We live in a particular era in which more than ever we use television and movies as a form of escape because we’ve never had more reason to want to escape from reality. Escape, however, is temporary. There are only so many episodes of Santa Clarita Diet or Game of Thrones that we can escape into, but those Trump headlines are always going to be waiting for us when it’s over. We can’t remove ourselves from this timeline.
The Good Fight — and I’ll shout this again from the rooftops — is better than escape. It’s the only show on television that reckons with what’s going on in the world around us in concrete ways. And you might think that sounds scary or terrifying or something you do not want to watch after a long day on Twitter, but it’s the exact opposite, because The Good Fight is the best kind of therapy. It’s a reminder that we are not losing our minds, that what’s going on is not normal. If you’re in a relationship where you’re being gaslit every second of the day, watching The Fast and the Furious might take your mind off of it for a couple of hours, but what you really need is to be able to talk to someone, for someone to tell you that you’re not crazy, that what is happening to you is not OK.
That’s what The Good Fight does week in and week out, and there is tremendous comfort in seeing our feelings of frustration and helplessness reflected back on us from a television show that at least a few million other people are watching. It’s a very smart, very entertaining, supremely well-acted series, but it’s also a warm hug that reminds you every week that you are not alone.
It’s comforting to have Michelle and Robert King reflect our own thoughts back to us, week after week, but also to take the piss out of the Trump administration. In the finale, for instance, Toby from This Is Us plays a Trump-appointed judge who doesn’t respond to the testimony of an expert until she puts it in an easy-to-understand cartoon format. And it’s just one of many ways this season lawyers on this show have used their intelligence to find ways to cater to this new era. There are others, of course, like Michael Sheen’s Roland Blum who exploit it by ignoring facts and fabricating narratives to appeal to both judges and juries who have become indifferent to the truth. There is a particularly effective scene in last night’s episode, for instance, in which Blum brings a studio audience into the courtroom and sways the judge’s opinion through the power of validation. If a lawyer objects, the courtroom grumbles, and the judge overrules the objection to obtain the approval of the courtroom audience. It’s very Trumpian. (It reminded me of a moment yesterday, in fact, where Trump briefly opted against appealing to his base in order to appeal, instead, to the interviewer sitting in front of him, whose acceptance Trump clearly craved.)
The Good Fight understands that facts, politics, the law has become theater, but its crafted ways to fight back in this era. There was an episode earlier this season where lawyers in Reddick Boseman used Melania Trump’s Einstein visa — basically a green card given to those with extraordinary abilities — to justify not deporting a guy who could illustrate cool cartoons (because why is that any less extraordinary than Melania’s “extraordinary abilities”?) There was another in which Reddick Boseman lawyers used Facebook against the opposition, specifically targetting a judge’s Facebook feed with ads designed to sway his opinion. There’s some hope, too, in finding ways to play their game better than they do.
The remarkable Cush Jumbo’s Lucca Quinn offered an alternative way of coping in the finale. After the firm pitted her against another Black woman but then offered a partnership to a white woman (Rose Leslie’s Maia Rindell), Lucca looked out the window as Chicago buildings burned because of a kind of extreme lightning strikes brought upon by climate change, and offered another approach. “I don’t care,” she said. “This whole year, I realized the best thing is to not care.” And haven’t we all felt that way at some point? We fight and we protest and we call our Representatives and nothing changes, and sometimes, we just want to take a break from it all and “not care.” I’m not saying it’s the right approach, but it’s a sympathetic one, and certainly one that we’ve all entertained at one point or another.
But there is a better approach.
“The guardrails are gone, Diane,” Adrian Boseman (Delroy Lindo) says in last night’s season finale. “And I can’t see the road. I used to think that something would save us. The law. Personal conscious. Now, I don’t see anything.”
Isn’t that how we all feel at the moment? Like nothing can save us? You’ve got states trying to overturn Roe. A President separating kids from their parents, contemplating wars, and ignoring Congressional subpoenas. It is depressing as hell to think that nothing can save us, that it is hopeless. But there’s comfort in knowing that we’re not alone in our feelings.
But there is also “love,” as Diane reminds us, and that “when everything else slips away, there is hope in that,” which is simplistic, and maybe naive, and maybe even a little privileged, but it’s also true: Trump can’t take that away. He can frustrate our efforts to help others, but he can’t make us stop caring about them. Ultimately, it will be those acts of kindness, the $25 we donate to Planned Parenthood, the protests we stage to remind others that we see them, the unexpected compliment, or the show of solidarity that will keep us bound together. That’s my hope, anyway, because as appealing (or easy) as it might be to not to care, like Lucca, or to stop trying to beat them and join them like Maia, it’s Boseman and Diane’s decision to let compassion and love lead the way that gives me some hope, too.
— I think that Rose Leslie may be done with The Good Fight, which does have a tendency to rotate characters in and out. I have loved her character, but even I can see that her arc has been exhausted. She’s off to D.C. with Blum, and while she may return as a Reddick Boseman foe, I don’t think she’s going to continue on as a series regular. (It also explains why, when her husband Kit Harington hosted SNL, Rose Leslie joked that she was unemployed.)
— Likewise, Michael Boatman’s Julian Caine has left the firm, but he’s had such a tertiary role that I believe he will probably be able to maintain as much screentime as a judge (and as one of the few to come over from The Good Wife, I think the Kings like keeping him around).
— So that SWAT team, huh? The final seconds see Diane’s “book club” colleague SWATTING Kent and Diane’s apartment, which is a dangerous situation given the arsenal that Kent owns. Gary Cole, however, has also been a holdover from The Good Wife and though he is moving on to Mixed-ish next season, I do hope that he isn’t killed by the SWAT Team and that he continues to make periodic appearances. He’s so very good in this role.
— Can I just say again how much I love Sarah Steele, and how I hope when The Good Fight ends, she gets her own additional spin-off as a private investigator? Or maybe a spin-off in which she and her father (Alan Cumming) are political operatives. I adore Steele and have dating all the way back to Nicole Holofcener’s delightful and warm 2010 film Please Give.
— Finally, I missed it in the fall trailers line-up yesterday, but the Kings have a new series on in the fall called Evil with Mike Colter. It doesn’t look political, but the Kings — as they did with Braindead — are very good at using metaphor. “Possession looks a lot like insanity,” Colter says in the trailer, “and I need someone to help me distinguish between the two.” If that’s not a fucking metaphor for the Trump era, I don’t know what is.
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