeling a sense of responsibility because it’s her father, Liz handles the negotiations with the two women and asks Marissa find out if there are more victims out there. Surprisingly, Wendy turns down the firm’s money because she doesn’t want to play a role in taking another black man down, which is a sentiment that could fill up an entire recap. Similarly, Cynthia tells Liz that her father wasn’t a bad man, which is a hard pill to swallow. Cynthia agrees to sign the NDA in return for the firm paying her the $80,000 pension Reddick apparently promised her many years ago.

On any other show, the #MeToo case would take up all the oxygen in an episode, but that’s not the case on The Good Fight, as the Kings make sure they don’t waste a single second of the premiere’s 57-minute runtime. As the firm is rocked by the Reddick scandal, Diane’s personal life is disrupted by learning that Kurt is doing something far worse than cheating: Eric Trump and Donald Jr. are paying him to shoot with them. “It’s not politics, it’s work,” says Kurt. But that doesn’t change Diane’s mind. She just starts beating her head against the wall of their bedroom, which is one of the funniest, most theatrical, and most relatable moments of the premiere. To make matters worse, Kurt is going on a safari trip with them.

Kurt’s arrangement with the Trump sons, though, converges with the episode’s main story line in an interesting way: During the safari, one of them accidentally shoots Kurt in the back, Dick Cheney-style. But Kurt can’t talk about it at all because, to Diane’s horror, he signed a NDA. Later that night, Diane imagines Kurt’s bullet wound is talking to her with Trump’s voice, soliloquies back at it, and ends up talking herself into leaking that Trump paid for the porn star we met in the season 2 finale to get an abortion, even though the adult actress told Diane she didn’t want to come forward. In previews leading up to the season, the Kings said this season is about good liberals going bad, and Diane’s anger toward the president driving her to ignore a confidential source’s wishes is definitely the first step in that direction.

Diane’s decision to leak the abortion also points to one of my problems with the episode: What has Diane been up to the past year? In the season 2 finale, Diane finally stopped taking drugs and decided it was time to fight back against Trump; however, in the premiere, which picks up a year later, it feels like she hasn’t really done anything to follow through on that resolve. There’s this sense that time has indeed passed but the characters have remained in stasis until the show came back on the air.

Finally, we need to discuss the Maia of it all. The Good Fight has never really figured out what to do with Rose Leslie’s character, and that sort of becomes the joke in this premiere. Right now the firm is trying to rebrand itself and update its website. Part of the initiative means sidelining Maia as much as possible because they don’t want her own father’s scandal to reflect poorly on the firm. (There’s a running theme in this episode of daughters being forced to pay for their father’s crimes.) At first Maia is fine with her digital erasure from the firm, but then she becomes annoyed because when the partners continue to apologize for it.

Thankfully, our favorite investigator Marissa gives Maia a personality makeover and teaches her how to stand up for herself; she even lends Maia some badass sunglasses that make her look intimidating. After the pep talk, Maia is noticeably more self-assured. She props her feet up on her desk now while reading legal documents! More importantly, though, she speaks up for herself in a partners meeting when last season’s A– case comes up again (a reporter is working on a piece because one of the firm’s financiers was on the list before the firm had the site taken down). This whole story line feels like a commentary on Maia’s status as a tertiary character in the first two seasons.

As the episode ends, Adrian and Liz share a drink in Adrian’s office, where they both decide it’s a new day for their firm. “We are firm with no past,” Liz says. “Not anymore. We’re starting over. That’s refreshing.” And I’m looking forward to what this fresh start means for the rest of the season.

Case notes:

  • I really loved the way King directed this episode. After watching this episode, I couldn’t stop thinking about the way the camera lingers on Diane’s vases, which she placed on her windowsill as a signal to Trump’s mistress, because it felt like they could explode at any second, sort of like the objects in the opening credits.
  • An exhausted Diane struggling to choose between a German show about killers or a Scandinavian show about killers is a mood.
  • Marissa’s righteous outrage over the Carl Reddick allegations was also great!

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