The Good Fight premiere recap: 'Inauguration'
Allow Christine Baranski's Diane Lockhart and her brooch collection introduce you to CBS All-Access
After watching The Good Wife for seven seasons, I knew one thing to be true: I would follow Christine Baranski’s Diane Lockhart and her amazing brooch collection anywhere — even to CBS All Access. I’m pleased to report that my faith in Queen Baranski was rewarded: The Good Fight is a sleek and very intelligent drama about two women picking up themselves up again after being screwed over by rich white men.
The Good Wife ended with a slap, and The Good Fight begins with a metaphorical one, hinting that this might be the show we need during these troubling and disheartening times. “Inauguration” opens with a demoralized Diane Lockhart sitting in a dark room by herself, watching Donald Trump’s inauguration. As the former Celebrity Apprentice host — who represents everything Diane spent her life fighting against — begins taking the oath, Diane turns off the TV, throws the remote aside, and storms out of the room in disgust. If The Good Fight‘s audience shares the same political leanings as The Good Wife‘s audience, they can probably empathize with that reaction.
Taking place a year after the events of The Good Wife‘s series finale, The Good Fight finds our beloved liberal warrior ready to close the book on her storied law career and move to a villa in Provence, where she can write her many memoirs. Diane tells her partners at her obnoxiously named law firm Lockhart, Decker, Gussman, Lee, Lyman, Gilbert-Lurie, Kagan, Tannenbaum & Associates (that’s what you get when Chicago’s three biggest law firms merge) that she believes the firm is too top heavy and it’s time for her leave. But the show implies that there may be more to her decision this. Her retirement announcement is the first thing we see after her reaction to the inauguration. Has Diane decided her fight is over? Definitely, maybe. She tells her partners that she’ll finish out this police brutality case.
The pilot presents us with two women at different points in their careers. While Diane is making plans to exit the game, her shy goddaughter Maia Rindell (Rose Leslie) is beginning her career as a lawyer. Maia is the daughter of Lenore and Henry Rindell(Bernadette Peters, Paul Guilfoyle), two wealthy Chicagoans who run a lucrative and exclusive financial investment firm and are very close friends with Diane. Maia’s pedigree means she receives some favorable treatment on her first day at Lockhart, Deckler, and Lee: David Lee, one of the firm’s slimier partners, gives her less work than he gives the other new associates. It’s clear that this makes Maia at least slightly uncomfortable because she doesn’t want to alienate her fellow associates and she wants to succeed on her own terms. That being said, she doesn’t object when her loving godmother drafts her for the police brutality case she’s working on. Maia will have the honor of being Diane’s final mentee. (If only we all were so lucky!)
This case introduces us to two of the show’s important characters: Lucca Quinn (Cush Jumbo), who started working at the law firm Reddick, Boseman, & Kolstad after her partner Alicia decided to leave the legal field; and the dapper-as-hell Adrian Boseman, a named partner at Lucca’s firm. (Delroy Lindo brings fun swagger to the role). Reddick, Boseman, & Kolstad is a predominantly black law firm, which is an interesting storytelling decision given The Good Wife‘s frankly weird track record with issues of race. At times — for example, season 3’s examination of systemic racism in the State’s Attorney’s office — the show thoughtfully explored race in America, but at other times, the show was downright tone deaf, as we saw in season 6’s cringeworthy and patronizing take on Black Lives Matter. As a result, I’m genuinely interested in seeing what the show does with this new setting.
There’s already some indication that The Good Fight knows what it’s doing in the first episode. The premiere touches on some of the obstacles these black lawyers face when Adrian has Lucca use a fake British accent (or Cush Jumbo’s real accent) to speak to a certain executive. Later on, Adrian points out that even though he’s one of the city’s top lawyers, he was never invited to invest his money with the Rindells (although, let’s be honest, he’s glad he didn’t).
The police brutality case in question finds Diane and Maia, whose firm represents Cook County, facing off against Lucca and Adrian. It’s an interesting conundrum for a someone like Diane, whose mythos is built around the fact that she’s the personification of liberal values in Chicago. Lucca even points out as much during settlement negotiations after Diane accuses Lucca’s firm of profiting from suits like this: “Diane, when did you get so cynical?” After the meeting, Maia asks Diane if they’re on the right side, and Diane gives very pragmatic answer: “We’re on a necessary side.” As framed by the show, that’s what someone says when they may have lost their way. But Diane will have a chance to find her center again, because her retirement isn’t coming any time soon.
The day after her retirement party, everything comes crashing down: As composer David Buckley’s propulsive, violin-heavy score kicks in (our first sign that The Good Fight is finding its grove), Maia receives a frantic phone call from her girlfriend Amy. The FBI is searching their apartment. Maia rushes to her parents’ home and arrives in time to see her father Henry being taken away. At the same time, Diane’s accountant calls her with bad news: She’s lost all of her retirement money because she invested in Henry’s fund, which turned out to be a massive Ponzi scheme.
“F—!” says Diane. Christine Baranski cussing is as glorious as you would expect… and cue the elegant opening title sequence, 20 minutes into the series premiere. Such a Good Wife move.
NEXT: After the fall
The Rindell Ponzi mess basically ruins all of Diane’s retirement plans. That villa is about as real as Fitz and Olivia’s dream of making jam in Vermont. Her accountant, played by Rent‘s Anthony Rapp because the Kings love Broadway actors, informs her she has to stop living the way she lives now (i.e. she has to cut back on all of the fancy necklaces). She can’t afford that lifestyle any longer. But that’s just the icing on the cake. Her close relationship with the Rindells has poisoned her professionally. The friends who said she had a place at their firm should she ever want to return to practicing law won’t take her now, and neither will her old firm. She’s basically at her lowest point.
“How is my life suddenly so f—ing meaningless?!” Diane tearfully asks her lovable gun-enthusiast husband, Kurt McVeigh. The two are separated because he cheated on her, and although Diane still feels betrayed, Kurt remains the only person she allows herself to break down in front of. Baranski is amazing throughout the episode, but this scene is especially strong because she makes you feel Diane’s despair.
The situation is even worse for Maia, who is on the board of her parents’ foundation. Victims of her father’s Ponzi scheme aggressively harass her in public, and the media won’t leave her alone (TMZ claims to have a sex tape featuring her and Amy). At one point, an angry man follows Maia into the firm to yell at her, backing off only when Lucca tells him to stand down. Maia runs into the bathroom, and Lucca follows her to offer some advice on how to deal with this new, hostile reality. “Harden yourself. Ignore what people say. Keep your head down and keep working,” Lucca says, imparting Alicia Florrick’s wisdom on Maia. “It’s hard, but it ends.” Just minutes ago, Lucca was attacking Diane and Maia in depositions. She’s good at compartmentalizing; in court, she’s ferocious, but outside of it, she’s a compassionate person. (In The Good Wife, she and Alicia became friends after Lucca lent a hand to Alicia, who was struggling with bond court.)
But Lucca isn’t the only attorney at Reddick, Boseman, & Kolstad capable of compassion. Adrian, who hears word of Diane’s struggles, offers her a position at their firm as a junior partner, joking that Diane could be their diversity hire. Adrian’s pitch to Diane is that joining his firm will give her the opportunity to get back on the right side of things — a chance to get back at the Rindells of the world. However, there’s one obstacle to Diane joining the firm: Adrian’s partner, Barbara Kolstad (Erica Tazel), is worried that Diane’s privilege will make things difficult. “We don’t want people who are only happy when they’re giving orders,” says Barbara, who also asks for Lucca’s opinion on the matter. Lucca supports Diane joining the firm.
With her next move in place, Diane announces the news to the partners at her firm and walks out the door. David Lee responds by immediately firing Maia, because he’s a spiteful little wretch. But that shouldn’t be cause for concern because Diane listens to her better angels and asks Adrian if there’s a spot at the firm for Maia, who found the key piece of evidence in the police brutality case. As Diane and Maia leave the firm for the last time, Diane tells Maia that she’s not done yet. “Because, it’s not over yet,” says Diane, unintentionally evoking what Kate McKinnon-as-Hillary Clinton said on SNL in the wake of the election: “I’m not giving up, and neither should you.” It’s an invigorating end that makes me excited to see what’s coming next.
The Good Fight bears a lot of similarities to The Good Wife, most noticeably in its score, which remains one of my favorite pieces of TV music. However, the spin-off doesn’t feel beholden to its mother series. There are nods to past characters, like the dearly departed Will Gardner, but they are brief and not fussed about. And watching two women at different points in their careers try to find redemption should make for some interesting television. While Maia fights to overcome the baggage of her parents’ now-sullied name, Diane will be fighting to get back to the best version of herself.
That’s one place where it helps to have watched The Good Wife. For seven years, we saw Diane compromise her liberal values to serve the interests of her big corporate clients and enjoy the monetary privilege that came with it. Now she’s been presented with the chance get back on the right side of the table, and that’s an intriguing idea, especially in Baranski’s hands. Based on the pilot, it seems as though CBS has found its Prestige TV card again.
- Maia’s girlfriend Amy is an assistant state’s attorney, which means we can probably expect Maia and Amy to face off in court at some point this season. If there’s one thing I’m disappointed we never got to see on The Good Wife, it was Alicia and Peter going head to head in court.
- At the end of the episode, Diane tells Kurt that the door is definitely closed between them, but Kurt isn’t giving up on them. He says she needs to be the one to initiate divorce proceedings because he won’t.
- I want Adrian’s wardrobe.
- Another thing I loved: listening to Diane Lockhart explain “metadata” during the depositions. The Good Wife sure did love to talk about technology.
The Good Fight